Tallars in the City of Gaudi

Tallars in the City of Gaudi

I was pretty sure I heard the word “delfín”. I had only been in Barcelona for 3 days and though rapidly brushing up on my language skills and furiously trying to learn new veterinary terms, dolphin was one word that I could easily pick out of a rapidly spoken sentence. Indeed I had. There was a dolphin that had been brought in that day for necropsy to the Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona pathology department. I had never seen a dolphin in the flesh before and clearly neither had the 10 Spanish veterinary students who eagerly crowded around the necropsy table. Being my first day of my pathology rotation, I tried to play it cool and volunteered to help with the dog instead.

In the Pathology Department

From that first day on, 10am would be my favorite time of day. I eagerly inquired every morning as soon as I arrived about how many animals and what species we would have that day for necropsy. Days without necropsy were quite disappointing. Now you might be thinking, “How disgusting!  Let me assure you performing a necropsy is a dignified process, and the findings can be invaluable not only to small animal owners seeking some closure, but to farmers, researchers and even entire industries.

My love for gross anatomy began with my first job in a veterinary clinic as a technician’s assistant with no previous experience. The first time I was allowed into the OR to assist with an abdominal surgery, I could not believe the small intestines. They were absolutely gorgeous: glossy pink with ribbons of vessels that wove through a seeming fan of tissue. How could something so beautiful lead to something like poop?! Being in veterinary school learning the physiology and pathology of organ systems has only augmented my appreciation and enthusiasm for anatomy.

Learning to Tallar

I had the privilege of spending a month with the pathology department learning to “tallar” (cut samples that will be made into slides), how to properly necropsy chickens, piglets, and yes, another dolphin case, in addition to dogs and cats, and sat in on hours of microscope rounds (thankfully, a liver cell of a dog in Spain looks just like the one Joyce Knoll had on a slide in Cells & Tissue Types first year) and learned that Leishmania really is everywhere there.

The weeks flew by far too quickly but in the end, I was not so much sad as I was excited to finish my schooling and start my career. One of the interns said to me “Más cosas sabes, te das cuenta de todo lo que te falta por aprender” – “The more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know.” The veterinary field is so vast but what a privilege to be joining a global effort to learn and discover on behalf of all manner of animals for their health and wellbeing.