Monday, May 14, 2012

Quirky Questions Part I

A veterinary news site recently ran a contest requesting submissions of funny questions clients had asked their veterinarians. Reading the entries I realized I'm not the only one ever asked by a client, "Did you have to go to college to be a vet?"

I don't find this particularly funny but I do recall being asked this question my first year in practice by a young dairy farmer if not the exact details of the case at hand. Dairy farmers are often up at 4 a.m. and so think nothing of calling for emergency medical assistance for anything from a sore foot to a difficult delivery at such an hour. Defying reason and common decency, (in my opinion not only can sore feet ALWAYS wait until after sunrise, many cases are in fact cured by just such a delay in rising, at least  in my personal experience), many dairymen are repeatedly amazed that they've awakened you. Personally, I think cows would be just as happy being milked at a more civilized hour but their fair labor practices lobbying arm is notoriously weak as evidenced by the fact that we get ice cream and they're stuck with something called silage, which is too few letters away from sewage for my taste.

In any case, given the unfortunate frequency of mishaps at this farm, a frequency I attributed to a notable dearth of common sense and animal husbandry skills, it was very likely an extremely early and bitterly cold winter morning.  And I had likely left a warm bed to drive 20 miles in the dark, then hauled 40 pounds of equipment and medicine across a field of frozen muck to a remote cow-side location. (Cows are excellent at finding remote and inconvenient places to plant themselves while awaiting rescuing, in fact they're almost as good at it as cats.)

(Courtesy of Salad Days)

Once there I would have performed a comprehensive physical exam, diagnosed milk fever without benefit of lab work or testing equipment, expertly placed an i.v. on a mooving target, administered a life-saving combination of calcium and electrolytes while carefully monitoring for heart arrhythmias, then assisted the cow in rising and on her way back to breakfast and the safety of her barn. All this on a cranky, uncooperative 1400 lb beast and for under $100.00.

So when he asked me, tired, cold, dirty from cow-wrestling and hungry for breakfast myself,  if I had to go to college to do this I had to ask myself why I went to college to do this? The answer for many of us is a love of science and a special appreciation for the furry, feathered, or scaled with whom we share the earth.

For the record, most U.S. veterinarians have 4 year undergraduate degrees in addition to 4 years of medical school and many have advanced internship and residency training and/or board certification in one of 40 different specialties.  Interested in a career in veterinary medicine? Visit the AVMA. Wondering what the differences are between a veterinary medical education and a human medical education? Stay tuned for a future post.

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