I spent the first month of my summer on the East Coast participating in the AQUAVET® I: Introduction to Aquatic Veterinary Medicine course. The AQUAVET I course is run through Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and is held at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island. When I first arrived at Roger Williams University, I was both excited and nervous. I was about to spend four weeks in a part of the country that I had not visited much, with 23 other students from various universities—none of whom I had met before. However, I was also eager for the course to begin because I was about to spend a month exploring my passion—aquatic veterinary medicine.
The first day began with an orientation to the course. We met the directors and other students from both AQUAVET I and AQUAVET II. The directors told us what to expect and welcomed us into the AQUAVET family. The upcoming weeks consisted primarily of lectures. We were in the classroom for around eight hours per day; it was this immersive nature that first drew me to the course.
The first week focused on invertebrates, and then the topics moved to fish and marine mammals during the following weeks. The lectures were given by various AQUAVET faculty members who had experience in unique areas of aquatic veterinary medicine. Thus, each lecture gave us a fresh perspective on aquatic veterinary medicine topics and careers. In addition to the lectures, each week also consisted of wet labs, group discussions, and field trips. We traveled from Rhode Island to Massachusetts to Connecticut to New York, visiting aquariums, shellfish hatcheries, aquaculture facilities, and research facilities. We also participated in wet labs that ranged from fish anesthesia and surgery to drawing blood from horseshoe crabs, to examining the water quality of different systems.
However, it was not all work and no play. During our free days, we explored the East Coast, traveling to Newport, Horseneck Beach, and Boston. We also had social events with AQUAVET II, the directors, and the faculty, which usually involved lots of oysters. On one occasion, we even had the opportunity to try lobster ice cream!
One of my favorite aspects of the AQUAVET course was engaging with faculty and students from all walks of life yet who share a common interest, aquatic veterinary medicine. This unique experience allowed for stimulating discussion inside and outside of the classroom. Every person who I engaged with added to the overall learning that I gained from AQUAVET I. Another aspect of the course that I unexpectedly enjoyed was learning about the history of AQUAVET because it made me gain a greater appreciation for the traditions of the course. One of the most difficult aspects of the course was saying goodbye at the end as we all had become close over the course of the month.
All in all, AQUAVET I gave me firsthand insight into the field of aquatic veterinary medicine, from positions in the aquaculture industry to aquatic animal ophthalmologists to the coveted positions as veterinarians in public aquaria. AQUAVET I gave me a strong foundation in aquatic veterinary medicine that not only confirmed but solidified my career goal of practicing aquatic veterinary medicine. I look forward to building on this experience in the years to come, adding to my skillset, network, and knowledge base. I will miss my AQUAVET I family, but I look forward to working with them all as my colleagues in the future.