In preparing to spend eight weeks in Australia, I was fortunate enough to arrange three separate externships, each of which allowed me to experience a different area of veterinary medicine. I was able to make the most of my trip and maximize my opportunities Down Under.
My first two weeks in Australia proved to be the most eventful. After a couple days' acclimatization in Sydney, I arrived in Melbourne to work for two weeks at Werribee Open Range Zoo - one of three facilities of Zoos Victoria. There, I was given ample opportunity to practice nursing skills, as well as discuss cases and anesthetic protocols with the zoo veterinarian. I was encouraged and inspired to research the cases on my own, and the veterinary staff made knowledge and opinions feel valuable, and they ensured I was experiencing plenty of hands-on learning. Among other cases, I participated in an African lion rhinoscopy, two cheetah endoscopies, an African wild dog skin workup, an oryx dystocia, and an addax hoof check. Every day was different and thrilling, and gave me plenty of food for thought regarding my career path.
Following a weekend of exploration in Melbourne with some of my Davis classmates, I arrived in Launceston, Tasmania to work at the Department of Primary Industries' Mount Pleasant Laboratories - one of the headquarters for the Devil Facial Tumor Disease Project team. These almost three weeks were quite different, involving (in large part) wildlife fieldwork. I traveled with the Tasmanian devil field veterinarian to various housing facilities throughout the state, where we captured the devils, anesthetized them, examined any fight wounds and signs of developing facial tumors, took various samples for pathology, and prescribed or performed necessary treatments. We also examined any pouched young and determined if mothers were healthy and capable of caring for joeys, as well as advised breeding programs. In addition, I performed and participated in devil (and other wildlife) necropsies, and learned about the various research components of the project (pathology, cytogenetics, immunology, politics and media). It was a fascinating two weeks in a cutting-edge conservation project in the beautiful Tassie countryside.
After enjoying the sights and gourmet foods of Tasmania in my travel time, and enjoying a short vacation on the Gold Coast, I continued to Cairns in Far North Queensland, where I worked as an extern at Airport Veterinary Surgery. This hospital sees domestic pets, exotic pets, and 1200 wildlife cases each year, and closely resembles the type of practice I would like to find myself working in during the early part of my veterinary career. There, I had a chance to review my small animal medicine, while becoming more comfortable with the handling and care of reptile and parrot species. In addition, I had the chance to practice examining incoming wild bird cases, practiced suturing an echidna (deceased, unfortunately), and helped with a koala examination! I also continued to hone my post-mortem examination skills. And, best of all, I spent three days away on a boat on the Great Barrier Reef, earning my scuba certification and exploring the diversity of life underwater.
My eight weeks in Australia were packed full of educational experiences. But also, they were a chance to experience the joys, challenges, and personal growth that come with solo travel, and gave me new friends, a camera card full of photographs, and skills and memories to hold onto for life.