8 steps to having a good first year in vet

With the end of my first year of veterinary medicine finally coming to a close it seemed fitting to share 8 steps I used to help me have the best first year of vet school!

Don’t work too hard 

  • Hard work is amazing. Never run away from hard work; you get out of it what you put into it. You’ll need to study, memorize, practice, learn every day in vet school. But I hear classes only get harder and the schedule gets busier, so don’t destroy yourself in first year trying to keep up.


Make sure you make good friends with lots of people

  • One day these friends will turn into co-workers! For right now they are study buddies, best friends, network contacts, etc. University days are supposed to be the best days of your life–and good friends help with that!

Get involved with clubs, exec, off campus activities

  • This was something I did in my undergrad degree and it generated a lot of favourite memories. Becoming a part of a club or team will allow you to get to know people better and make more friends. I also found it really important to have friends outside of vet.

Get to know your profs quickly

  • Believe me, this will help when it comes to networking or studying, or feeling like you belong. You can be friends with your profs! If a professor knows who you are they will better be able to answer questions or frustrations you may send them while studying; they’ll also be more willing to offer up industry contacts or experience.


Don’t share your grades with friends

  • This might not be helpful for you, but for me–I’m ridiculously competitive. By not sharing my grades with other people I’m keeping my stress levels down. I’m working hard on studying, getting grades that I’m satisfied with and not constantly trying to outdo everyone just for the fun of it (this has made for a much more relaxing school year).


Change your study habits

  • I have found that there is a lot of students who have entered vet without an appropriate study technique. These students definitely need to speak to other classmates and professors to find the best way to learn material. I was confident in my study habits, but I changed some of them up for something new —it gets a bit boring when you’ve been studying the same way for 5 or 6 years. It is also important to recognize that different classes may need to be studied for in different ways. Example: class A would be great to learn via flash cards; class B would be great to learn via straight memorization; class C would be great to learn by drawing out flow charts, time-lines, and summaries.

Keep your doors open

  • So many students come in to vet knowing that they want to do cats and dogs or large animals. (Right now I want to do large animals when I graduate!) However, I think that everyone should embrace the wide range of knowledge and opportunities gifted to us in school. Try and learn about all animals and don’t discount something because you do not believe you’ll ever work in that field. The amount of vets who graduated and then completely changed their area of interest is huge!


Never forget where you are!

  • In case you didn’t notice: YOU ARE IN VET SCHOOL. How hard was it to get here? How long have you been working for this? Would you want to do anything else with your life? When exams and papers and lower grades feel like they are piling up just remember that one day you’ll be a doctor (and that is a HUGE accomplishment)!

Last Day of DVM1

WOW! I love vet school so much! Today was simply amazing, not because it was my last day of lectures—but because of all the fun and interesting things that happened:

I came in before my class to help my roommate with a bake sale she planned to raise funds for the Australian Rhino Project. We baked 300 cupcakes and decorated them all and then sold them in front of the student’s union building. All of the proceeds are going to the Aus Rhino Project who is working to bring a breeding herd of rhinos to Aus as a conservation measure. There will be 80 rhinos brought over in the next 3 years. The bake sale was an idea inspired after listening to a completely engaging and terrifying lecture on the future of rhinos in Africa (and how close they drift towards extinction).

Save the rhinos! Buy a cupcake!

Save the rhinos! Buy a cupcake!

I left the bake sale to go to a case study. This year we have 2 to 3 case studies a week (one for each class) that works to bring a lot of the learned concepts together. This case study was HUGE! It was complicated. And I understood…most of it…. (I might have to go home and review my notes again). The class worked through a dog that was brought into the clinic after being hit by a car. After looking at physical exam results, radiographs, ultrasounds, and blood gas analysis we determined that the dog had a pneumothorax and a uroabdomen.

Next was a practical class where we watched our professor artificially inflate a pair of sheep lungs to demonstrate ventilation/perfusion matching, pneumothorax, atelectasis, etc. It was very cool to see this instead of just reading about it.

Then I caught a quick tram ride to Melbourne Zoo where Zoos Victoria was hosting a Zoo Conservation Ethics/Welfare Q&A lecture with Jenny Gray and Peter Sandoe. The discussion was HUGELY stimulating, intellectually diverse, and even heated at times. We raised many complicated questions of best methods for zoos to work in conservation, culling, public education, and how to categorize zoo animals (are they wild animals? domesticated? tamed? companions?). By the end of 2 hours my brain was exhausted— but I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my first year of DVM!! I can’t wait to see what my last day of DVM2 looks like 🙂


Now excuse me while I go hermit away and study for finals!

I can blog and study right?

I’m writing this blog post as a half procrastination-half studying tool because I really like theriogenology and reproductive technologies (and I may have a quiz tomorrow on this stuff…). They are relatively new and there is so much advancement and growth in that field! And so much more work to be done there as well…

Here are 3 of reproductive technologies that can be used for genetic improvement.

Artificial Insemination (AI) is a reproductive technology where semen is harvested from male animals and stored in semen straws that can then be deposited into chosen females. It is used to increase male selection and can therefore potentially increase the accuracy of the Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs). Semen can be sourced from all over the world and can potentially increase the effective population size (amount of genetically unrelated animals in a population). However, using a dairy bull from the USA may not be a great choice for an AUS dairy farmer as environmental interactions may pop up! AI is not used as often in the beef industry because it is more costly and labour intensive. AI is too expensive to do on commercial sheep farms as the procedure is different, it involves surgical insemination of the females. However, sheep stud farmers may use AI as they are selling the offspring for a lot more money (thus more cost effective). The benefits of using AI in your industry include:

  1. Increases the accuracy of EBVs and male selection
  2. Allows commercial breeders to access genetic information that previously would have been too expensive (and used only at a stud level)
  3. Allows great genetics to be rapidly spread throughout a population (because many semen straws can be made from one male)
  4. Technically forms a ‘world flock/herd’ of animals

Multiple Ovulation Embryo Transfer (MOET) is used to increase female selection and can therefore potentially increase the accuracy of the EBVs. However, this is a very expensive procedure as it involves taking a superior female animal, using hormones to get her to produce more eggs and then harvesting the eggs. MOET allows the female genetics to be spread farther/faster into the population. MOET is best used in species who usually only produce one egg at a time like cows.

Inbreeding can be a big problem with MOET, so farmers need to develop a good breeding scheme/plan to avoid this. It is best to use females with good genetics and semen from males with good genetics (as opposed to fresh semen and females that harvest/flush well).

This leads to a concept which I find exciting (and ethically interesting!) which is called Juvenile In Vitro Embryo Transfer (JIVET). Since all females are born with the total number of eggs they need in life, these can technically be harvested at a very young age (juvenile). These harvested eggs can then be in vitro fertilized and develop into offspring. This reduces the generation inverval and increases selection intensity. There are current issues with this reproductive technology that have not been worked out yet—and so it is not common.

I apologize if some of the terms and concepts were a bit too confusing for some of my non-vet friends; however if you are interested in food or wool production this is a vital part of the industry. Feel free to pose any queries you might have and I’ll try  my best to answer 🙂

At work in my old University dairy barn

At work in my old University dairy barn

Blood smears and bone marrow

Every week we have several practical classes. These are the classes where we have hands on contact with animals, or are looking at microscope slides, or handling and assessing preserved tissues, etc. This year we have mostly had pathology practical classes. We spend a few hours in a cold room wearing our labcoats and gloves and handling tissues. Some of the tissues/organs we have been looking at are: digestive tracts (rumens, stomachs, esophagus), livers, kidneys, hearts, lungs (they have all been preserved). We look for signs of diseases, different presentations, abscesses, parasites, cancer, infection, inflammation, abnormalities…the list goes on! Usually the classes are long and overwhelming with information!

This week we did something a bit different than handling cold preserved organs. In the first half of prac we did some hematology work. Did you know that red blood cells are also called erythrocytes? We practiced blood smears; this is a common diagnostic test done in clinics. A blood smear lets you examine which cells are present, if they look normal, if there is too many cells or too few. This can give a veterinarian a lot of valuable information on a case!

My blood smears; practice makes perfect!

My blood smears; practice makes perfect!

We also checked packed cell volume (PCVs) of different animal bloods. PCV tells you the percentage of red blood cells in a sample (the other 2 parts of blood are plasma and a buffy coat (white blood cells and platelets). If there is not enough blood cells seen on a PCV, the animal might be anemic. We also spent some time looking at cells under the microscope to see if we could identify all the different types.

In the second half of prac class we got to practice bone marrow sampling. Did you know that red blood cells are made in the bone marrow and then move out of the bones into the blood? The bone marrow is sampled to check for signs of infection, disease, or other problems. We learned the correct way to use a bone marrow needle and the specific locations on the body that the needle need to be placed. The needle needs to be inserted through the skin and into the center of a bone in order to suck up bone marrow. After a few tries (on deceased animals) I was starting to get the hang of it!

This was a really fun and practical afternoon of practicing some clinical skills. I wanted to share with everyone so you could have a bit more of an understanding of what I do in uni!

From: http://www.kimal.co.uk/products/bone-marrow-aspiration-needle/

A bone marrow aspiration needle. Image from: http://www.kimal.co.uk/products/bone-marrow-aspiration-needle/