Well, it's a done deal. I am now officially a senior student gettin' my learn on :P. The first day was both exciting, strange, and depressing all at once. Depressing because the now graduating seniors had to come by the school today to transfer over their cases to us before 8 AM, then proceeded to drink in the parking lot, while cheering/taunting myself and other classmates as we approached the school. Never once have I felt such a strong sense of jealously in my entire life. Strange because it's odd to now see myself and my classmates wearing the navy blue clinician's jackets and running around like crazy people instead of it being a mere aspiration. Exciting, of course, because this is why I came to school and how 90% of what is learned/retained happens this year.
My first block is in "lab services" which, thankfully, is a good transition block into 4th year because it is one of the more laid-back services in the school. Because the pathologists, bacteriologists, parasitologists, etc never directly deal with clients, we don't have to abide by a true professional dress code (which is nice for me since I despise wearing ties :P). Each day consists of reviewing concepts and techniques from classes such as bacteriology, toxicology, virology, parasitology, clinical pathology etc all morning; then the afternoons consist of performing necropsies on deceased animals. Today, we spent the entire morning looking at fine-needle aspirate cytologies (where you just stick a needle into a lump, shoot the contents onto a slide and look at it under a microscope) and reviewing how to differentiate normal tissue from an inflammatory process or even cancer. We even talked about how to identify certain types of cancer with this diagnostic tool. Personally, I am very thankful for this since almost all classes thus far have talked about how to read and diagnose biopsies, which your general practicioner never does and just sends off to a lab. Fine needle aspirates however are easy, cheap and readily done in private practice.
This afternoon however was when things got really interesting as I performed my very first necropsy. It was done on a 9-day old Thoroughbred foal who, most likely, died of failure of passive transfer. In all mammals, a neonate acquires some immunity from its mother to keep it protected for the first few weeks of life until its own immune system develops and begins to function. In humans, dogs and cats this is done while still a fetus inside the mother. In cattle, horses, sheep, goats etc however, this occurs through ingestion of antibodies in the milk. Unfortunately, these antibodies in the milk are only present for the first few days of the animal's life so, if for any reason the animal does not nurse, it is left without an immune system for a few weeks. This foal in particular had a severe infection that made it's way into the bloodstream (which is real bad news), and resulted in some severe lesions around its lungs, in its stomach, and in its intestines. I had to think to myself, "Now this is how you start a senior year" as I was hacking away inside the chest cavity. I say this in jest because this was a very disgusting process. There were a few gallons of fluid inside its chest that I just had to slosh around in while removing the lungs and heart (both of which needed to be removed for microscopic examination). Not all animals have such distinct lesions so while of couse it was bad for the horse, it was good for us since it helped us reach a diagnosis.
I apologize for the gross details; they won't really continue after this block is over....hell, I'll probably get too grossed out talking about them. Needless to say, I'll probably become a vegetarian until this block is over. :)