Reflections from Past Externs

Carolyn Doerning, DVM, BS – Extern (June ’17)

“Two weeks seemed like a very short time, but I gained valuable insight into the clinical, surgical and research role of a veterinarian working with nonhuman primates. The veterinarians and technicians gave me plenty of opportunity for hands-on experience, and everyone took time out of their busy schedules to show me around and train me on different techniques. I was incredibly impressed with the quality of medicine, as well as the attention to welfare and respect for the animals that each person I worked with displayed.”

How did you learn about this opportunity? Was this externship experience accurately represented in the description you researched?

I have several people in my residency who spent some time at UW and did externships with DCM. I also know some of the faculty of there and they knew that I was interested in getting more primate experience. They referred me to the Primate Center here. I pretty much just started by contacting the faculty to learn more about the opportunities. I let them know that I was looking to really get hands-on experience and become more comfortable working with primate in research. It was really nice of them to accommodate my request and help set it up. It was very straightforward and easy.

I knew that is was a very high volume facility with lots of cases, lots of surgical work and research. It definitely met all the expectations that I had. I checked a lot of boxes of things I wanted to learn and get experience with.

How would you rate your training in clinical skills from both the veterinarian and clinical support staff?

I worked predominantly with Dr. (Cassie) Moats at the Western Facility. She was fantastic, I mean she would show me things and then, one day later she was letting me scrub in on surgeries and letting me assist her. She let me do things like biopsies and sampling procedures under her observation. I was really pleased with that because I know a lot of places aren’t comfortable with people from the outside doing their techniques and being so hands-on with the animals. So, I was really happy with the clinical skills that I was able to pick up here. I even got to do the anesthesia prep including intubation and placing catheters, which is always nice to get more comfortable with.

What are ways that WaNPRC and UW Health Sciences Administration could better assist you achieving your desired goals from this externship?

I think the only thing I wasn’t expecting was the two facilities to be so far apart (Health Sciences Building or HSB and Western). Once I got to Western, that’s pretty much where I stayed for my whole time, which was fine because I got to do a lot of the stuff that I was interested in. I only spent one day at HSB in the very beginning and I know it’s kind of hard to go back and forth between them during the day.

How were the transportation options available during your time?

I was definitely nervous going into it, but I got comfortable with the bus to Western every day. I also took the Light Rail (Link train). I stayed on Capitol Hill with a couple of friends so, it was actually really easy for me. It was just the fear figuring it out, but soon I got familiar with taking the #2 bus downtown.

What aspect of this externship affected you the most? What else should we know about your experience?

I was really looking to improve my clinical skill set and get more comfortable working with nonhuman primates and this definitely did it for me. I mean, obviously there’s only so much you can do in two weeks. It would be great if you were a summer extern and staying even longer. But I was really happy to just get more comfortable working with nhps and picking up little clinical tidbits that I don’t learn simply from reading a book in residency. Cassie had a lot of advice on cases she had seen and common medical problem or things to think about. I definitely feel like it expanded my knowledge beyond what I could get listening to a presentation for example.

I was very impressed with the veterinarians that I worked with. I definitely got the idea that they were “smart” clinically; and obviously working with primates as opposed to working with the strictly small animal mouse species. You have to really be on top of your game both in animal medicine and in surgery. I was very surprised at how much of the research support they do as well. That was something that I wasn’t expecting at all.

Would you recommend this externship us to other veterinary students, residents, etc.?

Yeah, it would be great for students or residents like myself. I am two years out of school but still, I’m a life-long learner. For someone like me who comes from a program where we have a very small primate census (maybe under 25 at any given time), I just didn’t feel comfortable working with them. And the cases that I saw were really isolated. Maybe one case every month during my residency. Issues don’t arise that much. So, that was something that when I finish up my program and I want to look for jobs, I really wanted to be able to sell myself as someone who could work with primates and had that experience and was comfortable doing it, if I wanted to go that route. A big thing for me was making myself a more well-rounded veterinarian and having a skill set that I could pull upon.