Is There a Doctor in the Barn?


Amy Peterson gets a firm hold on a female llama about to be vaccinated

Every year dozens of fourth-year students at Tufts veterinary school leave the familiar setting of their North Grafton, Massachusetts, campus for the rolling farmland of northeastern Connecticut. Here in South Woodstock, a proclivity toward agriculture gives students at the Ambulatory Clinic ample opportunity to fulfill the four-week block of their ambulatory rotation. "They learn by doing," says Dr. Craig Embree, one of six veterinarians who take the students on rounds that routinely include dairy cows, show horses, goats and the occasional bison. Most students don't have farm or large-animal backgrounds, says Embree, but they are rarely daunted by examining a sick animal that can be considerably larger than they are and sometimes reluctant to cooperate. A 1,500-pound Holstein or a skittish llama isn't intimidating, he points out, to those who come with a genuine desire to learn. "On the whole, most are very excited to be down here and they develop an ease by spending time with the animals," he says. "The rotation gives them something they haven't experienced before and offers challenging problems as they develop their clinical skills."


The Tufts Ambulatory Clinic.

The daily menagerie of animals might include a patient such as Buddy, a billy goat, who has his hoofs trimmed by Heather Berry as fellow students Carolyn McKay and Amy Peterson look on.
About 60 percent of the calls that the Ambulatory Clinic responds to are from dairy farms, says Dr. Embree (right).
The last stop of the day responds to a call from milker Sue Buckman-Friedlander who was concerned when her favorite of the herd, "Cybil McCow," a dairy cow she raised from a calf, was coughing and seemed "a bit off." The diagnosis of pneumonia was followed up with a regime of antibiotics.

The basic necessities-coveralls, high boots for mud and manure, and a weathered doctor's bag-are visible reminders their profession comes with a deep value for animal care.

While most of the veterinary students don't have farm backgrounds, their love of animals makes them eager learners. Some 80 percent are women; at left, Heather Berry, Amy Peterson and Carolyn McKay are framed by a barn door.

Read about John Pollock, V97, a large animal vet.







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