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The passion of the equine practitioner
Find out what drives veterinary students to equine practice in these four stories


Positive role models provide inspiration

Photo 3: On an International Veterinary Student Association trip to Latin America last summer, Turnquist spent time deworming horses and cattle on the island of Ometepe in Nicaragua.
Ayla Turnquist, a fourth-year student at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine, grew up on a horse farm (Photo 3). Her grandmother raised miniature horses, her mother raised Thoroughbreds, and she grew up in Pony Club, riding and competing in events. Although she grew up with horses, Turnquist says, "I was never really interested in veterinary medicine because the veterinarian we used worked 24/7, 365 ... I knew that was not the lifestyle I wanted. I completely wrote off the profession at 12 years of age."

Only after graduating from college did Turnquist realize that she wanted to pursue veterinary medicine. "I spent some time working for an equine veterinary clinic where there were 12 vets," she says. "They all shared on-call, they all had lives, and the people who owned the practice had kids. They did lots of other things other than veterinary medicine. They were happy, balanced people.

"They worked really hard, but I saw that they could also do other things, and they inspired me to pursue this profession."

Turnquist has an interest in acupuncture and pain management. After graduation, she would like to complete an internship and learn how to incorporate acupuncture into Western veterinary medicine.

Career counseling points the way

Amy Norvall, a fourth-year student at the Louisiana State University's School of Veterinary Medicine has had a horse-filled background. Born on a farm in Zimbabwe, Norvall has been riding and competing for as long as she can remember. Although she loved horses, as an undergraduate Norvall wasn't sure what she wanted to do. She talked with a career counselor who asked her to imagine the coldest, rainiest, most awful morning ever, and then asked, "What would motivate you to get ?"

After some thought, Norvall replied, "If someone called me and their horse was sick, then that's what I'd get out of bed for." She changed her studies to animal science and pre-veterinary medicine.

"From there it was like a domino effect," she says. "The more I got into it, especially toward the equine side of things, the more I knew it would fit for me."

Norvall likes working with horses and riding them in her spare time, but credits the people in equine medicine for drawing her to the industry. "All the equine veterinarians that I've met have such great personalities and are such easy people to relate to, to talk to, that I really enjoy it. I look forward to being colleagues with them."

Photo 4: Norvall learns how to palpate and perform ultrasonographic examinations in mares.
This year Norvall will complete several externships and a variety of rotations at school to try to discover the area that interests her most (Photo 4). In the United States on a student visa, she would like to stay a while longer. In both Zimbabwe and South Africa, there is a broad horse spectrum — the show circuit, polo and the racing industry. In addition to externships in the U.S., Norvall has completed an externship in Australia.

"I just know that equine medicine can take you in so many different directions, anywhere in the world," says Norvall. "I lean more toward the performance side of things, as opposed to the reproduction side, but there's no telling. Whatever feels right, I will go in that direction. Not only the horses, but the people involved — other veterinarians — make it a great profession."

Continued inspiration

While early affiliation with horses inspires a love for the animals, interaction with veterinarians encourages students to make equine medicine a career. In the next article of this two-part series, you'll meet the mentors — those equine practitioners who pay special attention to guiding young veterinary students to equine practice.

Ed Kane, PhD, is a researcher and consultant in animal nutrition. He is an author and editor on nutrition, physiology and veterinary medicine with a background in horses, pets and livestock. He is based in Seattle.


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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