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.