I’ve loved animals ever since I was a little girl. Bugs, lizards, squirrels, frogs- you name it. And of course, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always replied that I wanted to be a veterinarian. After all, what job could be better than one where you got to play with animals all day and make them feel better? Once I turned thirteen, I left this childhood dream behind for more realistic pursuits. Like becoming a physicist (hahaha). I couldn’t dissociate being a vet from my childish (and therefore naïve) fantasy of it. It took me a while before I started listening to that little girl again, but this time I was determined to base my decision about what to study and do with my life on something more substantial than “really liking animals”. This is where Dr. Chris (a Reed graduate!) at the Gresham Animal Hospital came into play.
While the majority of what I was doing the week of my externship wasn’t surgery, I’d be lying if I said that surgery wasn’t the part that I enjoyed the most. I was fascinated watching how they put the animal to sleep, how they prepped the surgical area (in both the surgery room and on the animal), what measures they took to ensure that everything would be okay, and then watching the surgery itself. Dr. Chris made it look too easy as he calmly cut through layer of skin, fat, and fascia until he revealed the femur below. In one of the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) repair surgeries, Dr. Chris spent a good ten minutes trying to get one tiny, torn piece of ligament out. During the next part of the surgery, he explained how frustrating it can be to find the tiny gap in the joint where you have to get your needle through. “If you get dizzy”, the staff had said, “don’t try to leave the surgery room. Just sit down exactly where you are”. Thankfully, I didn’t balk once. While ACL repairs take quite a while, the neuters only took a matter of minutes. One little cut, two little snips, and then everything is tied up and put back in. I thought about how many knots it would take me until I could perfect my own sutures.
The externship wasn’t all surgeries though. For the majority of the time I was watching the doctor interact with the clients (both the fuzzy ones and the human ones), watching and helping the vet technicians and assistants in the back, and learning about the different tests and what they entail (fecal, blood work, cyst aspirations, etc.). I should also mention that I had the privilege to go on a very similar externship the week before, which really helped put things into perspective when I was watching how things were done. It also brings up the point that experience is super important for a lot of great reasons (duh). For me though, I feel like the most significant things I took away from this week is that I now know unequivocally that this is the career I want to pursue, and have seen first hand what makes a great clinic stand out from simply a good clinic.
Last, always remember that real doctors know more than one species. Just kidding. But seriously.