In the Community: Theory into Practice

Veterinary students don’t always have the opportunity for clinical practice while they’re learning it. Thanks to a unique mentorship program, that’s not the case at AAHA-accredited Iowa Veterinary Specialists (IVS), an emergency and specialty clinic owned by Iowa State University (ISU) in Des Moines, Iowa.

An Iowa Veterinary Specialists mentoring program student enjoys some hands on experience during zoo orientation. (Photo courtesy of Iowa Veterinary Specialists)

by M. Carolyn Miller, MA

Veterinary students don’t always have the opportunity for clinical practice while they’re learning it. Thanks to a unique mentorship program, that’s not the case at AAHA-accredited Iowa Veterinary Specialists (IVS), an emergency and specialty clinic owned by Iowa State University (ISU) in Des Moines, Iowa.

“We wanted to create a progressive experience for first- and second-year veterinary students . . . and set [them] up to excel in their future clinical years,” said Julie Kelso, IVS operations manager. The IVS Emergency and Specialty Clinical Mentorship Program resulted. It is run annually with eight ISU veterinary students.

The program originated with Karl Bosler, DVM, a 21-year employee of IVS. At the time, in 2015, Bosler was also an associate teaching professor in the biomedical sciences at ISU. With one foot in each world—the university and the clinic—he saw the opportunity and, with Kelso and ISU, developed the program.

“[The] program is designed for all veterinary students, not just those who are planning a career in emergency medicine,” said Kelso. “Our students have a tremendous variety of circumstances, but what they all have in common is their drive.” Students are selected based on an application and three strong letters of recommendation.

The program includes an orientation, rotations, and two projects.

Orientation includes a behind-the-scenes tour of the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, led by Bosler. (ISU is affiliated with the zoo veterinary program.) Then, four two-week rotations begin.

First- and second-year students work in pairs. “We pair a first-year student with a second-year student so that one will be knowledgeable on the basic sciences and the other knowledgeable with clinical pathology and recent coursework.”

The first two-week session is with the overnight technician trainers. Students get an overview of what technicians can do for them in a practice and how to utilize the technicians once they become veterinarians.

During the second two-week session, students are paired with the overnight emergency room (ER) doctors and experience the rapid pace of ER triages and surgeries. Students also discuss cases with the ER doctors.

The third two-week session is with the daytime ER doctors and is focused on practice management and ownership. That includes staff and client communications and customer service expectations. It also includes the practice’s financial information, inventory control, and human resource concerns.

The fourth and final two-week session is focused on specialty doctor training, during which students are paired with IVS’s full-time oncologist or part-time surgeon. Students also complete their research project during this session.

Students must complete two projects during the program. The first project involves a case writeup, which is published on the IVS and ISU websites for public viewing. The second project involves selecting and researching a topic and writing a report in nontechnical language.

The win for the students is obvious, but there is also a win for IVS. “Not only do we get to give back to ISU and its students,” said Kelso. “We also hire some students as part-time technicians while they complete their education.” That is community service at its best.

M. Carolyn Miller, MA, designs and develops creative learning experiences and loves mentoring programs. For more information, visit cultureshape.com.
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