Veterinary Life
September 22, 2009 (published)
Cristino Floresca

You're a What? What's a Pathologist?

A lady at my gym asked me what I do for a living. “I’m a veterinary pathologist,” I said and then paused, smiling, as I waited for the inevitable furrowing of brows and subsequent barrage of questions about my line of work. “You’re a...what?” she asked, her voice trailing off at the unexpected constellation of words I had concocted. “I’m a veterinary pathologist,” I repeated, more slowly. “I evaluate and interpret pathology specimens.”

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I got Afterbirth on my Nice Shoes, Dangit!

I have a long history of making bad decisions and later regretting them. Haircuts, cars, recreational pharmaceuticals – the list could go on for pages, but I respect your time far too much to elaborate. Sometimes, these decisions could’ve been picked out by any reasonable person as a bad idea long before the regret settles in like a fog descending on the bay, but in some cases the bad decisions only come to light when a particular set of circumstances occurs.

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Nothing is Routine

“At first it’s all ‘oooh’ and ‘ahhh.’ Then comes the running and the screaming.” I'm paraphrasing one of my favorite lines from the second Jurassic Park movie.

This is how I feel about the word “routine.”

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Like Fish, your Vet Never Leaves School

I’m sitting at a computer at a conference for fish people.

No, it isn’t Aqua Man and his court (though how cool would that be??). This is the annual conference of the International Association of Aquatic Animal Medicine. Yep, an entire educational gathering dedicated to veterinarians and other folks whose patients have fins and flippers.

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This All Happened Before Lunch

Wednesdays are groom days. So in addition to the usual chaos of surgeries, drop offs and appointments, we have grooming clients to deal with as well. In the midst of the noise and phone calls this morning, we get a call from an RV dealer in Houston. The man on the phone tells the technician that they have a client there with a dog whose head is stuck in a vent in his RV; can we get the dog out? In my head I'm picturing a small Jack Russell-type dog with his head stuck through the AC floor vent and I tell the tech, sure, no problem. We can get the dog out. Tell him to head this way.

A half hour later, a truck and older model camper pull into the parking lot.

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After almost thirty years in practice, I still see things I have never seen before.

To me, the constant variety is veterinary medicine's greatest asset as a career. My job is never boring! My husband and I own two rural mixed animal practices, and the lifestyle has provided us with a full and satisfying career. There have been financial, professional, and personal sacrifices; however, not many people can say that they still love their job after thirty years.

There are so many things to enjoy about rural veterinary medicine--it is a lifestyle and not just a career. We know practically everyone in town personally, and we are respected members of our community. Raising our children at our clinic was seen not as a detriment, but as evidence of positive parenting.

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What if I Do Nothing

A month ago my sister wanted to know if her Jack Russell Terrier could be sick because he was drinking and peeing all the time. I told her he needed to go to the vet; he could have a simple urinary tract infection or he could have more going on. Inside my head, I was screaming “diabetes” as polyuria/polydipsia (drinks a lot and pees a lot), or PU/PD as medical types call it, is a hallmark for diabetes mellitus in dogs, cats, and people. In dogs, diabetes mellitus rarely responds to dietary changes - unlike some people and some cats - and almost always requires twice daily insulin injections to control the disease.

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The Boneyard - Failing Better

“Goldie doesn’t look right. She’s standing sort of funny.”

It’s odd how a couple of seemingly benign sentences can bring back remembered chills nearly 20 years after the fact.

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Oh, Crap! My Patient is Better!

This is going to take a little finesse.

Every doctor everywhere, be they a dentist, veterinarian or MD, takes some sort of oath. Witch doctors and Time Lords may be excluded, I don’t know. Usually this oath contains some verbiage to the effect of “I promise to only do the good stuff and never to do the bad stuff and only work to make them better and stuff.” It can be encapsulated by the phrase primum non nocere, which translates to ‘first do no harm.’ For vegetarian doctors, it is amended to 'first, do no ham.'

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I Don't Know

It’s just a three-word sentence, but uttering those words can make you feel like one of the 300 Spartans about to face the thousands of invading Persians at the battle of Thermopylae or like the guy who lets the winning World Cup goal by. For a medical practitioner, saying “I don’t know” sometimes feels like the ultimate declaration of defeat. After all, the doctor is supposed to have all the answers, right?

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The Veterinarian-Client Bond

The phrase “human-animal bond” gets a lot of currency in veterinary medicine as does the acronym-worthy but mouthful-of-marbles-sounding “Veterinary-Client-Patient Relationship.” Yet we almost never hear about the most critical bond and the one that most impacts the success of any veterinary care. The veterinarian-client bond -- yeah, I just left out the patient. Sorry about that, but I’m going to ask Frisky over there to step out of the room for a while.

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A Doctor’s Dilemma: How do We Keep Our Humanity?

There is a measure of gallows humor you need to get through a rough day at work, no matter what that work may be. But when your work involves the dying and those who grieve for them ‒ regardless of whether they have two legs or four ‒ that skill becomes vitally important.

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The VIN Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was created by members of the Veterinary Information Network (VIN) in 2005. VIN is an online community of veterinarians and veterinary students with over 50,000 members worldwide. All gifts made to the VIN Foundation are tax deductible.


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