The Great Debate

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 26, 2009 by Vet Student University of Melbourne Veterinary Science

I remember the story the Herald Sun newspaper published to coincide with Open Day last year, and the fuss it caused. And rightly so. In fact, I’m surprised there hasn’t been a similar story since. It makes me genuinely question the sanity and humility of most veterinary students and staff on campus. They are all fully aware of, if not participating in, terminal surgical learning practical sessions on unclaimed council dogs (I know that at least some of them come from Warnambool City Council – just far enough away so that there is not a coincidental recognition of a dog by its owner – because I have seen the council tags on several dogs arriving at the vet school). Of course, the vet school will deny it until they are black and blue – they claim that they are dogs surrendered to the vet school by genuine owners, and that the owners sign a clause allowing the veterinary school to conduct these terminal surgical exercises (where dogs are anaesthetised, operated on, and then euthanized humanely before they are allowed to wake up). But I ask you, what owner in their right mind would want to put an animal through this? And even if there are a few crazy pet owners out there that actually sign the clause, are there really 60 or so owners every 6 months that actually sign their dogs over, not just to die, but to suffer as well? What I reckon is that the university is covering up in one of two ways – either they are telling owners they are going to euthanize the dogs immediately and then store them in cages until the surgical practicals roll around and the dogs are required; or they are illegally obtaining dogs from local council pounds. Of course, these pound dogs are going to be put down – and it is illegal for the vet school to operate on pound dogs – but it is the principal of covering it up that really irritates me. It seems to be one of the few things that Vet School is actually good at! Anyway, you can read the article at: http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,23529617-2862,00.html On the topic of cover ups, I have seen some terrible situations occur at the public veterinary clinic that the University owns and runs. Keep in mind that the Vet School does NOT subsidise any treatments (in fact they actually inflate many costs) despite the fact that most tasks and after hour care (even in the 24 hour emergency centre that charges roughly $150 just for a dog to be in there overnight with NO treatments or medications) are carried out by STUDENTS WITHOUT the supervision of veterinarians. Sure, most students are expected to graduate within 24 months, but still, most learning occurs within the first 5 years after graduation. This would be like putting an intern student doctor in charge of a ward of patients with diseases they may never have even heard of before. Pretty appalling if you ask me! What the Vet School should be doing is making patients fully aware of what procedures will be carried out by students, and which will be carried out by veterinary doctors. Then they should be cutting the price by at least 30% compared with local veterinarians. And if they use the animal as a teaching case for students (which most animals are), then they should drop the price again. I know for sure that even if my dog was dying, I wouldn’t take him to the Vet School intensive care unit, even if it was the closest place around! Anyway… back to cover ups. I have witnessed first-hand an ICU veterinarian administer an anaesthetic drug to a cat too quickly and overdose it. The cat continued to seizure for days on end, and never recovered (it had to be euthanized). And what did they Vet School say to the owners? “Your cat had a bad reaction to an anaesthetic reagent”. Oh for goodness sake, of COURSE it is going to have an adverse reaction if you give it ten times the amount of drug it is suppose to have within a specified time frame. Anyway, it was the owner’s daughter that I felt most sorry for. She lost her best mate. The Vet School should have admitted what they did, then offer all costs incurred during the cats stay to be waivered, and then given the owners compensation for the stupid mistake made by the veterinarian. I’m not saying that everyone is perfect and that vets never make mistakes (even I have overdosed a dog), but it is being able to ADMIT you made a mistake, and LEARN from your mistake, that is the most important thing. I really hope this vet learnt from it, because she sure wasn’t able to admit it.

Oh, to be a veterinarian…

Posted in Veterinary Student Life with tags , , , , , , on August 21, 2009 by Vet Student University of Melbourne Veterinary Science

From the first trip with our labrador to the veterinarian, I knew that was exactly what I wanted to be. Sure, I went through phases of wanting to be a professional ballet dancer, a zoo keeper, a dolphin trainer, an interstate truck driver, an actress. But in the end, whenever somebody asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer remained the same – “I want to be a vet”. I remember the looks on the faces of all those grownups; the way they would give my parents secret, or so they thought, side-ways glances and rolling their eyes slightly, hinting to them their clear dismay at how the chances of me ever making it into that course all those years later was pretty much hopeless. Even the brown haired, brown eyed, odd-sock wearing boy at three-year old kinder said to me one day when I brought my pet goat in for show and tell, “only boys can be vets”. I frowned long and hard at him, disbelieving, but distraught at the same time, thinking, “could this be true!?” All the vets I had seen were indeed males. But later on that week, Mzuri, the first IVF chimpanzee, was born. And guess what – the vet looking after her was a woman. From that day forth, I knew that veterinary science was something that I not only wanted to do, but it was what I would spend my life doing. I was right, mostly.

It took me a while to get there. Now here I am, almost at graduation, with a completely different outlook on veterinary science. I’m running scared. The course has worn me down and worn me out. I’ve gone from a high achiever, to an average student, learning that nothing can ever truely please your adversaries or authority figures, no matter how long and hard you try. I have gone from believing that the University of Melbourne is one of the most prestigious and highly regarded Universities, to finally understanding that all it cares about is money, fame and upholding it’s bogus reputation. “Dream large” is its motto. “Dream on” is what most students now believe it should be.

I have worked my butt off pleasing other people. I have struggled through long night-shifts followed by 5am starts, followed by more night shifts. No wages for all this effort, but even more disappointing is that there is absolutely no appreciation. I smile through my tiredness, my aggravation at the system and the University in general – for lack of funds and lack of staff. Putting students on night-shifts – often with no vets (and lucky if you get one!) there to help you if you run into trouble with a clients animal – just to cut costs is a poor way to do business and desperately needs fixing.

The whole University of Melbourne Veterinary Science Faculty has undergone vast changes (and not for the best!) since the hiring of the new Dean. He parades around on his high horse (of course, he is an equine specialist – so it only figures I guess!), and nobody really knows what it is he does exactly on his outrageous salary, except just recently offering career advice to students planning to graduate in a few months and, who, have probably already sent off resumes and job applications months ago. So there’s an idea for cost cutting – let’s cut the Dean’s wages and save a quarter of a million dollars!

Hiring your best mate from University as your “second in charge,” i.e. Director of Clinics and Hospital, has had many people up in arms questioning the nature of his employment. He is yet another person who wanders the hallways aimlessly, trying to find ways to overhaul the system and aggravate both students and staff alike, instead of actually being useful. Of course he should never have been hired, or even considered for the job, as his qualifications are far from adequate – surely he should have stayed in the pharmaceutical world, where, as he keeps reminding us, his services were appreciated and he was respected. I ask him, when was the last time, before now, he stepped into a clinic room and conducted a simple health check on a dog? Probably ten years ago or more. But the Dean wasn’t thinking of that when he hired his side-kick and ally was he?

So basically now everyone is just watching all this apparently marvellous work these new “heads of department” have conducted in the last year or so, and shaking their heads furiously in dismay, and their fists in anger. Where, through all of this departmental shift, has the support and care for staff members and students alike gone? It’s gone not just out the door, but it’s disappeared to the other side of the world, if you ask me. Simple pleasantness has gone from what was once, or so I am lead to believe, a hospitable, friendly, genuinely positive place to work and be a student at. Now you can’t even have a pet in the University of Melbourne’s Veterinary Science College – Kendall Hall, without being evicted and told to find new accommodation. I mean, how ridiculous. And how many students do you think break that rule right under the stupid Warden’s nose without him even knowing. Just change the rules – we are all lovers of animals, and really, if we can’t take care of them properly then who are we to be vets in just a few years time?

And I wonder, through all of this disappointment and anger, whether I made the biggest mistake of my life in deciding to be a vet. Whether, if Mzuri’s vet had been male, I would have just thrown the towel in, and be a far happier Arts/Commerce student? But more than that, I’m wondering if now – just a few months short of graduation – I wouldn’t be far crazier to actually graduate into this world of bigamists and jerks. My experience so far is that vets tend to be egotistical wankers with degrees. Now this is the question – do I really want to be one too…?