Real world training for veterinary students

It’s another busy day in the veterinary clinic as Jonathan Dear and Jessica Griffin assist with a dental cleaning on a golden retriever. Dear keeps the vitals while Griffin works steadily to clean the dog’s teeth before he wakes up. Out in the lobby, clients wait for their small pets’ well-check appointments in a bright, sunlit room.

As part of a new initiative to provide veterinary students with more practical clinical experience, the college last spring opened its new Community Practice Clinic in Building 9, a former teaching lab located in the heart of the veterinary campus. The CPC, the result of three years of extensive planning, provides students with basic outpatient medicine, anesthesia, and minor surgical experience on healthy animals. It replaces the cramped quarters within the main Small Animal Teaching Hospital.

“This clinic is the realization of thoughtful planning that started with an ad hoc committee,” says Dean Sheila Allen. “The concept of this rotation was also the result of the feedback received from the employers of our graduates.”

“They told us through our survey instruments that our students needed more training in preventive medicine for the companion animals, time management in client consultation, client communication skills and the utilization of paraprofessional personnel. Our alumni told us our graduates will be better prepared for private practice if they gain an appreciation while in school that, in order to stay in business and be able to practice good medicine for their patients and clients, they must use their time wisely and charge appropriately for their services.”

The clinic is run by Dr. Kathy Kero with six to eight students and an intern on each three-week rotation. Modeled after many successful private practices, each student has the opportunity to conduct medical exams and minor surgical procedures with daily rounds sessions under the direct supervision of Dr. Kero. Additionally housed within the clinic are behavioral services under the direction of Dr. Sharon Crowell-Davis and dermatological services under Dr. Patrick Hensel and Dr. Michaela Austel.

At the end of rotations, each student is able to take basic routine histories, diagnose acute medical conditions and dermatological disorders, conduct dental exams, address common canine and feline behavioral problems and troubleshoot practice management issues.

“The Community Practice Clinic allows senior veterinary students to be the doctor,” says recent graduate Courtenay Ratterree. “After graduation, most of us will end up in a private practice, and the CPC provides us with the opportunity to gain this type of experience and prepares us to handle cases appropriately.” Ratterree, recently awarded Veterinarian of the Year by the GVMA Auxiliary, is using her experience in a small animal medicine and surgery rotating internship at UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

“The new community practice clinic gives us the opportunity to practice our clinical skills in an environment similar to that of a general practice, fostering a relationship between UGA and the local community,” adds Jonathan Dear, another recent graduate who has entered a small animal medicine internship at VCA Animal Emergency and Referral Center in San Diego, Calif. “Also, having facilities separate from the rest of the hospital creates an experience much more realistic of private practice.”

While a referral from a local veterinarian or a veterinarian at the CPC is required for dermatological and behavioral services, the general clinic services are open to the public. To make an appointment, please call the Community Practice Clinic at 706/542-1984. The CPC is open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. -5 p.m.