My first year as a veterinary student at the University of Surrey has flown by; it really does seem like yesterday that I was moving into my ‘halls’ accommodation and collecting my veterinary uniform. This time last year, as I was still waiting for A-level results, I would never have imagined that one year later I would be in the position I am in now with my studies, and having had such an amazing first year.
As first year veterinary students, the structure of our year has been to learn all that is considered ‘normal’ within all body systems of all domestic species. I feel I benefited from the way the course was built. Such a deep and vast amount of information was initially very intimidating, however, the interactive small group teachings, dissections and practical sessions, as well as lectures, meant that the material we learnt was more easily understood and relatable in a practical situation.
Indeed, I love how hands-on the course has been so far; by the end of my first term I was comfortable in safely handling and restraining all domestic species, as well as being able to take their temperatures, heart and respiratory rates and easily recognise their vital signs. The external partners the University of Surrey’s Vet School has access to meant we could appreciate animals in their normal environments for behavioural teaching and assessments, whilst the mock surgery and kennels as well as the facilities to cater for horses, sheep and cattle onsite at the vet school meant that we could easily spend afternoons converting what we learnt in the classroom into a practical situation.
Whilst I have enjoyed learning about all the animals, my background with horses meant that I was naturally very interested in learning about this species. Did you know, that the equine gastrointestinal tract, when compared to that of other domestic species, is actually most similar to that of the rabbit? Equine nutrition, which is so crucial to the health of the horse, yet so often misunderstood and underappreciated, was also fascinating. Both our knowledge of digestion and nutrition could then be linked to aid the understanding of the anatomy of the equine limb in our cardiovascular and musculoskeletal module, and how poor nutrition can cause the development of the crippling condition, Laminitis, affecting the blood supply and eventually the pedal bone of the equine hoof. Our other modules covered respiratory, urological, reproductive, endocrine (hormonal), special senses, neurological and haemopoietic (organs and tissues which produce cellular blood components) systems. The latter I found particularly interesting; for example, did you know that the horse can have over 30 variations of blood groups? Or that the mare’s first milk, colostrum, can contain antibodies which can destroy its foal’s red blood cells, if the mare has a specific blood type that is different to that of both the stallions and its foal (a condition known as Neonatal Isoerythrolysis)?
Another module, The Veterinary Professional, focused on teaching us how to cope with stress, both whilst studying and for the future, upon career ideas, revision skills, as well as other helpful ways of networking with other veterinary professionals, finance and business techniques. This unexpected module really helped me to find my feet in my first term, and certainly gave me confidence in the huge support network of the vet school.
My role as The British Horse Society Veterinary Student Champion also really benefited my studies in my first year, and I feel very fortunate to have been given so many opportunities. In March, Emmeline Hannelly, BHS Welfare Education Officer, and I, organised a talk for the vet students at the University under the title ‘Equine Welfare – the problems, work of the BHS and veterinary involvement’. It was great to see students, many of whom weren’t aware of equine welfare problems in the UK, appreciate the issues and begin to question what the veterinary world can do to help educate both animals and those working with them. Furthermore, I have been fortunate to have been invited to join the BHS on their stand at Royal Windsor Horse Show, speaking to the public about common equine conditions, as well as helping out with their very successful castration and passport clinic in Tipton in May, which was a fantastic experience. I am really looking forward to being involved with the upcoming castration clinic in Kent in September, as well as hopefully organising another talk with Emmeline for students later in the year.
Although trying to juggle my intensive vet course with university hockey, choir, friends, family and horses at home, has been a little bit stressful at times, I could not have settled in and enjoyed my first year more at the University of Surrey.
I am really looking forward to starting my second year at the end of September, particularly as our main course structure is now focused on everything ‘abnormal’ within all body systems, which I think will be very interesting. I am also looking forward to continuing with my BHS Veterinary Student Champion role, and benefiting from the plentiful opportunities I am sure it will bring myself and the University.