A Royal Summer Retreat at the Royal Veterinary College – Part II

BY INTERN SARAH LEWIS

Last week in the first part of her story, Sarah walked us through her process finding, applying and traveling to the Royal Veterinary College for their pre-vet summer program. Today we get to hear all about the amazing experiences she had during her stay in London!

The summer school program at the RVC consisted of a full and diverse schedule of lectures, hands-on workshops, hospital and farm experiences, tours of London, and of course, social activities. It was an action packed and immersive two weeks.

I would not be a tourist in London if I did not take a picture in a famous red telephone booth.

The lectures were given in the varying styles that the RVC uses to teaches its students. Some were interactive and others were didactic. We covered topics such as pathology, diagnostic imaging, animal behaviour, and types of bones. My favourite lecture was about Equine Innovation and Surgery and I spoke with the equine veterinarian who gave the talk for a long time afterwards. We were also given talks about the Royal Veterinary College itself and were provided information about the admission process, including interview tips and a mock interview session.

Fellow students and I in front of the Camden Campus at the RVC.

Fortunately, the RVC Hawkshead campus is home to a LIVE Clinical Skills Centre. This gave us the opportunity to develop core practical skills, that a vet requires, through numerous hand-on workshops. We practiced skills such as bandaging, ultrasound, sterile technique, and rectal exams on a simulated haptic cow. The haptic cow was designed by a former student at the RVC, and the technology was very life like. We also had interactive lab sessions in microbiology and pathology. I even got to perform a post-mortem examination on a fox.

Emily Harrison, my roommate–and new best friend from the UK, and I grappling with chickens at the RVC’s Boltons Park Farm.

We spent several days on different animal rotations during our two week program. My favourite rotation, of course, was my day spent at the RVC Equine Practice and Referral Hospital. What made the hospital so interesting was that everything was supersized to accommodate horses. They even had a CT scanner and MRI machine custom made for horses. Interestingly, I got to meet the blood donor horses who generously donate up to nine litres (that’s about two gallons) of blood each month. We also had the opportunity to test urine, fecal, and blood samples from equine patients at the hospital. Reflecting back, my day spent at the equine hospital definitely improved the care I now provide to my own horse.

Besides horses, I had the opportunity to spend a day at the RVC’s Boltons Park Farm where I learned to do health check-ups on dairy cows, sheep, turkeys, and chickens. I also had a rotation at the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals, which is the largest animal hospital in Europe and specializes in small animal referrals. Just like a hospital for humans, I shadowed in different medical specialties including, neurology, soft-tissue surgery, emergency care, and internal medicine. It was so cool to see diagnostic procedures such as scopes, ultrasounds, and x-rays being performed as well as participate in patient assessments. I was also lucky enough to observe a few surgeries.

My favourite calf could not resist giving me some love at Boltons Farm Park.

My experience on the animal rotations was definitely enhanced by the enthusiasm of all the veterinarians and veterinary students who taught us. Everyone seemed to be excited to share their knowledge and let us get hands-on practice. Looking back, all the RVC staff and student ambassadors displayed the same willingness to help and make the program as positive as possible for everyone.

As part of the summer program, we were divided into groups to complete a final project. The theme of the assignment this year was animal pedigrees and breeding. Luckily, most of my group was just as horse crazy as me, so we chose to compare horse pedigree breeds in Canada and Germany. We made a power-point presentation, a poster board, and presented it at the end of the two weeks. Of course, I made sure to include my own horse as an example in our project.

Having some fun with the sheep at Boltons Farm Park

When we were not on our placements at the different hospitals, we were able to experience different British activities, such as a master chef competition, a game of rounders (UK version of baseball, except there’s four bases and the bat is much smaller!), and rugby. We visited RVC’s Camden Campus, the famous Camden Market, and watched a play in London’s West End. On the weekend we went to the ZSL London Zoo, the British Museum, and did some sight-seeing of London’s main tourist attractions. Immersing myself in British culture made for an exciting time at the RVC and really enhanced my experience.

I never thought when I first applied to the RVC Pre-Vet Summer School that I would ever end up having such an enriching experience. I count it as one of the most exciting two weeks of my life! I learned a tremendous amount about caring for animals and which are applicable to caring for my own horse or when I volunteer at a local small animal clinic. I also made some meaningful friendships with people all over the world, and I still keep in contact with the many of them.

My new friends from around the world with me enjoying a beautiful day at the London Zoo.

Not only did the summer school program solidify my interest in veterinary medicine as a career, but it convinced me to apply to the RVC for their veterinary medicine program. When I returned home, I spent a fair bit of time researching the different programs that the RVC offers. In particular, I looked into the five-year bachelor of veterinary medicine (which you can apply to right out of high school) and the accelerated four-year bachelor of veterinary medicine for those who have already completed an undergraduate degree. The fact that the RVC veterinary program is accredited by the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) really appealed to me since it would permit me to practice in the USA or Canada.

I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to spend part of my summer at the RVC and I encourage anyone interested in veterinary medicine to attend this program.

Interested in learning more about the Pre-Vet summer school at RVC? You can find all kinds of information on the Royal Veterinary College website. The RVC staff are very responsive to questions and inquiries, and if you would like to hear more about Sarah’s specific experiences contact her to get in touch!