Reflections from a Fourth Year

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Price Dickson is graduating the College of Veterinary Medicine this May and reflects back on her time as a volunteer and Team Leader in the Wildlife Medical Clinic:

Price (left) teaches one of her team members about triage. The barred owl is under anesthesia for an orthopedic exam.

I was a team leader in the Wildlife Medical Clinic for both my second and third year of vet school, and it was probably the best thing I did during my time at the college. From being able to manage real cases to scrubbing into surgeries, I had a lot of experiences there that made me a better doctor than I would have otherwise been. That being said, it also made me a better person. Here are the top 5 things I learned in the Wildlife Clinic!

5. Have patience. One of my first patients as a team leader wasn’t doing very well, and we had to have the conversation about euthanizing. “We’ll see how he’s doing tomorrow”, we said. We had the same conversation the next day, and made the same decision. Finally, on the third day, he began improving! He was eventually sent off to a wildlife rehabilitator. Drugs and fluids aren’t magic, and sometimes you need to give them time to work. This is true of a lot of things in life; sometimes, after you try to fix the problem you must give your solution a little time to make things right.

4. Hard work pays off… or doesn’t. Sometimes you can put hours of blood, sweat, and tears into a patient’s care and they make it through. That’s a great feeling. But sometimes, they die despite everything. In those situations, it’s important to remember that sometimes you can do everything right and still have a bad outcome, and it’s not your fault.

3. Teamwork is key. Imagine this scenario: You walk into the wildlife clinic and there are at least twenty baby squirrels and over ten tiny raccoons who need to be fed. You and your partner are the only ones on orphan feeding shift. What do you do? Fortunately for me, I had an amazing team backing me up. One spring when that very scenario occurred our call for help got nearly our entire team to come to our rescue, and the babies got fed! When everyone pulls together, what could have been an hours’ long job that would have negatively impacted our patients (babies can get very low blood sugar if they wait too long to eat) was done in time for everyone to get to class.

2. Being a leader can be the most rewarding job you have. When I tried out for team leader, we had to describe what being a leader meant to us. Being a leader can be teaching, mentoring, organizing, or just someone for people to vent to. And at the end of it I had an amazing team who worked well together and thanked me for it! Sure, it was a lot of work planning team meetings, organizing treatments, and teaching everyone, but in the end it was such a great feeling to see everyone progress.

1. Remember to love what you’re doing. Veterinary medicine is a stressful job. Modern life is stressful. But in the wildlife clinic, even though I was managing animals who were in pain and hated our treatments, I got to help animals recover. I will never forget the moment we opened the carrier and released our opossum back into the wild, nor the moment our duck shook his tail and swam off onto the lake. Sometimes having responsibilities in the Wildlife Medical Clinic was overwhelming, and sometimes I had to do some very unpleasant things (have you ever worn cormorant poop?). Still, in the middle of it all, it’s important to remember that you’re doing what you love. Even if you don’t love accessorizing with cormorant poop.

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Special Guest: Denver Holt

Denver Holt Announcement

Meet Denver Holt: wildlife researcher, founder and president of the Owl Research Institute, dedicated field researcher, and subject of a National Geographic cover story.

Denver believes that long-term field studies are the primary means to understanding trends in natural history, and has spent the last 35 years studying owls in Alaska and Montana. Join us for an inspirational evening to hear about his incredible experiences and what he’s learned about owl ecology.

There will also be an auction opportunity to bid on a weekend at his field research station, working with and learning from him!

Read a National Geographic feature with Denver Holt here.

Sponsored by the Wildlife Medical Clinic at Illinois and held in the Large Animal Clinic Auditorium (LAC 100).

RSVP to our Facebook event here.

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Orphan Baby Shower

Save the date for our annual WMC Orphan Baby Shower!

Prairieland Feeds in Savoy
Saturday, April 15
11 a.m.-2 p.m.

We will have kids’ games, our WMC merchandise table, resident raptors, and some of our orphaned wildlife (which will get fed at noon that day). There will also be a short presentation on wildlife and orphans in the afternoon.

See our wish list.

RSVP to our Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1874721872748816/

baby 13-lined ground squirrel

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Virginia Opossum To Be Released

By Erin Mortimer, VM17

A week ago a young male intact Virginia Opossum (DIVI) presented to the Wildlife Medical Clinic for being attacked by a dog. This patient presented very bright, alert, responsive and very feisty! In order to safely and thoroughly perform a physical exam the Opossum was anesthetized. Upon physical exam a puncture wound was found on the right chest. The wound was flushed and during flushing it was noted the wound was deeper than what the naked eye could see. It was determined that a drain needed to be placed in order to decrease the risk of infection and abscess formation. A drain was placed and the patient was started on an antibiotics and pain medication. Bloodwork was obtained but unremarkable. Radiographs were obtained two days later and it was noted that the Opossum also had 3 broken ribs and bruised lungs (good thing we started those pain meds!).

Despite these injuries the patient remained feisty when awake and eating well! The drain was removed a few days later and appears to be healing well. The medications can be placed into the food and the patient can be minimally handled to reduce stress. Later next week, once the medications are finished, the drain site and bloodwork is rechecked this patient will be off to a wildlife rehabber to regrow the fur on his chest over the winter and then released back into the wild early this spring!

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