Dublin the Cases in Wildlife

Dublin the Cases in Wildlife

In Dublin, we don’t have wild turtles (gasp!). In fact, the general wildlife offerings are limited. Our five-year curriculum covers Irish and European diseases, and touches on a small section of American issues, excluding your natural fauna. This poses a dilemma for a vet student with an interest in exotic species. So, going into my final year of vet school, I decided to explore my interest in wildlife through an externship at the Tufts Wildlife Clinic.

Choosing an externship

The externship at Tufts Wildlife Clinic appealed to me for a number of reasons:

  • International students are accepted for externships.
  • The wildlife center sees a high caseload of animals, ensuring hands-on opportunities.
  • The correspondence with staff was excellent.

I was happy to find that my experience at Cummings School surpassed all expectations, going beyond what I could have imagined.

Shauna (on right) with a fellow vet student from Italy.

Ice cream socials

First of all, as an International student I was not only accepted, but made to feel at home from the moment I arrived; from attending ice cream socials, to being driven to the shops, I felt very welcome. This sense of community spirit was not only exhibited by the faculty and staff, but the students themselves, who, despite knowing little about me, and having spent the last four years together, made me feel like I’d always been at Cummings School.

One of Shauna's patients at the Wildlife Clinic.

One of Shauna’s patients at the Wildlife Clinic.

Hands-on by the hundreds

The Tufts Wildlife Clinic was up-to-date with technology that some private practices at home don’t have, and it was put to good use.  During my time working in the Wildlife Clinic, we took in over two hundred cases. I was surprised by the amount of hands-on opportunities for students and found it both exhilarating and at times even a little stressful being on-call as the primary.  My first solo case was a little rock dove, and making the decision to give fluids and pain relief gave me a huge rush of responsibility – after the next seven or eight cases, those decisions came easier.

In addition to the hands-on work, there were also tutorials on radiography and ophthalmology, which brought subjects I’d studied in the classroom suddenly to life. The faculty always had time to answer questions regarding unfamiliar techniques and diseases. During morning rounds the faculty had their chance to ask questions of the students. There was no pressure, and the informal nature gave me more confidence to attempt answering, and take on more cases.
One of my favorite moments was releasing a little house sparrow back into the fields on the Cummings School’s grounds, where I had been running in the evenings. Thereafter, every time I heard a little chirp, I liked to think it was my sparrow saying thanks.

Overall, I couldn’t fault my time at Cummings School.  Every morning it was easy to head into the clinic, every person I met on the campus greeted me with a smile, or a bemused wave after my own, and the setting itself gave a sense of peace and tranquility. My only regret was not trying the farm-fresh eggs – maybe next time.