Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

In the UK, one has to decide what they want to do for the rest of their life when they're 16 yrs old.  You then take the appropriate A-level classes and apply for your professional program, or as they call it, "Uni.".  This means that a majority of my class is fresh out of high school!  I was already expecting to be older than most of my vet school classmates, having taken a few years off since Cornell, but I wasn't expecting to feel THIS old!  My class size is around 120, and about 100 of them would not be allowed to drink if we were in the US (lucky for them UK drinking age is 18!)  So, while I am approaching this program like the professional, graduate degree that I moved to a new country to devote my attention to, others are just excited to be away from home for the first time and still think it' appropriate to wear your pajamas to class.  It's certainly an adjustment for me, but I'm very lucky to have quickly found my small group of US and Canadian second-degree students.
Brand new teaching facilities at Dick Vet! (thanks for the pic, Sabrina!)

Since the program was designed for first-degree students, classes started a little slow, going back to the basics of cell biology.  It was a little tedious, but also interesting to relate the molecular processes I've learned many times before back to medicine.  I'm thrilled to finally be starting the meat (excuse the pun!) of the course, with anatomy dissections this week!

One perk of the program, is that animal handling begins much earlier than most US-schools.  Often you hear US students complain that they have no animal contact for the first 2 years of vet school.  I've already spent approximately one afternoon a week at the school's working dairy farm, and have had practical classes in both cattle and sheep handling.

Cattle handling was an amazingly physical way to spend the afternoon...even with them restrained in metal crushes.  While attempting to place a mouth gag in one particularly unruly cow, I was momentarily lifted off both of my feet as she decided to whip her head up and to the opposite side.  My legs were sore for days from squatting to brace myself against any potential head-butting!  I found myself very thankful for even just the handful of days I got to ride around with Dr. Alley, gaining basic cow knowledge!  While I am by no means proficient in wrangling large ruminants, I found myself less tentative than many of my classmates.  I'd like to think that I was willing to jump in there and work with even the stubbornest of cows with, of course, a gentle finesse. ;)

Sheep in Silverknowes, near the Firth of Forth (bay that opens into the North Sea)
This past week was sheep handling.  The most impressive part of the afternoon was watching one border collie bring in the flock of 80 ewes!  I'm now starting to learn sheep breeds (which will be useful throughout my stay in Scotland) and am comfortable flipping them onto their rumps, where they happily sit propped against your legs!  It is breeding time for sheep in the UK, or "tupping time" as they call it, so as long as I stayed clear of the giant rams mixed throughout the flock, I was ok.

Finally, I'll end with explaining the school's name, since I always get asked!  William Dick founded the veterinary school in 1823.  Since there was already the Royal Veterinary School in London, the founder's unfortunate name had to be included to distinguish the two programs.  Thus, I am now proudly a student at "Dick Vet!"

1 comment:

  1. You were able to wrangle the cows best because of all the time you've spent with my wonderful bovines :)