When the COVID-19 pandemic prevented School of Veterinary Medicine students from participating in hands-on training in Grenada, St. George’s University coordinated a unique alternative under the bright lights and glitz in Las Vegas, NV.
This semester, a total of 98 Term 6 students attended clinical skills workshops at the Viticus Center – Oquendo Campus in Las Vegas. The center is a venue for many medical and veterinary medicine continuing education sessions; however, it welcomed SGU students as part of its mission to “enhance animal and human health worldwide by providing the highest quality year-round continuing education to veterinary and human healthcare professionals.”
“Typically, during Terms 5 and 6, students learn critical clinical skills at both our Large Animal Resource Facility and Small Animal Clinic in Grenada. It is during this time that students experience their first surgeries, learn to administer anesthesia, and perform much-needed spay and neutering services,” said Dr. Neil Olson, dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine. “Because of COVID, this group of students was not able to have the normal Term 5 or Term 6 experience. However, we felt very strongly that in order for the students to be prepared to head off to their clinical year we wanted to make sure they had exceptional hands-on training.”
During the spring term, students touched down in Las Vegas to attend a two-week workshop where they acquired a variety of large and small animal clinical skills through workshops taught by licensed veterinarians, vet specialists, and technicians.
In addition, two SVM faculty were on site to support students—Dr. Rodolfo Bruhl-Day, chair of the Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery, and Dr. Flavia Restitutti, associate professor of small animal medicine and surgery. The last of the groups completed the workshop at the end of April.
“The Oquendo Center is the premier, state-of-the-art facility for veterinary continuing education in the US and an ideal learning environment,” said Dr. Lauren Nicki Wise, assistant dean of fourth-year clinical training for the SVM and professor in the department. “It was a wonderful opportunity to have that facility and staff available to our students.”
Specifically, students practiced handling and performing physical exams on large animals, including cows and horses. One group even got to treat a neonatal goat that was born, Dr. Wise said. On the small animal side, each student performed surgical anesthesia, and then performed spay/neuter surgery as part of a community service program with local shelters and animal rescues. The students spayed and neutered close to 200 dogs while there.
Nakia Sweetman, a Class of 2022 DVM candidate, attended the workshops in late February.
“I am so grateful for this experience,” said Ms. Sweetman, who begins her clinical year at Texas A&M University this month. “I truly feel more prepared and ready to take on clinical year. The experience showed us how clinical year will be set up, with doctors there to help guide us and teach us, while also giving us the opportunity to be doctors as well.”
Another added plus to the experience: being able to see her classmates again after a year of being home.
“At the end of our workshop, I was able to explore Las Vegas. A couple of my friends and I actually decided to stay through the weekend, so we rented a car and went to the Hoover Dam, hiked the Red Rock Canyon and the Valley of Fire. We also went to the Linq High Roller, which is a large ferris wheel, and we were able to see all of Vegas from up there,” Ms. Sweetman said.
This was the Viticus Center’s first foray into a training event specifically geared to help veterinary students prepare for their clinical year.
“When SGU came to us with the opportunity to help train veterinary students to give them hands-on training, it was our privilege and honor to help,” said Dr. Tony Pease, the chief veterinary medical officer of Viticus Group.
Dr. Pease added that the not only were the students eager to learn, but “exceptionally prepared.”
“Our instructors and technician team were truly impressed with their skill and enthusiasm to learn and be taught,” he said. “I think our instructors and technicians were just as excited as the students to get to work every day and help these young veterinarians-in-training hone their skills. We are thankful to have had the opportunity to provide this experience, and we look forward to seeing the students again as doctors, coming to further hone their hands-on skills during their careers.”
Added Dean Olson: “This experience, while out-of-the-box, is representative of the commitment we have to making sure students are prepared for their clinical year. It’s an excellent example of how, with a little creativity, we were able to collaborate with the industry to ensure our students stay on track with their vet educations.”
– Laurie Chartorynsky