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Animal Care

From North Carolina, Briana Blackwelder Reports

Students at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine have access to all kinds of internships, externships and research experiences during their four years of school. This summer, several students will be sharing some of what they're doing and learning in real time.

Briana Blackwelder examines a horse's eyes
Briana Blackwelder examines a horse's eyes

MAY 31, 2023

My two weeks externing with Foundation Equine were amazing. Taking the opportunity to spend at least two weeks with a practice is so important. In that time, you have the chance to grow professional relationships and really connect with the staff. It was great connecting with the doctors, RVTs and assistants at this practice. They are all incredibly knowledgeable and willing to work with vet students. This week I was able to assist in lameness exams, practice my ultrasound skills and perform some ophthalmology exams.  I also talked through scenarios and ongoing cases with the doctors. 

The highlight this week was assisting with a laminitis case. This horse suffered from a laminitic episode several weeks ago and is really showing some nice improvement. During last week’s appointment, I was able to perform the physical exam, take the radiographs and assist with pad placement. Seeing this horse walk into the barn with some discomfort and walk out with obvious improvement really made my day.

The curriculum at NC State has really set me up for success. My classes have provided me with the information, and this externship helped me learn how to start putting all the pieces together.  The journey to becoming a veterinarian is different for everyone. For me, working hard during my academic year and then applying that during externships is the perfect combination.  

There are so many options available for vet students. We can set up externships, attend conferences, work at local practices etc. NC State does a great job supporting and encouraging students to seek out these opportunities. I am so grateful for the support from my CVM family and from the practices I will be visiting. I really feel like this summer is setting me up for success as I face my last two years in vet school.  

Briana Blackwelder at her externship Foundation Equine in Southern Pines
Briana Blackwelder at her externship at Foundation Equine in Southern Pines

For vet students considering or are heading into externships this summer, here is my advice to help make it successful. If you have a tablet and use a program such as notability or goodnotes, bring it with you. I have all my PowerPoints, notes and study guides easily accessible at all times. This makes looking up information quick and easy. 

Don’t forget we have access to the library online. There are tons of E-books, journals, papers etc. we can access while off-campus. Come up with a list of skills or areas you want to focus on before your externship starts. Talk with your supervising vets about what you want to work on from your list and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Look at the schedule a day in advance so you can review information if needed beforehand. Most importantly, have a good time and learn a lot! 

I can’t wait to fill you all in about my next externship in Texas!  Until then, have a great summer!

MAY 22, 2O23

Briana Blackwelder at her externship in Vass, North Carolina
Briana Blackwelder at her externship in Vass, North Carolina

Hi! I’m Briana, a rising third year with a focus in equine medicine.  For me nothing can take the place of real-life hands-on learning experience.  That type of externship is exactly what I found with Foundation Equine in Vass, North Carolina.  This four-doctor practice performs GP services including (but not limited to) reproduction, specialized dentals, chiro/acupuncture, preventative medicine and emergency services.   

I will be externing with Foundation Equine for two weeks.  The first week was absolutely amazing.  I have been able to improve established skills such as taking radiographs, administering medication and conducting physical exams.  I’ve also had the opportunity to learn and develop new skills.  The doctors all work with me to improve my critical-thinking process, discuss treatment plans and expand my knowledge base in so many areas.  

The most exciting thing this past week was actually a surprise to me.  I entered this externship with the assumption that I would not really enjoy reproduction medicine. I have been proven wrong!  My most rewarding moments were actually involving an in-depth repro case.  Being part of the process from the start has been invaluable and definitely gave me a new perspective on reproduction medicine. 

The other highlight from the week has to be the new foal exam on an adorable baby donkey.  When we do a healthy foal exam, we perform a physical exam on both mother and foal, check IgG levels, and of course get lots of snuggles.  

I am so grateful to be spending time with such an amazing practice.  The doctors are fantastic and the experience itself has been exceptional.