An Insider's Look at a Mixed-Animal Clinical Site

April 21, 2023

While our inaugural graduating class is traversing their clinical year and gaining vital real-life knowledge they will carry into their professional roles after graduation, we got an insider’s look into Adobe Veterinary Center.

Student Megan Brown performs a surgery while Dr. Christine Staten supervises.

Doctoral student Megan Brown performs a surgery while Dr. Christine Staten supervises.

University of Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine third-year students are currently tackling the last leg of their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine journey and refining the skillsets they will call upon on the job. The final year of our unique three-year program consists of a distributed clinical model, meaning students spend their concluding year of veterinary school in the field working at various veterinary clinical sites. Our students gain hands-on insight into the full gamut of veterinary functions at a wide range of clinics as part of our third-year curriculum. Students spend time in diverse clinical environments and glean vital knowledge from professionals who have devoted their careers to their chosen area of veterinary medicine, and we are sharing some of the varied experiences our students undergo at these clinical sites.

The front of the Adobe Veterinary Center building.

While our inaugural graduating class is traversing their clinical year and gaining vital real-life knowledge they will carry into their professional roles after graduation, we got an insider’s look into Adobe Veterinary Center, a mixed-animal practice in which students learn about everything from small animals to equine medicine. Dr. Christine Staten, veterinarian and founding partner of Adobe Veterinary Center, noted that when students come in with specific career goals, she works to give them occasions that will provide useful learning opportunities for their unique goals. She shared, “I want this experience to be beneficial for them. For example, one student recently got a job at [a local animal shelter]. That shelter doesn’t have anyone who can neuter pigs, so we are making sure that student gains experience neutering pigs before they leave Adobe.” Focusing on enhancing the veterinary community in Tucson is part of what makes Adobe a unique clinical site and an excellent place to gain skills in a mixed-animal practice.

On a typical morning, veterinarians and students come together in a group huddle to discuss the tasks and challenges of the day. Often the group is given a topic or question to consider for the day. After this, students split off to work with one of the clinic’s veterinarians, and the day could bring anything from there. The clinic continually accepts emergency appointments, so a typical day is never boring. Variety in caseload is a typical appeal of large animal medicine for veterinarians like Dr. Staten and students like Megan Brown and Kelsey Greene. Megan and Kelsey, both third-year veterinary students in their clinical year, prefer workdays to be filled with a wide range of cases, so clinics like Adobe offer an ideal learning experience. According to Dr. Staten, the clinic’s large animal veterinarians “see horses of all disciplines and pet livestock, mostly goats and pot-bellied pigs. We see 25% of our appointments in the clinic and 75% in the field with one of our 3 ambulatory units.” Students here tackle exams and offer their professional insight under the guidance of a practicing veterinarian. Megan Brown shared,

“It’s never the same and I like the variety. With small animal [medicine], it just depends on what the schedule is, but it’s usually pretty routine. The doctors are really good about wanting us to take that primary doctor role, so I would go in, introduce myself to the client, ask them the medical history questions, and then do my physical exam on the patient. Then I would relay all that information to the doctor before they came in and did their physical exam. Essentially, we would run the appointment together.”

Experiential learning helps students gain insight into the day-to-day cases veterinarians face in their profession. Students benefit from seasoned veterinarians’ know-how and clinic owners’ knowledge and professionalism as they carry out exams and create unique treatment plans for clients. Kelsey Greene offered insight into the Mini Clinical Exams students must conduct at Adobe, saying,

“First, they send you into the exam rooms by yourself to do a quick initial physical exam. Afterward, you come out and discuss the case with the doctor. You’ll discuss things like what course of treatment you would pursue and what kind of diagnostics you want to run. Next, you both go into the exam room together and discuss the case with the client. When you’re with the large animal side, you tend to go out in the field for appointments. You get a lot of experience with things like blood draws, ultrasounds, taking x-rays, and conducting physical exams. Wednesdays are pig days, so we see a lot of surgeries, specifically neuters. It’s fun to watch and a good learning experience.”

Mini Clinical Exams consist of the student “gathering history, doing a physical exam on a patient, and then discussing rule-outs and treatment options with the veterinarian,” as explained by Dr. Staten. Students encounter countless opportunities to deepen knowledge and gain the confidence that only comes with garnering real patient and client experience. While students spread their wings during their clinical year, the onsite veterinarians help them stay grounded with oversight, professional recommendations and clinical insight into what works best.

Megan, who plans to work with large animals after graduation, discussed the importance of gaining real-life knowledge in the area you plan to work in. She shared,

“I’ve learned a lot about pigs here. We learn a lot about pigs on a commercial scale in class, but here we are also working with backyard pigs. I learned things that aren’t necessarily covered in the classroom, so it was eye-opening in that respect…. My professional goal is to go into large animal medicine. I like working with different species and don’t want to focus on just one or two. I enjoy working with horses, cows, pigs, goats and sheep and want to be able to help all of those species.”

Doctoral student Megan Brown prepares to perform a surgery. She lays out scalpels and other surgical instruments on a tray next to her work area.

Doctoral student Megan Brown prepares to perform a surgery.

The four-week blocks students undergo at various clinics provide a valuable opportunity for those exploring potential areas of interest and those who are already certain where they plan to specialize. At Adobe, clinical experiences can be highly tailored to students’ needs. For example, Kelsey, who plans to specialize in equine medicine, has spent much of her time focused on equine appointments. Field practice provides both the medical experience and the contact time with clients that will help her become a capable and skillful practitioner. All students rotate with doctors through the outpatient appointments of the day. Each day, students choose three appointments they are most interested in and the doctor guides them through those specific topics, allowing them opportunities to learn more deeply about the medical cases they will face as veterinarians.

Clinical year also provides students an opportunity to further develop their communication and professional skills through real-life client encounters. Leading up to their third year, students undergo simulated client interactions and learn to create effective care plans, taking into consideration the economic realities faced by clients. Doctoral candidates call upon and refine those skills during their clinical year. Megan shared,

[The lead veterinarian and I] would discuss treatment plans, different treatment options, and diagnostic plans for the patients that come in. I got to learn a lot about how to come up with a protocol for treatment. [I also learned] more about considering clients’ financial constraints and working around those but still having the best outcomes for our patients.”

Having navigated some of these crucial conversations, Megan is more equipped to deliver excellent patient care as a day-one-ready veterinarian. The opportunity to consult with practitioners about the best way to approach a case allows students to learn from those who have been there before, equipping students to hold empathetic and effective conversations with clients.

Students at this mixed-animal practice have indispensable opportunities to learn from large- and small-animal practitioners and gain insight into the pace and expectations of this type of medicine. Dr. Staten, the owner of Adobe, offers any additional insight that may help students as well as learning each student’s plans. Once she learns their plans, she helps them craft their educational experiences while keeping to the curriculum standards for clinical rotations. This thoughtful planning is a hallmark of Adobe’s professionalism, and our veterinary students and community benefit as a result.

As students undertake their clinical-year journey, stops at practices like Adobe Veterinary Center offer vital insights students can add to their professional toolboxes, which they will carry into their professional lives. Clinical sites like this one provide excellent opportunities for students to appreciate the ins and outs of mixed-animal medicine and strengthen veterinary skills to become career-ready leaders in our community.

Exclusive Insight from Students

Almost done with their clinical year, Megan and Kelsey have gained useful insight into the process. We asked them what advice they would offer to students who have not yet begun their clinical year. Here is what they had to say.

What advice would you give students who have not yet entered their clinical year?

Kelsey: Think about what your career goals are and think about what you need to study most for your NAVLE. If you’re weak in ophthalmology, for example, go to an ophthalmology clinic. Whichever area you’re weak in, try to spend time in that area first. Also, just try to focus in on the places that do what you’re interested in doing.

Megan: If you can, schedule the clinics you're really, really interested in after you take the NAVLE. Because then you're not going to be doing your clinical and have the stress of studying for the NAVLE on top of it. [It gives] you the chance to be involved in just the clinic and not studying on top of it. If that's not possible, it's fine. You can make it work. I've done it and I know classmates who have done it. You get out of the clinical rotation what you put into it. So be here on time or early every day, be willing to stay late. If you have downtime, offer to see what you can do to help the techs. There's always an opportunity to learn. And treat every clinical rotation like an interview, because essentially it is, it's a working interview for a month. The clinic gets to see how you work and you get to see how the clinic works, and it's a good opportunity to network and kind of see what you like to do or who you would like to be as a doctor.