CHOOSING VETERINARY MEDICINE
While growing up, my parents always kept dogs as pets in the house. I became very fond of these dogs. I was the only kid in the house who would wake up in the middle of the night just to check on my puppies to find out why they were crying or whining.
Even as young as I was then (I’m talking about as early as eight years old), I started assisting my furry canine friend (one of our bitch/female dog) in delivery after witnessing casualties in the previous litter. When she’s giving birth, I would take the new-borns one after the other as they come, into safety so their mother won’t lie on them. It was this ingenuity that my parents observed and felt I was going make a good doctor!
Growing up in Africa where every ‘brilliant’ child was marked as a ‘future doctor’ did not make it easy for me to realize that the ‘doctor’ in me was the ‘animal doctor’ not the ‘human doctor’. By the time, I was prepared to go to the university, all roads led to ‘Human medicine’…Lol.
I started out as an M.B.B.S student in Madonna university, Okija but along the line, I had reasons to leave the school. Then in a twist of events or should I say fate, I ended up as a Vet student in Usman Danfodio University Sokoto (UDUS), Sokoto state.
In my case, it will be more honest to say Veterinary Medicine chose me rather than saying I chose Veterinary medicine… It chose me right from childhood, I misinterpreted the passion so rowed my academic boat away from it towards human medicine but it still caught up with me and brought me back to its bosom. Today, I have no regrets that Veterinary medicine chose me!
When I left Madonna university, I wrote and passed JAMB and still opted for M.B.B.S but when I got to the school of my choice, I was made to understand that the slots for M.B.B.S was reserved for ‘some people’ so I was given a broad range of other courses to choose from and Veterinary medicine was on the list.
Prior to this time, I had never ever given Veterinary medicine a thought. As a child, I had seen veterinarians come to treat our dogs when they were sick but it never occurred to me that vet medicine was a course I could study in the university. When I was given this list of courses to choose from, my natural instincts immediately inclined towards vet medicine so I selected it and subsequently got admitted into the Faculty of Veterinary medicine, UDUS.
Well, school accommodation in Nigerian universities are generally not in the best conditions so I didn’t have a hard time adjusting because I already had my mind primed to expect the worst. I actually resided on campus all through the six years I spent in the Vet school. I enjoyed the benefits such as proximity to classes and clinics that the on-campus residence availed me so I was willing to trade some level of comfort for these benefits.
I am from the South-eastern part of the country and my vet school was situated in the North, so my first year was quite interesting. It was a year of adjusting and adapting to the climes and environs where my new school was located in.
It was my first time being so far away from home, in a different geopolitical zone and a different religious climate. In terms of classes, my first year was more of the general sciences and we were expected to pass all the courses with a 50% score in all the courses. This meant that the Vet and human medicine students had to be more studious that the rest of the students on campus.
In my university, vet students spent only the first year in the general campus after which only the successful students moved on to another campus called ‘City campus’ for the rest of their study period. Moving over to City campus can be likened to moving into the proverbial ‘Promised Land’. It was seen as the reward for hard work for medical students so I had to put in my best to make sure that I got into the Promised Land after my first year.
PRE-CLINICALS / PARACLINICALS AND CLINICALS
My pre-clinical years in the vet school were years of coming to terms with reality. It was at this point it dawned on me that I was in for some real work. For example, I had earlier thought that I was a ‘guru’ in Gross Anatomy based on my experience in Human Anatomy classes until I started having to study the comparative Anatomy of different species as a vet student! Now I had to know the differences and similarities between canine and avian structures, bovine or caprine structures, etc. This was quite a handful so I kept trying to get a grip on the reality that I was going to be a doctor of diverse species not just one species!
While I doffed my hat in respect for vet students who had gone beyond the pre-clinical years I kept wondering how they passed this Anatomy-Physiology-Biochemistry phase of vet school without their heads bursting open with too much information.
Para-clinical years came by eventually, and the vision started getting clearer. By this time, I had realized my mission as a vet doctor was aimed at relieving animal suffering, treating animals, promoting overall animal welfare etc. With this understanding, I did not have a hard time going through Pathology, Microbiology, Pharmacology and all those mind-boggling para-clinical courses. I was now ready for the ‘real deal’ which was the clinicals!
Finally, I got to my clinical phase of vet school (500L and 600L), it was characterized by clinics postings at the Vet Teaching hospital (VTH), clinical conferences and presentations before professors and students, Surgery wet labs, etc.
The adrenaline rush when a near-morbid case is presented and your group was in the clinic at that time, the feeling that an animal’s life depended on your skills, the tension of being the ‘head surgeon’ in wet labs and having to cut open and suture an animal, were some of the highlights of my clinical years in vet school and all these started giving me some true sense of the ‘doctor experience’. I could now relate to why clinical students, who were often draped in their white coats with the stethoscope hanging around their necks, walked around campus with the ‘doctor swag’ and the medical students ‘effizy’. Lol!
MY BEST LECTURE STYLES
I enjoyed lectures that were not ‘tension-packed’. By this, I mean that any lecture-style that made me switch to a ‘hyper-serious’ mood would definitely not be my favorite. I enjoyed lecture styles that incorporated some humor (such as one or two jokes from time to time) into the class no matter how serious the topic of discussion was.
Some lecturers in the vet faculty felt they brought out the best in their students by creating an impression that it was hard to pass their course in exams. Such lecturers automatically belonged to the bottom region on my favourite lecturers’ list. My best lecturer till date was one of my Anatomy lecturers. He had a great sense of humour that made me enjoy every bit of the class. He was so full of hilarious stories (many of which were obviously forged) and would always tell these stories intermittently during the class. This served as some sort of ‘comic relief’ for me so I was never bored in his lectures.
My favourite course was Pharmacology. I was always intrigued by mechanism of actions of various drugs or even poisons (Toxicology part of Pharmacology) and so I found myself enjoying Pharmacology as a course.
I found a way to maintain good rapport with everyone whose paths crossed mine on campus without letting them encroach into my personal space. My course mates, the campus Christian fellowship members and hostel mates constituted about 90% of people in my friends’ list in vet school.
BEST THING ABOUT VET SCHOOL
The best thing about Vet school was that it brought out the ‘hard worker’ in people. It really did not leave you any other option but to work hard if you really wanted to graduate as a doctor in record time.
Vet school not only equipped me with veterinary skills but it also taught me some important life lessons. It taught me how to manage time effectively, survive under stress and how to combine ‘prayers’ and ‘hard work’ to attain success. These skills have been very useful to me till date in my workplace environment and the society at large. These are what I consider as the best things about vet school.
I can’t quite recall or pin-point frustrations (unless it’s the usual frustrations of occasional water scarcity, power outage etc. that is peculiar to the Nigerian society!) because I always had an optimistic attitude towards things in vet school. No matter how bad the situation was, I had a tendency of focusing on the ‘good side’ of situation and believing that ‘this too shall pass!’
Oh well, mistakes are a part of life so I don’t usually keep records of mistakes made because I made lessons out of them. However, there’s this funny mistake (or rather, mix-up incident) I still remember vividly.
I went into the theatre for a canine (dog) surgical procedure with a caprine (goat) file. I happened to be the anaesthetist for that surgical procedure and was to record vital parameter readings on the file. Just when the surgery was about to start, my professor came by to inspect only to see me holding the wrong file. He was so mad at me and nearly brought the roofs down with his shout, Lol. That was one hell of a day! In the usual tension of surgery, someone took my group’s dog file before I came and I just picked up the file I saw there without really cross-checking to see if it was the right file.
I learnt a life lesson that day– never assume things are exactly the way you left them, always cross-check your documents or paper-work, presentation right before a job/promotion interview, an important trip, a major procedure, a business deal etc.!
IS VET SCHOOL FOR EVERYONE?
No, vet school is not for everyone. Vet school is not for the feeble-minded neither is it for lazy people. It is hard or almost impossible to eat your cake and still have it, in vet school. To successfully go through vet school, you must be willing to sacrifice some leisure or sleep hours for studying. The scope of veterinary medicine is very broad so you need to be ready to work harder than most students in other departments of faculties.
MY CRITERIA FOR SUCCESS IN VET SCHOOL
The criteria for success vet school was simple: work and pray! By work, I mean study hard, do in-depth academic researches, attend classes and clinic postings, do your assignments, etc.
As a Christian, vet school will teach you that you need some supernatural help to ensure that your efforts are crowned with success. After preparing (the normal marathon all-night reading) so hard for an exam, you may still be thrown off balance either by the written, oral or practical exams. At such times, God’s divine grace will come to your rescue if you pray.
IF I COULD, WILL I CHANGE ANYTHING ABOUT MY EXPERIENCE?
My vet school experience had its fair share of ups and downs but this blend made it interesting so there is nothing I want to change about the experience.
STUDY VET AGAIN?
No, I will not want to study vet again. This is because of the ‘stress’ and ‘tension’ associated with vet examinations. The memories of vet exams and the tension-packed wait period before the results are released still sends shivers down my spine.
MY LIFE AS A VET NOW
After the mandatory one-year NYSC program, I practiced veterinary medicine for a short while before leaving for the U.S. Currently, I’m running my Masters program and will subsequently pass through the series of protocols stipulated by the respective licensing bodies before I resume my practice.
Dr. Adanze Duru is a graduate of Usman Danfodio University Sokoto (UDUS), Faculty of Veterinary Medicne, Class of 2013.