Gaining useful work experience with animals, in advance of an application to vet school is not the easiest of things to do, with increased competition, little to no time available to fit it all in, and issues with many potential providers not feeling able to take students on. As such, it is becoming more important than ever to think outside the box and make the most of the opportunities that are presented to you. This is exactly what inspirational student, Yasmine Brown, did when she arranged a placement at the world renowned Dubai Equine Hospital, in the United Arab Emirates. Here, Yasmine shares her experiences with you….
Work Experience in Dubai
Over December and January, I was fortunate enough to spend two weeks as a work experience student at The Dubai Equine Hospital.
Funded by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the 50 horse capacity hospital’s aim is to provide medical and surgical care for the horses within the UAE, with some horses even travelling from as far as Saudi Arabia and Australia to receive treatment. The majority of horses admitted to the hospital are Thoroughbred racehorses or Arabian endurance or stud horses, taking advantage of the state of the art, multimillion dollar facilities there.
The veterinary team at the hospital is truly international, featuring vets from America, Canada, Italy, Mexico and Hungary; as well as two British interns working for a year (first year graduates from Cambridge and RVC) and a Belgian extern working for a month.
Understandably, the majority of horses are treated for colic, with at least 3 colic cases being admitted every day, often in the middle of the night, meaning incredibly long days and surgeries for both interns and vets. These colics are usually ileus impactions (a build up of food material in the small intestine) or right dorsal displacements, and patients have their abdomen ultrasounded to check for any twists in their intestines, characterised by immobile black circles, and a rectal examination to check for impactions. A tube is then passed into the stomach to siphon off excess fluid and prevent the stomach from rupturing and if the horse is going to be treated medically, banamine (a pain killer) is administered or the horse is prepped for surgery.
One of the most interesting colic patients treated was a 20 year old Shetland stallion who was admitted for passing pure sand although he was showing no physical signs of pain. An x-ray of his abdomen showed that his stomach and intestines were full of sand, which is very rare in the UK due to our grassy paddocks. The most likely cause was thought to be because being a typical Shetland, he’d been scavenging for food in his sand paddock. He was treated by passing a stomach tube with oil, water and psyllium (a horsey laxative) 3 times a day, which usually ended up with everyone involved being covered in oil as he objected strongly to the tube that is cut to size for 16/17hh thoroughbreds!
I not only learn’t about medical and surgical treatment during my two weeks, I also learn’t a lot about welfare issues that occur in industries such as racing and countries with less stringent laws, with regards to the horses’ wellbeing than in the UK. The 50 stalls were almost always at full capacity, but often only 30 or so patients were being actively treated, the rest being kept on box rest in the hospital to prevent their trainers from putting them back into training early or from being passed on by owners, who had grown tired of their animals, as gift horses. Also, a show jumper with chronic lameness in all four hooves was the subject of much debate between all the vets as to whether treatment should be allowed to continue, in concordance with the owner’s wishes, or in the horse should be euthanised. This was interesting for me as an outsider as every vet had a differing opinion, each one as valid as the next and listening to their debates was not only interesting in terms of veterinary knowledge, but also showed me how medical vets and surgeons collaborate to reach a more suitable treatment for the patient. It was a tough decision that was not resolved during my time seeing practice, although 50 vials of morphine were delivered from a hospital nearby so an epidural could be administered, to ease the pain in both his back legs.
My time at DEH was an excellent opportunity to supplement my personal statement and build up hours spent on work experience when it comes to applying to university next year, as placements at similar world-renowned hospitals in the UK are limited and often have long waiting lists. I also am still in contact with many of the vets, which provides me with several sources to stay up to date with any veterinary news in Dubai as well as answering any of my remaining questions and offering endless advice! The experience was invaluable as it also improved my clarity of thought and articulation, as communication with some of the foreign stable managers from the racing stables was challenging at times. There were also some horrendously long hours but I honestly could not recommend a work experience placement abroad enough as it was ultimately rewarding, and has since inspired me to work even harder to achieve my goals of becoming a vet.
You can follow Yasmine on Twitter @yasb6