Abby and Annette Go on Ambulatory

Abby and Annette Go on Ambulatory

This past year, Abby Needleman, V18, and Annette Califano, V18, decided to do a Selective with Dr. Eugene White on the Tufts Ambulatory Service. I asked them about their experience, and about how it’s impacted their veterinary education.

First, tell me about a typical day with Dr. White (if there is a ‘typical’ day on ambulatory).

Abby: A typical day was helping with dairy cow herd checks at a dairy farm down the road from the Tufts Ambulatory clinic. We would start the day doing pregnancy detection on close to 100 cows, and then we would move onto disbudding the calves out in the hutches.

Annette: It was always a lot of fun and we’d get a chance to interact with the current fourth years and the clients too.  But, Abby and I did go on other days too and on those days you didn’t really know what to expect until you got there.


What kind of hands-on experience did you get?  


Abby examines a cow while on rotation at TAS.

Annette: Rectal exams/preg checks, nerve blocks and disbudding calves; we got to assist with a couple of surgeries.  Oh, and we got to lance a couple of giant abscesses with Dr. White! They also do a lot of cool procedures at the clinic. One day we helped Dr. Gately with surgery on a goat that kept regrowing his horns; another time we watched Dr. Lindell do embryo transfer.

Abby: To add to what Annette said, we got to be such experts at disbudding the calves that Dr. White would let us play teacher and show the fourth years how to do it! In terms of doing rectal exams, all I can say is practice certainly makes perfect. It really takes practicing 50 rectal exams a week to start to know what you are actually feeling in there.


What are some parts of the experience that were more of a challenge for you?

Annette:  I still think doing a rectal exam and feeling for the reproductive tract was the one challenging thing to learn.  It was my first time ever doing that and it eventually got easier to identify structures.

Abby: Something that we both found challenging was the fact that when we are on the farm with Dr. White, we are only there to treat the cows that the farm hands have presented to us. That means that even if we saw another cow who might need veterinary attention (limping, abscess, down, etc.), we had to remember that we were there as guests and it is not our job to intervene.



Dr. White demonstrates calf handling.

What’s one thing you wish Dr. White’s clients knew about him / about the way he practices?

Abby: Oh man. I honestly think his clients know how passionate he is about his work. However, I wonder if his clients know how much outside work he does just to keep up with the changing dynamics of the business. Also, I doubt any of them know just how much he loves graphs…

Annette: These farms have been working with Dr. White for years, so I am sure they know what a fantastic veterinarian and person he is! I doubt if they know how much time he spends with the students inside the classroom. He’s dedicated to our education, and likes to throw in the occasional story about himself too.


What’s your favorite memory from the past year’s experiences?

Abby: It’s so hard to think of just one! I think one of the best days was when we actually went with Dr. White to his own house to check on his calf that had been born the night before and wasn’t doing well. It was fun mucking around in his yard and realizing that Dr. White loves cows so much he keeps them in his own backyard!

Annette: There was this one time we dehorned a cow–she must have gotten missed at some point so she only had one horn. It was at the end of the day and it was just so much fun, Dr. White was teaching us but at the same time we were laughing and just having a good time in each other’s company.



Dr. White helps Annette with a procedure.

What do you think you took away from this experience that’s added to your veterinary education?

Annette:  I could go on forever describing how important this experience was for me.  There was just so much that was new and exciting, and it only solidified my interest in food animal medicine.  I don’t want to do anything else.  I mean, being able to work first hand with dairy cows and being able to discuss herd health made all the difference.  I couldn’t imagine not having a mentor like Dr. White! He’s an amazing person who really cares about his students’ education.

Over the summer, I wanted to do some food animal nutrition work and Dr. White introduced me to the dairy nutritionist that he and his clients work with.  I spent a fantastic month working with her and I wouldn’t have had that educational opportunity otherwise.  It was one of my best experiences overall at Tufts.

Abby: I think the most important thing I took away from this experience was a firsthand look at what my life could be like if I ever chose to go into food animal medicine. While it is not currently where I see myself long term, I know that if I ever chose to do it I would be going into it with a strong foundation of knowledge and experience. It was also an extremely valuable experience to have before starting third year courses, a lot of which focus on food animal medicine and hands-on bovine experience.


If you don’t mind me asking – can you both share more about your (current) plans post-graduation?

Abby: My end goal has always been to get involved in zoo and wildlife medicine. It’s basically impossible to get into a zoo residency without first doing other clinical work. Considering how much fun I had every day on this selective, I can definitely say I would be interested in spending some time doing some kind of food animal work before applying to zoo residencies or jobs! To me, the herd health mentality can apply to both areas of medicine, and ambulatory medicine is something I would like to learn more about before settling into my “real” job.

Annette: As for me, my end goal has changed quite drastically since coming to vet school, and I am planning on going into swine exclusive practice when I finish.  I’ve been pretty sure about that since the end of my first year.  I’d still love to do work with cows but I’ve got time to figure out how to fit that into my life.


First and second year veterinary students have Tuesday afternoons dedicated to Selectives. Selective credit can be earned by working at local practices, taking additional electives, or spending time on various hospital services.