On Teaching New Dogs Old Tricks

We have a vet student in our midst.  I LOVE having vet students around, they make me feel so smart!  They are fabuous for my ego (which could be a bad thing).   I love their enthusiasm, it rubs off on me and helps the mundane stuff I see day in and day out seem more interesting.  I love explaining stuff to them.  I love being reminded of the stuff that I used to find oh-so-confusing back in the day that now is second nature.  

I remember the concepts and diseases that stumped me when I was a newbie. For example: kidney failure used to give me cold sweats.  Back in the day,  there was this client, who had a kidney failure cat, named Yoda.  This client was an executive, who was super smart, super intimidating. She had researched the disease, and (in my mind) knew WAY more about it than I did.   I used to have to study before her visits.  Years later I confessed this to her.  She said I’d not shown it (thank God), thus she’s still my client after all these years. 

If I didn’t have to go and get a few extra degrees, do research,  quit my job, and move to College Station, I’d totally LOVE to be a professor at the vet school.  It would be a dream come true, but alas, there are no spot for average Joe vets like me.  Which, incidentally, is a little bit of a problem, because I think vet students need SOME real-life influence in their education.  They get to learn from the best professors, with the best equipment and tools and have access to the most current and sophisticated testing modalities out there.  This stuff isn’t likely to be available to them in real life though. 

For example:  the vet school has a $200,000+ digital x-ray system.  Super cool, I totally wish we had one, but most private pracitces can’t afford this.  The images from a digital system are far, far superior to anything you get with a regular x-ray.   Thus, things seem (I don’t know this for sure, because…insert whiny old person voice…in MY day, they didn’t have such fancy stuff at the vet school)  to be easier to diagnose because of the better image quality. 

However, that’s where the term “Ivory Tower” came from.  Things are different in academia.  You learn what you can there.  Then you get dumped out into the cold, cruel world (unless you go into an internship, residency, etc and stay in academia or become a specialist) and begin your education at the school of hard knocks. 

“Education is the process of turning cocksure ignorance into thoughtful uncertainty”.  Attributed to KG Johnson.  This is brilliant and oh-so-true. 

I remember back in vet school, being unwilling to go work for Dr. Sharp (my current boss) because (in my cocksure, new vet-grad mind) he was far too old and “benind the times” for my superior new knowledge and skills.  I had nothing to learn from that old man.  I went to work for a corporate practice (big mistake).

Ultimately, I came to work for the old man.  He provided me with some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten, and helped shape me into the brilliant practitioner I am today (tongue firmly in cheek…about the brilliant part, not the good advice part). 

Seriously, though, there is an ever-changing sea of knowledge in our field.  It’s what makes this job interesting and challenging, and is probably why we keep at it all these years, despite many hardships along the way.  We do our best to keep up and stay afloat. We work together as a team to throw life preservers out to members who are sinking.  We help the newbies get their sea-legs. 

All and all, It’s a pretty good thing.


3 thoughts on “On Teaching New Dogs Old Tricks

  1. I am inspired by your levity and simple appreciation for the value true teaching! I am an older vet student who just survived my first year…is it too early to hit you up for some real-life knowledge-transfer in 3 years? Love your blog – so glad to see that your heart is still in it – thank you!

    1. OMG…any time 🙂 Congrats for getting thru the first year!! Unless
      Dr. Sharp gets sick of me, I should still be here in 3 years so look me up (or find me thru AVMA or TVMA) my work website is : http://www.planovets.com Good luck next year! Enjoy the summer 🙂

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