The Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine’s clinical year beta testing unfolded this summer and performed exceptionally well.
But, like any adventure, preparations are necessary. So eight students from the inaugural class and 16 partnering veterinary clinics located across Texas and New Mexico teamed up for that challenge this summer.
Together, they participated in an in-depth, full “dress rehearsal” testing all the training and complex systems that will be used during clinical year rotations.
“We had a stellar summer,” said Britt Conklin, the associate dean for clinical programs. “This is a testament to three factors: an amazing team in the Office of Clinical Programs, an unbelievable group of practice partners, and the most adaptable pioneering students on the planet.”
For six weeks, each student completed 3-week rotations at two different veterinary clinics. They were paired up according to their interest in veterinary medicine and the communities that aligned with the school's mission.
Dalton Deckert, who has a passion for equine medicine, spent his first rotation at 113 Equine in Millsap, Texas. Then, he wrapped up his last rotation at Brazos Valley Equine Hospital in Navasota, Texas.
“I really enjoyed my summer,” Deckert said. “It was full of opportunities to learn and understand equine medicine. At 113 Equine, I was able to participate in numerous lameness exams, radiographs of the distal limb, and I got to sharpen my ultrasound skills as well. At Brazos Valley Navasota, I was involved in surgeries, colic work ups, and a variety of different equine cases. I got to split my time with each veterinarian and they each had a different teaching style. I liked that aspect of the practice because I feel like it gave me a true experience of what our fourth year will be like.”
Samantha Woods was able to step into the shoes of her future self as a fourth-year veterinary student. Her rotations allowed her to become familiar with how the clinical program will run and the expectations set for students as she moves throughout her final year.
“Over the summer, I was able to shift my mindset from being a student to truly being a doctor,” Woods said. “This was the most eye-opening part of this experience. In just one short year, the entire inaugural class will be getting to put our three years of didactic knowledge to use under the guidance of our clinical partners. I cannot wait for our clinical year and to watch my classmates go into the world and show everyone what Texas Tech veterinary students are capable of.”
While working at Double J Animal Hospital in Hobbs, New Mexico and Animal Medical Center in Lubbock, Briana Stofas improved her surgical skills by performing multiple spays and neuters with guidance as needed. She also honed skills such as communication by interacting closely with clients, interpreting radiographs, ultrasound, physical examinations and more.
“I was able to work through cases from start to finish,” Stofas said. “With the veterinarian's guidance, I was able to make decisions such as what diagnostics to run and how to diagnose and treat patients. They gave me the opportunity to think through the cases myself and come up with my own answers. I think this really helped boost my confidence and helped me really start thinking like a veterinarian.”
The 16 practice partners were just as excited to host the students during the clinical year trial run.
“The clinical instructor veterinarians have been eager for this opportunity for quite some time,” Conklin said. “They bought in and delivered, and the most important buy-in was the concept that ‘our' students are ‘their' students – not just participants in an externship or preceptor program. This was evident in how well each of them followed some of the more procedural tasks we asked them to fulfill and then by their diligent effort to create a quality learning and feedback environment for the student at their practice.”
Abbi Brock is a board-certified surgeon at Brock Veterinary Clinic – a mixed animal practice in Lamesa, Texas. Their clinic is a primary care and referral center for equine medicine and surgery that serves a region of West Texas and New Mexico.
“We are very passionate as a clinic in training the veterinarians of tomorrow,” Abbi said. “We have five veterinarians and many things going on throughout the day.”
Brock and the other veterinarians are considered clinical instructors at the School of Veterinary Medicine. Their job is to help students accomplish their rotation goals and make sure they are getting the most out of their time. They are mentors ready to help students sharpen their technical and problem-solving skills.
“Our student we had this summer was absolutely amazing,” said Abbi. “She came in and blended well with the environment of the clinic. She was able to see the schedule and jump in on whatever case she preferred. She joined us in the surgery room, performed lameness exams, medicine workups and much more. We even sat together, shared a meal and discussed a topic or journal article which was relaxed and enjoyable while being informative.”
Another practice partner that took in students this summer was Big Country Veterinary Clinic in Abilene, Texas. This is a high-volume small-animal clinic that sees a wide range of clients who travel from many areas of the state to receive veterinary care.
“We have four veterinarians who work full time and I am part time,” said David Wright, a veterinarian at the clinic. “We stay really busy. Just to give you an example, I see anywhere from 12 to 18 patients in an afternoon.”
Lacey Hodges began her rotations at Big Country Veterinary Clinic. She worked on several surgeries from spays and neuters, to caesareans (C-sections), cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal), Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy and many more. She also became familiar with many medical cases such as diabetes, Addison's disease, Cushing disease, and parvovirus among others.
“We do not shadow at Big Country,” Wright said. “We expect the students to participate.”
Wright provided a top-of-the-line educational experience. He also evaluated Hodges so that he could provide her with feedback on what she excelled at or what she could improve on.
“Texas Tech students were just brilliant,” Wright said. “I'll tell you what, I was impressed at how much these students knew.”
The School of Veterinary Medicine will continue to prepare for its innovative, community-based approach to clinical experiential learning starting in less than a year. With more than 100 sites secured to help deliver the clinical year, the inaugural class will begin its 52-week journey receiving hands-on opportunities with private practice, industry and research settings located across Texas and New Mexico.
Thanks to the smooth-sailing beta testing, the stage is set for the adventure to come.
“Dean Guy Loneragan, in the beginning of the beta test, challenged us to not focus on what works but find the things that don't work,” Conklin said. “It was good advice, but the students worked, the practice partners worked and the program works. We didn't find what ‘did not' work. We have only found working things that can work even better with some fine tuning. Like a race car, we might need to brake better, steer better, or improve fuel efficiency – but this Ferrari is running.”