Saturday, December 10, 2005

Only one week left!

5 more days left in the semester, and I'm almost looking forward to them. I have my parasitology final on Tuesday, and the parasitology lab exam (which needs to be taken at my leisure between Monday and Friday), as well as a written final for my Epidemiology of Zoonoses elective followed by an oral exam with a partner. Parasitology isn't too overwhelming to me, because I know that there isn't any other subject that I need to be staying caught up with. Also, we're out of classes to be taking on Monday, so there's nothing but study-time between me and the exam.

Zoonoses final should be really cool, strangely. I'm looking forward to having a conversation with our prof and my partner for half an hour (let's be honest, it's gonna take longer than that). The prof for this class is *hopefully* going to be my master's advisor for next summer.

I got to tag along with the public health senior rotation yesterday to visit the local Eden Alternative Long-term care facility. 13 cats, 3 dogs, 30+ birds. Planters in the halls. Plenty of natural light. 108 beds. Everybody was happy, and wanted to tell me about the animals, and show me things. I'd love to live there if someday I can no longer take care of myself or live on my own. It seemed like... home. This is the facility that *hopefully* my master's proj will be on.

Aside from that, all I have is 20 hours of swine core. This is a class that we know nothing about, so I've been a little apprehensive of it all semester. But talking to people it seems like it's pretty interesting (in some ways, mammals are mammals!), that we get out early, and that the assessments (take home exam(s)) are pretty reasonable. We rescheduled one of the lecture blocks (4 hours each) from Monday the 19th to Thursday the 15th. So instead of having the semester hanging out through next weekend, we should be totally done on Friday at noon.

God I love my life sometimes.

Oh! And I have THREE cookie-making parties to go to in the next 2 weeks. I win.

Friday, December 02, 2005

I need more time in my day

Somehow that final that was 2 weeks away is suddenly on Tuesday. We had our antimicrobials/anthelmentics/chemotherapy final yesterday - and I think I did well on it. Time will obviously tell on that one.

I've spent 8+ hours studying daily, plus between 1 and 4 hours of class a day (I love the end of the semester for the latter reason, not the former). I woke up this morning with an excruciating backache, which make the 4 hours of Clinical Epidemiology in my immediate future not so awesome. The redeeming factor is that I love the prof... which is good, 'cause maybe I can not throw up from pain if I'm interested.

Random calculation that we did yesterday:
26 credit hours = ~40 hours in class a week (it works out strangely)
8 hours of sleep a night (I can dream!) = 56 hours of sleep a week
2 hours of work/studying for each credit hour we take a week = 80 hours
Not included sleeping, showering, blogging, traveling etc, number of hours a week I'm occupied: 176
Number of actual hours in a week: 160

Excuse me, but I'd like another day or two per week to simply stay caught up with the world.

Next semester I'm taking 36.5 credits of vet stuff, plus a public health class or two (an additional 2-5 credits).

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

End of the semester lull

This semester is... going. I love that it's finally wrapping up, I love that I'm finally beginning to have some free time in which to do things. I hate that my computer (that I love, adore, and have gambled all my notes on) broke last week and had to be sent to Texas. She got shipped back yesterday, and I think it's 2day shipping, so she should be back either today (if I'm very very very lucky) or Friday. Which is very good. I did get all my notes off of it before it left, so it wasn't going to be the end of the universe if it wasn't back by finals.

Pathology lectures and labs are over for the semester, and our final isn't for another two weeks. This is much appreciated by those of me who love having that extra time to study (but don't use it). I'm hoping to get a lot done before this Thanksgiving break is over in terms of being prepared for finals. We're super lucky this semester, and our finals are a week apart.

We had an "extra credit" laboratory exam in Pathology yesterday. It was worth up to 30 extra credit points, but no penalties for incorrect answers or even not taking it! I think that I got about 25 points on it, which should more and make up for the 15 point question on our last path exam of: "You are in a capsule that has just been orally admistered to a horse, name every structure and junction you pass through before being deposited on the barn floor." I filled in every spot, but I definatly did the large colon counterclockwise and starting at 6 o'clock, instead of beginning at 12 and going clockwise. Some of those flectures (it's diaphragmatic and sternal, not ventral and dorsal, for the record) also gave me a run for my money.

We're learning about flies and myiasis in parasitology now, with a foray into filth flies today. I can't decide whether they're better or worse because I can see them.

Pharmacology is wrapping up after the Thanksgiving break with chemotherapy, and since I adore the professor teaching it, it should be wonderfully fun.

This lull between Thanksgiving and Christmas I think is to simply make sure we don't run away and never come back after seeing next semester's schedule. But that's probably gonna be another post, because there's SO MUCH! Ooh... I should call health services and get that hold lifted from my record before signing up for classes...

Monday, November 07, 2005


Everything hurts. My brain, my body, and my apartment.

My brain hurts because I'm running on waaay too little sleep. I had a fun and exciting weekend with the DNR here in Minnesota. I spent 2 days cutting lymph nodes out of hunter-killed deer (parotid, submandibular and retropharyngeal for those of you who care) looking for tuberculosis lesions (pyogranulomatous lymphadenitis, of the sort NOT caused by Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis, again for those of you who have a clue what I'm talking about). Some stations saw upwards of 50 deer per day, we saw 24 deer in 2 days. That's 24 hours at the registration station, and 24 deer. Boy were we bored. I got a little bit of studying done, but mostly I just didn't did anything. We have a parasitology exam on Tuesday, and I think I'm gonna need a nap before I study tonight, but it's looking good for not getting much sleep again tonight.

My body hurts due to an 16 hours on a bus (8 on Friday, 8 on Sunday night). Sleeping on a bus is a good way to irk every muscle you know about in your neck and back. We got home at 2am, I made it to class at 9. Go me.

At least Dr Plumb (THE Dr Plumb of pharmacology fame - he's actually a pretty damn good lecturer) was pretty fun. He gave away three pocket-manuels at the end of class just for showing up. Considering that we had only about 2/3 of the class there, it was pretty awesome. I bought the book at the beginning of the semester, so I wasn't too disappointed that I didn't win.

My apartment hurts because I haven't been home since 630am Friday morning for more than an hour (awake). Also, all of the clothes that came home from Roseau with me last night desperately need to be washed (mayhaps with H2O2...). We have no real food. And I still have that pesky exam tomorrow. ::sigh::

At least I have a buffer in this class already.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Old Exams vs Morals

Puppy class observers: Done
Summer research: Done

Bacteriology final exam is on Tuesday, then there will be neither Bacteriology nor 8am classes MWF. I made it through last week, only have several small breakdowns, which were usually resolved by remembering the importance of deep breaths.

Things that have got me thinking recently include Old Exams: when, why and how to use them.

This stems from the fact that our professors allow the vet bookstore to give out old exams. They also don't really change their exams from year to year. As a result, I find myself studying all the information in sort of a general way, but then going through the old exams and highlighting the infromation that I really "need to know".

Arguably, I need to know it all. There is little that we are being taught that we won't use or see again in some way, shape or form. Knowing the mechanisms will help us understand new therapies or emerging diseases. Knowing the information in detail will give us the knowledge that we need to explain to our clients the processes going on inside of their animals, the treatment options and what to expect. It will also help us predict and understand side effects of everything from drugs to tumors.

But is that all really information that I should be able to have on the tip of my tongue right now? I won't see clients for another year and a half, and even if I can spout it off now, what are the chances that it'll stick. I'll also need it for boards, which are about 2 years from now. I think that simply being familiar with the information, and being able to apply it when the situation arises (using at textbook, of course!) is really the important part of my education. And for now, I'll use the old exams to keep my stress level reasonable and make sure that I GET to the point where this information will become pertinant.

Next post: Mini-rotations, hanging around in the hospital, and getting to know people who may someday write me good letters of recommendation.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Saturday nights

It's Saturday night, and I'm supposed to be studying. I had a friend here from out of town for most of the week, so it definatly stifled my studying ability. In a perfect world, I'd be ready to go and super productive, but instead I'm exhausted and unmotivated. We finally got our Path exams back on Thursday - I thoroughally passed, though I didn't quite hit my target grade. We took Bacteriology on Tuesday, and I felt pretty prepared for that one. Though I know I got at least one definately wrong! It was a 25 question, 100 point exam based very heavily on the old exams.

In other news, Parasitology is going to hurt very much. This coming week is very stressful, in that the combination of work (2 "jobs" right now), volunteering, electives and exams appears to all be centered in this coming week. To boot, my boyfriend's parents are coming this weekend to visit. Hopefully I'll make it to the Pathology exam next Tuesday, and then things should get a little easier (both jobs end, no more visiters).

The stuff I'm doing right now is:
  • Finishing up summer research things. This coming week that means that I need to be at school Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 7-8am. (Oh oops, I was supposed to go do the dogs today... good thing that's only a paperwork thing, not a real thing.)
  • Puppy Class aide. The behavior club is paying me to shuttle freshmen taking the "preparing and teaching puppy classes" class around during the actual puppy classes. They'll be starting to teach them come next session (or maybe the one after that), and get to observe in groups of 5 for a class. It's 1 1/2 hours of talking/describing everything and giving a tour, and 1 1/2 hours of sitting cross legged on a linoleum floor watching other people teach. The good news is that we don't actually have to help with setup or cleanup. Woohoo!
  • Mini vet school volunteer. This is a pretty cool thing put on by the vet school for the public. For about $100 (don't quote me on that), they get 7 sessions from various clinicians and staff members on all sorts of fun vet type stuff. They learn to give their pets basic physical exams, how cancer works, how opthamology works, how radiology works and other fun stuff. My job is to check people in, answer questions about everything under the sun, and make sure that the Jans (there are 2 organizing it) are happy. I really like interacting with people in this setting, plus this semester I get Professional Skills credit for it!
That's really about it for me. I should go to bed, 'cause I gotta get up pretttty early tomorrow in order to get in all the studying I'm not doing, 'cause I'm blogging. And playing World of Warcraft.

Yeah, I'm a bad person.
You know you're a vet student when...
... You have high ambition and low motivation
... You are thoroughally sick of the 90 people that you see 40 hours a week, yet you get together with them on the weekends anyways, to do the SAME THINGS.
... Things that most people respond to with "Ew Gross", you tend to hear yourself saying, "hey cool, how does that work?"
... Getting up at 5 or 6 and going to bed at 11 or 12 doesn't seem so bad anymore. Though you'll sleep to noon on vacations!
... You've contemplated skipping class to study.
There are more out there, I just can't think of them right now.

Friday, September 30, 2005

One down, too many to go...

The exam went well enough - we were supposed to get them back today, but the last time I checked my mailbox was at 2pm, and they weren't there yet. I have to go in on Sunday, so I'll check then. Most people are pretty panicky about the exam, for any number of reasons. Some include the fact that these two profs have never taught the course before, so we had no old exams, and that many people didn't feel that the profs emphasized important over unimportant material clearly.

I found that while studying, I picked out a ton of the test questions. While taking the exam, I could hear myself asking those questions to my friends, while very few of them were asked at me. I clearly have some sort of clue as to what of this information is pertinant. A couple things that were amusing stuck in my head during lively discussions, and some of those ended up on the exam too.

Hopefully, everyone did well. We should get stats for the exam back at some point too.

Bacteriology on Tuesday - 2 exams in this class. I'm a little stressed about it - but tonight is for relaxing so that this weekend can be for studying. We have a ton of gram negative rods on the exam, and only the stuff we learned today is gram positive. This at least makes one question on the exam easy!

Hopefully I'll feel confident about this exam by Tuesday, 'cause right now I'd cry if they made me take it. I have a friend coming on Monday night and staying through the weekend, so I need to be thoroughally studied before I go to pick her up at the airport.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

In which I stress before the first exam of the semester

First exam, in Pathology, is on Tuesday morning. I think that I can honestly say that I want nothing to do with it. Studying is a pain in the neck, and while I'm no longer sick, my energy and enthusiasm levels still aren't quite back to 100%. Come to think of it, perhaps it's just about studying that I'm unenthusiastic.

Of course, the less I study, the more stressed I get. And the more stressed I get, the less able I am to study.

In other news, for Clinical Skills we were assigned preceptors last year. I spent 4 hours at my preceptor's clinic yesterday shadowing, and I am reminded why I swore I would never work at that practice, as a tech or a vet. The various reasons why are perhaps fodder for another post, but the fact that I was bored out of my skull weighs in heavily.

I should tell the internets that don't read this about the mini-rotations that we do for Clinical Skills too, also, about Clerk Duty. That way, maybe when I have readers someday, they'll have a clue what I'm referring to.

But for now, it's back to studying Pathology: Alterations in Cell Metabolism, Inflammation, and Amyloids. And whining. We can't forget the whining.

Plans: tonight, meeting with a friend to study old exams; tomorrow night, meeting with a group of friends to do some last minute studying (aka panic).

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Fall Semester 2005 Overview

This semester I'm taking:
  • Infective Agents: Bacteriology and Mycology (3.5)
  • Infective Agents: Parasitology (4)
  • Pharmacology: Anti-Infective Agents (1.5)
  • Pathology (7)
  • Clinical Skills (1)
  • Professional Skills (2)
  • Advanced Clinical Epidemiology (2)
  • Epidemiology of Zoonoses Common to People and Animals (3)
  • Swine Core (2)
For a total of 26 credits. Which actually doesn't sound too bad to me right now.

I'm halfway through week three right now, the first test (Pathology) is next Tuesday. I've been studying by butt off, and hopefully it will pay off. Panic set in sometime yesterday afternoon, as I realized the magnitude of the stresses coming in the next three months. Stress relief is going to be my number one need very soon.

As soon as this cold goes away though, I will be a much much happier person, and a much more enthusiastic student.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

2005 AVMA Convention - Minneapolis

The AVMA annual national convention was held in Minneapolis this year, last week (July 16-20). It was five days of the Minneapolis Convention Center being filled by veterinarians from all over the United States and the world.

I had the opportunity, thanks to the generosity of the AVMA towards students, to attend for free (unless you count the absurdity of parking in downtown Minneapolis). As I live only 15 minutes away from the convention center, there was absolutely no reason for me to not attend. I will admit that I didn't take full advantage of this chance for some personal reasons, but I thought that I'd share what I did take away from my experiences.

Exhibit Hall:
The exhibit hall was huge. It had hundreds of different companies trying to get their name out and sell their products, as well as some organizations trying to drum up membership and name recognition. Pretty much every booth had free stuff to give away, from candy to duffle bags. Most of my friends left with handfuls of Greenies, something I only heard of for the first time during vet school. I was most interested in the fact that they have no come out with Greenies for cats. I'm sure I'll learn more about them in the years to come (and, perhaps, when I finally get a pet).
I was most entranced by the jewelry booths, sad but true. I love the Veterinary Cadusceus, and I'd love a necklace with it. I got a new giant microbe from Pfizer,embroidered with the name (Porphyromonas gulae) and the Pfizer logo. It matches my collection well. They were pushing their research into the causes of peridontal disease. I picked up some information from a bunch of booths, some free gifts (a Fort Dodge coffee mug, some fun color references from Bayer), and tried to increase my name-recognition of the different services available to the veterinary world.

Leader Dogs for the Blind: The Veterinarian's Role - This was a very interesting lecture gave by a veterinarian for Leader Dogs. It was really interesting to learn about the selection and training processes for both the dogs themselves and the people matched with them. There are waiting lists for just about every aspect of the process including: people who want to raise puppies, people who want to adopt puppy dropouts, people who want to adopt retired dogs, and people who want to be matched. The part I was surprised to learn is that it costs between $13,000 and $15,000 from start to finish for each dog, and that it is completely free to the visually-impaired individual matched with a dog. The costs are largely covered by benefactors and other sources of funding.

Interesting facts:
1. Leader dogs do not eat, void or play while wearing the harness.
2. All leader dogs are spayed/neutered before leaving the facility. Breeding stock is selected beforehand.
3. Leader dogs are between 14 and 20 months typically when paired with a person.
4. Leader dogs are working dogs, not performance dogs. They do not require any additional nutrition above and beyond a normal complete canine diet.
5. Labrador retrievers, the prevalent leader dog breed, live about 2 years longer when kept at a healthy body weight (body condition score of 5/9).

Specific things that veterinarians need to keep in mind:
1. Never take a dog without asking.
2. Speak directly to the blind person and be specific and descriptive. Even if the person is accompanied by a seeing companion.
3. Announce anyone entering or leaving the exam room.
4. Warn the client before performing any uncomfortable procedures, a dog yelping at you cutting its nails may put horror images into the blind person's head.
5. Book longer appointments to facilite full communication and a complete appointment.
6. Beware of financial considerations, 60% of blind persons are unemployed.
7. As mentioned above, keep a zero tolerance for obesity in leader dogs.

Zoonotic Diseases and Service Animals
The most important thing that I got out of this lecture was just how vital communication is between veterinarians and their clients. This is particularly important when the animals in question are working dogs (and cats). Dogs are used for a variety of different services, leader dogs, hearing dogs, mobility dogs, and alert dogs. The canine units attached to the police are another example of a working dog.
It is important to emphasize to clients the risks associated with the public's contact with service animals. The patient associated risks to consider are: age, immune status, clinical condition, understanding of animal behavior, and understand of an practice of proper hygienic protocols.
Service animals are currently allowed to go anywhere a person can, in the United States under the Americans with Disabilities act. It is suggested, however, that dogs should be prohibited from entering an area where a human is required to don barrier protection such as a gown, mask, or gloves. While this will require some accomadation for the person using the service animal, the risks in taking an animal into a restricted area (such as an ICU) outweigh the benefits.
It is in the CDC's guidelines (on their website) that a "Healthy, clean, vaccinated, well-behaved, well-trained service dog is no more of a threat than the average person". It is important that the dog have no sutures, open wounds, or obvious dermatologic lesions. However, it is as important the the handler of the animal be healthy, if the pair will be going into a place with susceptible people.
People should be informed of the risks of zoonoses between dogs and humans, and especially the risks of opportunistic infections that can be passed between dogs and a immunologically compromised population. However, a well-cared for service dog should not provide a greater risk to the public in the face of education and proper hygiene procedures.

I'm not going to sum up everything about this lecture, he spoke very quickly and covered a lot of information in the hour and a half available. So I shall present a list with some quick notes where required about the substances toxic to our animals.
1. Pointsetta - causes indigestion and GI upset only, not toxic
2. Easter/Tiger Lillies - specific to cats (not rats, rabbits or dogs)
3. Onions and garlic - primarily seen in dogs, can recover
4. Chocolate (theobromide) - Milk chocolate: 44mg/oz, Unsweetened baking chocolate: 390mg/oz. A lethal dose (LD50) for a dog is 250-500mg/kg, which is about 1oz of the unsweetened chocolate per kilogram of bodyweight. Death can occur at a little as 115mg/kg. Dogs are most susceptible, both in exposure and because the half life in dogs is about three times that of other animals.
5. Rhododendron, azalea, oleander, yew bushes - contain cardiac glycosides that cause heart arrhythmias and death. Most common in livestock and pocket-herbevores being fed clippings.
6. Marijuana - dogs usually survive, but may cause seizures, coma, vomiting/diarrhea. Signs can last up to 72 hours after ingestion.
7. Grapes and raisins - can cause kidney failure
8. Macadamia nuts - take only 1.8tbs in a 25 pound dog. Return to normal in 48 hours.
9. Hops - as in from making beer. Causes malignant hyperthermia-like syndrome. (up to 108 degrees)
10. Avocado - leaves and immature fruits. Recoverable. Can cause mammary gland necrosis in milking goats and mares.
11. Plants poisonous to Budgies (the birds): Yew, Oleander, Clemartis, Avocado (etc).
12. Ma Huang/Ephedrine - sudafed.
13. Guarina - caffeine-like response.
14. Mycotoxins (tremorgenic) - molds as from English Walnuts, cream cheese, garbage and compost.
15. Amanita phalloides - poisonous mushrooms
16. Poisonous snakes - duh.

Alumni Reception
This was something that I hadn't anticipated attending, as I am not yet an alumni. However, a good friend of mine is the SAVMA junior delegate from our school, and another friend of mine from the Public Health program is an alumni of the University of Minnesota as well, so I was persuaded to go. I had a good time, all and all. It was pretty swanky without being formal. I got a really amazing coffee mug. I met a bunch of interesting people, from "normal" practitioners to researchers to the vice president of the AVMA herself (Rene Carlson). The dean was there, as well as a number of veterinarians that I know through Public Health Institute. I'm glad I went, though if I go again I need to learn to network more efficiently. I left with far too many of my own business cards and far too few of anyone else's.

That about sums up my experiences with the AVMA this year. Keep an eye out for the SAVMA Symposium (the student AVMA) coming up next March, also in Minneapolis!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

End of Freshman Year - Spring Semester Review

Spring semester seems to have passed by in a blur. Day to day activities took forever, and a single class seemed like it would never end. But at the end of each week you're amazed that it's over, and I seem to have made it to this summer unscathed.

Last semester I took:
Science classes: Organology, Veterinary Neurobiology, Veterinary Physiology, General Veterinary Pharmacology, Host Defenses (Immunology), Applied Veterinary Genetics, and Infectious Agents - Virology.
Rounding out classes: Professional Skills II, Animal Populations II, Clinical Skills II, Behavior Core (arguably a science)
Electives: Perspectives: Interrelationships of People and Animals in Society, Public Health Issues and Veterinary Medicine Opportunities, Equine Limb
For a total of 26.5 credits.

The hardest, in terms of studying and learning, was most definately Neurobiology for me. The combination of difficult material, me disliking the professor, and a shortened, intensive class almost did me in. Fortunately, due to a 97% Final Exam score that I'm extremely proud of, I squeeked by passing, and don't have to retake it!

For me, several of the classes were turned into much more difficult endeavors than they had to be due to poor professors. There were several different factors that played into this. In Host Defenses, they rearranged the lecture schedule due to a professor traveling, but that meant that we learned the material out of order and became extremely confused. I'd had the class before, so I didn't do too poorly, but many people really suffered. They changed the semester that Virology was held in, and I don't think that the professor was either enthusiastic about giving the class two semesters in a row, nor did he have enough time to implement the changes that he got in feedback from the previous class. As a result, there was much miscommunication and frustration - though I realize in retrospect that I learned very much from that class in a fairly short amount of time.

Electives were definately one of the hardest things for me to add in to my schedule. Although they are scheduled so that they don't overlap, they do add work and classtime to the schedule, which is enough to drive anyone batty. All were taken pass/fail, which I realized was only really necessary in one of them (Perspectives). I feel that I may have disappointed that professor, as I didn't put as much effort into some of the work because I know that I simply needed a C or better for a passing grade. My final score was in the high 70s (maybe 77%?), but that was because I had to miss a class for a Professional Skills presentation (8% of the grade), and chose to not make it up. I also didn't put as much work as I could have on my 25 page paper for the class - again because I needed my time and energy for graded, essential classes rather than a pass/fail elective. Give the chance though, I would take them again. They were a nice breakup from the monotony of both the curriculum and the classmates. In Equine Limb we got some nice hands-on experience with surgery and ultrasound, and that was more than worth the extra sweat and tears put into it!

I'm sure there's more to say about the classes, but I've waited until 2 months after finals to write this post, and I'm not sure that I can put my finger on anything in particular. I hope that I am much better (and "contemporaneous") next year, and give some insight throughout the semester rather than in a block at the end.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Public Health Institute - Week Three Review

*Note - I dropped the ball on writing these things - so this one is written horribly after the fact and backdated.

Advances in Molecular Epidemiological Techniques
This was a pretty good course, though it was very much review on things that I already knew. I have a pretty strong background in molecular techniques, and I think that I was expecting this course to focus a little more on the epidemiology than the techniques. But instead I learned all about PCR, Pulse-Net, Western/Southern/Northern Blotting (well, not really Northern Blotting that much), and sequencing stuff. It was interesting to be in a room full of primarily professionals with little molecular technique experience though - the questions that were asked were from a point of view that I don't have. We were split up into groups of three, and on Friday afternoon we gave a presentation of our paper and the molecular techniques used therein. I learned a lot about Pertussis, which was kinda cool. But pulse-net is the standard, and that's what our presentation was on. This class was taught by the same guy who did Risk Assessment and Management (but not Risk Communication, oddly). He doesn't have a great reputation, but I actually found myself enjoying all three classes (when I wasn't so tired I was propping my eyes open on my coffee cup!).

Food Safety and Nutrition Law
Now this was a class that I didn't really know what to expect from, it was taught by a visiting professor from Michigan State Law School. He's written much of the Michigan food safety laws though, so he definately knows his stuff. It was taught in a strange format, and wasn't quite a science class. Because he's a lawyer and teaches in law school, he taught us as if we were law students. I'm very used to the straightforward presentation techniques used in science, so the case-based, look up laws in this giant book, here I'll read you the textbook that I wrote approaches didn't really do it for me. I learned a lot during the in class exercises, where we were actually using the information to answer questions, but the presentation itself left something to be desired. I came out of the class extremely skeptical about every food label I see, so I'd deem the class a success. The hardest part was the "project". We had the choice of either giving a group presentation (role-playing, panel style), or writing a paper (with dialogue, just like you were actually giving the panel). This being the end of the third week, I'd about had it with presentations and group work, I know that this probably makes me a bad person. I opted for the paper, and had a heck of a time writing it, but I got an A in the class, so I think that things turned out allright in the end!

GFS: Pork
Who doesn't like pork? Consider that a rhetorical question. I'm particularly a fan of ham and bacon, though pork chops have their place in my diet as well. For the Pork field trip, we went to the Hormel factory, and then to the Spam Museum. We saw the hogs from truck to Spam, and I have to say that it held several interesting, and mildly gross, experiences. We ducked under conveyer belts, saw the poor person who cuts the eyelids off of all the pigs as they come in (that may have been the absolute worst part of the experience), pushed pigs aside to walk through them, saw the assembly lines of people that trim and take apart a pig to make it into all of the pieces to which we are accustomed to buying in the grocery store. There are still certain processed foods that I'm further encouraged not to eat (sausage, Spam), but that's not because the ingredients aren't of the highest quality - just because I like my food to look more or less like it did when it was on the animal. I'm strange - I actually enjoy understanding that my food comes from an animal that died for my use. I'd rather not distance myself from the food chain - that's being irresponsible in my opinion.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Dairy Goat Farm Trip

I volunteered to go with one of the large animal hospital clinicians to a goat dairy on Saturday. We left the large animal hospital at 8am, and got to the farm about 9:45. This is a very very poorly managed farm, sadly. The owner is not very involved, instead hiring farm managers to take care of the herd. After a slew of managers over the past couple of years, the most recent one realized shortly after he was hired that it was on the verge of animal abuse. He took steps to get the vet school involved in the care and management, and is trying to set up a management system that is best for both the dairy and the goats themselves. The main sticking point is that the dairy mainly produced goat cheese, and in order to meet demand they purchase a lot of goat milk from out of state as well as use the milk produced on the farm.

It's a ~450 goat dairy, and most goats were between 1 and 4 years old. They've never had their hooves trimmed in their lives. Normal goats need their hooves trimmed between 2 and 4 times a year. In an average dairy, the pre-milking ("dry") goats would be looked at several times a year, if not monthly, and the hooves would be trimmed as need. The milking goats would be examined daily as the goats went through the milking parlor, and hooves would be trimmed as necessary. Some of the goats had horns growing back into their heads - some because they had been improperly dehorned, some simply had not ever been dehorned. Some had severe mastitis, and we selected those out for culling. Some were so emaciated that you just wanted to euthanize them right there. We processed every single goat over 1 year of age on that farm (we didn't do the kids) on Saturday. There were about 12 of us. Any goat that wasn't tagged for culling due to body condition or udder condition got its feet trimmed.

I have so many blisters on my hands that I want to cry. Every muscle and joint in my body feels like I've been hit by a truck. I wrenched my shoulder about 3:45, and had to stop, but I was still using my good arm to catch and move the goats around. Fortunatly, after a couple of hours rest my shoulder stopped hurting. Hoof trimmers are SHARP, and I have random puncture wounds all over my hands from them (4 that are infected), only one open blister (2 closed), and it hurts to clap. Some of the hooves looked like flippers, literally inches too long. Many had foot rot, and most of the hooves were deformed. Hopefully now that they're all cut down the farm can manage a maintainence program in the future. We also got them down to mostly healthy goats, which is a good place for a dairy to be. Instead of calling animal rescue, the vet school decided to work to put a management program in place and maintain a working relationship. This was the first big step.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Public Health Institute - Week Two Review

Food Safety Risk Management
Same professor as Food Safety Risk Asessment, which was both a good thing and a bad thing. Different guest speaker, which was cool. This time it was a guy from Industry giving us his perspective. We did a project on Scombrotoxin in fish, which was pretty cool. Not only did I get to learn about a new disease, but we did a management assessment on it, and mostly I learned to KEEP FISH COLD at all times. Or else you'll be a very unhappy camper. Very, very unhappy. Imagine the worst allergic reaction you've ever had and multiply it a couple of times; that's what happens when your fish is full of histamine.

Avian Influenza
This class was really awesome. We spent Tuesday learning about "people factors" and Wednesday learning about "animal factors". We had a ton of guest speakers, and I have a much better idea about the whole chain that would contribute to a pandemic. Thursday we went to the MN state labs and got cool tours. They have a lot of cool low-tech and high-tech stuff, and I wouldn't mind working there! Then we got to the cool part of the field trip - the live animal market in south St. Paul. You go in, pick out your chicken(s), buy it, slaughter it, defeather it, and process it to your liking. You leave with chickens in a bag, happy as a clam. It's SO COOL. They also sell goats, cows, pigs etc, but you don't slaughter those because of safety concerns. You buy it, they slaughter and quarter it, and you take it home in buckets. If you ask real nice they'll use their band saw to cut the bone into pork chops. I'd rather buy meat there - where you know the health of the animals before they're slaughtered, you can inspect the meat and the sanitation yourself, and then you are responsible for all of the post-slaughter processing. It strikes me as a far more transparent method than going to the grocery store and picking up a pre-packaged chicken.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Public Health Institute - Week One Review

Food Safety Risk Assessment:
This class was definately worth taking, and got me thinking a lot about all of the steps that our food goes through between where it begins and when it ends up in my tummy. We downloaded two programs as a part of the class, Analytica and @risk plugin for MS Excel. Sadly, due to poor planning on the part of the professors, the software wasn't really working until the third (out of four) day of class. We (my group) spent the 4 hour class creating a Risk Assessment using @risk for Campylobacter jejuni in broiler chicken in the United States using data from 2003. It was pretty awesome to see how the software worked once we finally got going. Sadly, we really only know how to use one function (Triangular Estimation) in @risk and none in Analytica. I see how they could both be really cool and useful too. We presented on Friday and and felt that we'd done very well.
I think everyone in the class felt really confused and like we hadn't learned anything until we got to the presentations on Friday. That's the point that we realized that we were able to stand in front of a 30 person class and describe a risk assessment plan without looking like a complete idiot!

Antimicrobial Resistance:
This class was awesome. Dr. Singer, aka "what did you just call me? my name is RANDY!", is a really awesome professor. Also, on the first day of a four day class he changed the grading policy! From an 8 page paper and a presentation on Friday to a 5 page paper only. It's a review paper on anything we want that relates to Antimicrobial Resistance, minimum 10 resources. I'm actually a tiny bit excited about writing it.
Cool topics we learned about: mechanisms of resistance, transmission of resistance, selection for resistance, cycling of antimicrobials, multi-drug therapy. Lots of group discussions and a ton o' fun. Met lots of cool people too :-D I'm having a really tough time making some of the connections that I know I need to make because I'm so caught up in what's going on right now, rather than the fact that I still need 115 hours of Public Health Field Experience and a Master's Project before I'm done. Goal for next summer: accomplish those things.

Global Food Systems: Dairy:
Really fun, mostly because I knew a lot of people on the trip and I made a couple of new friends. We went to a large-scale dairy farm (milking 2500 head), a small scale organic dairy farm (milks ~60 head I think), saw a couple of milk tank trucks, a dairy processing facility (Schroeders), got a talk from International Dairy Queen and another from Schwans. Overall, it was a good experience, though I'm still not sure where I stand on Organic farming. It's a good concept, I think, but in practice it looks very - rough? - to me.
Random fact: Schroeders manufactures everything Kosher by default (the rabbi was there when we were touring), and do a ton of stuff that we love. Support them! They make Rice Dream and the Soy Milk that we know and love. They are making that new line of Pomagranite juice (in 9 flavors) that looks tasty. Also, the plant is amazing, they treat their employees very well. They do a ton of allergen testing between lines. They do a ton of tests on the product to ensure safety. They are everything that you could want out of a plant that processes your liquids!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

End of Freshman Year - Fall Semester Review

It's been quite a school year, these past nine months. I have completed the first year curriculum at UMN and been successful.

Last semester I took what seemed like an impossible number of credits (22.5). Some of it was review, some of it was new. Some classes were interesting, some seemed like a waste of time. Sadly, it wasn't everything that was new that was interesting, nor was everything that was repetitive useless and boring. We took the basic sciences: Gross Anatomy, Radiographic Anatomy, Biochemistry, Cells and Tissues, Nutrition. We also took some classes that were supposed to help prepare us to be vets in the future, namely Clinical Skills and Professional Skills. Animal Populations is the class that doesn't fit into any good category, where we learned about everything from breeders to dairy farms: very exciting, I assure you. Then we got to take some electives if we chose (and of course I did). I took Neonatology (with the requirement of being on Foal Team at the hospital Spring semester) and Preparing and Teaching Puppy Classes (with the requirement of teaching puppy classes between last semester and this coming December).

I remember feeling last semester like I both had no time, and that I was not busy enough. I was one of those overachievers starting sometime in high school (some say even before). Last semester my sole commitment was attending school. Granted, there was a lot of school to take up my time. But at the same time I was making friends, creating relationships with clinicians and professors in the vet school, and maintaining my sanity and my relationship at home. It was the first time that I didn't have a concurrent job or research position, I wasn't an RA (and thus was really, truly only in charge of myself), and I wasn't on a million committees and committed to everything and everyone.

In law school, they say that the first year is the hardest because they're trying to scare you. In vet school, they never stop wishing that everything was as easy as it was freshman year. With a maximum of one exam a week, it was really quite a nice deal that we had going.

So why didn't I get straight A's? Pretty simple I guess - I chose to make those extra relationships, stay sane, and develop the non-academic parts of my career instead. I wish I had a better GPA, but I've been told over and over again three things:
1. C=DVM
2. It's not what you know, it's who you know.
3. Everything and anything that you need to know, will be repeated over and over and over and over throughout the four years in school.

I was pretty proud of my first semester of vet school for the most part. I could have done better (and I had several good cries over those grades), I could have made better friends, I could have gotten to know the city better. But overall, I feel like I survived with room to spare, and never for one moment was I in any danger of not being asked back for Spring semester. Though the fact that I still felt like I didn't have any true friends in Minnesota would be a recurring theme in the Spring semester.

And the Spring semester I will write about another time, when it's not so late out.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

My story

To start from the beginning:

I'm just finishing up my first year in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota in Saint Paul. I have also recently been admitted to a Master's of Public Health program in Food Safety and Biosecurity. I'm not sure what I want to do when I graduate (in 2008), but I'm pretty sure that I can do just about anything with a combined DVM/MPH!

I'm interested in medicine on all animals, from pocket pets to cows. However, my current plan is to track for Small Animal and get some education on the side in large animals. Ideally, I would be able to concentrate on small animals (cats, dogs, pocket pets and exotics) with an aside towards small ruminants (sheep, goats, llamas, alpacas). I would also like to own my own horses someday, and being able to treat them myself is pretty important.

My current side projects include fostering kittens and helping out an extension veterinarian who owns a sheep farm on the weekends. I am also involved in Foal Team, where I am called in when a foal in the hospital needs extra care.

I am involved in a clinical study for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals this summer, working with Dr. Washabau doing Gastric Scintigraphy. This has been sucking up much of my time most recently, but once the study actually gets underway (and we aren't running all over doing prep) things should get more predictable and easier to cope with.

I hope to use this blog to chronicle my evolution into a veterinarian, answer any questions that people might have, and keep a record for myself. Time flies when you're busy all the time!