Partnership Provides Veterinary Students with Additional Hands-on Experiences

The College of Veterinary Medicine has added an elective clinical rotation through a new educational partnership with the Greater Birmingham Humane Society and Dr. Brandon Cash, owner of Alabama Shelter Veterinarians, P.C.

Third-year veterinary students can choose to spend a two-week rotation providing medical services under the supervision of veterinarians and staff of the Alabama Shelter Veterinarians, P.C., which provides veterinary services for the Greater Birmingham Humane Society.

Kelly Gersch, Kirsten Struthers and Kristyn Carr.

The first group of students, members of the class of 2016, spent two weeks in April in Birmingham, gaining hands-on experience and learning about shelter medicine.

Kelly Gersch, of Cincinnati, said the experience “was the most rewarding during my veterinary career. Drs. Cash and Walker are exceptional at supporting budding surgeons and building confidence. I have learned and experienced more in these two weeks about not only veterinary surgery and shelter medicine, but also about myself as a future veterinarian. I have been inspired to volunteer in my community when I am practicing.”

Kristyn Carr of Anderson, Ind., said the externship was “phenomenal”. The veterinarians and staff, she said, “helped provide us with a global picture of shelter medicine. The numbers of surgeries performed each day on this rotation helped me develop my own rhythm and surgical preferences.”

Kirsten Struthers of Huntsville, said she enjoyed learning more about shelter medicine while getting hands on experience. “We were able to perform about 50 surgeries each during our two-week period on dogs and cats of all sizes and ages. The veterinarians were a great resource for us, they answered our questions and concerns and were there to make sure we were comfortable. The experience really helped to improve not only my surgical skills but my confidence.”

This partnership expands the current educational clinical rotations available to College of Veterinary Medicine students during their third and fourth years of the professional curriculum. Students are provided housing by GBHS while on clinical rotation.

Currently, student veterinarians spend two-week rotations in 16 required rotations on campus in the Wilford and Kate Bailey Small Animal Teaching Hospital, the Auburn University Veterinary Clinic and the J.T. Vaughan Large Animal Teaching Hospital. In addition to these required rotations, the college offers 24 two-week rotation electives, including this new opportunity with the Greater Birmingham Humane Society and Alabama Shelter Veterinarians.

Dr. Dan Givens, associate dean for Academic Affairs at the College of Veterinary Medicine, said, “a strategic priority of our professionalIMG_1795 curriculum is to prepare students for a breadth of careers in veterinary medicine.  This emerging partnership allows students additional hands-on experience in preventative medicine, behavior evaluation, population medicine and spay/neuter procedures for homeless pets.

“Like other rotations where students are in diverse clinical settings, this rotation allows students to refine their application of knowledge and skills in a unique environment.”

Givens said for students interested in small animal shelter medicine, this collaboration “allows students to assess their affinity and aptitude for that practice environment in an optimal method.

“While students may have worked in a similar environment prior to entering our college, they return to that environment as an emerging professional tasked with making decisions regarding health care and treatment options under the direct supervision of an on-site veterinarian,” he said.  “Some students find that this is a practice environment in which they can thrive and flourish while others seek divergent career paths.

“We are excited that this collaborative effort affords students the opportunity to gain meaningful and insightful experience.”

“We are very appreciative of the support that has been provided by the leadership of the Greater Birmingham Humane Society and Alabama Shelter Veterinarians, P.C. to create this unique educational opportunity for senior veterinary students,” said Dr. Calvin Johnson, dean of the college.  “Many of our students are interested in learning first-hand about important medical and surgical aspects of shelter medicine, and their mentor, Dr. Brandon Cash, provides a wealth of experience in the field.”

“The public is relying on the veterinary profession to help solve the enormous problem of homeless dogs and cats, Dean Johnson added. “To respond to that challenge, Auburn is committed to producing veterinarians who are knowledgeable and technically proficient in companion animal medicine and surgery.

“In developing this elective rotation for senior students, we have been careful to ensure that this partnership will be beneficial for all involved.  Practicing veterinarians will see these animals after they are adopted, Auburn veterinary students will benefit from greater case exposure under the direct supervision of an experienced veterinarian, the GBHS will gain the assistance of skilled senior veterinary students, and most importantly, unowned animals in Birmingham will be less prolific and healthier, giving them a greater chance for adoption.”

“The GBHS had a vision to create a lasting one-of-a-kind partnership with the Auburn College of Veterinary Medicine for the benefit of veterinary medical education and animal health,” said Allison Black Cornelius, GBHS president and CEO. “This partnership is going to save the lives of thousands of animals in Jefferson County.”