I spent a month this past summer working at Hospital Veterinary Molins (HVM), located in an outlying area of Barcelona. The experience was incredible, but also one of the most challenging I've ever had. HVM is a large specialty, emergency, and general practice clinic jointly owned by three veterinarians who met while doing their internships and banded together to fulfill the need they saw in Spain for specialized veterinary medicine. The hospital now resides in its second location, a converted warehouse, and is complete with three surgical suites, CT, digital radiography, echocardiography, and a staff of about 20 veterinarians. Their expertise encompasses surgery, internal medicine, neurology, cardiology, imaging, general practice, anesthesia, and physical rehabilitation. The clinic owners are also extremely committed to education. They often have Spanish (and a few international) veterinary students rotating through their services and send their vets to conferences all over the world. An added bonus to my time spent there was having the opportunity to talk to veterinary students from around the world and learn about how their experiences and education compare to my own.
The staff veterinarians and technicians were all extremely welcoming during my stay, and took it upon themselves to get me involved in procedures, whenever possible. Many were very familiar with UC Davis SVM and were extremely impressed that I was taking classes from doctors at the top of the veterinary profession, many of whom they knew by name. I saw several interesting treatments, diagnostics, and surgeries during my month at HVM, including valvuloplasties, endoscopy, echocardiograms, a variety of orthopedic and soft tissue surgeries, MRIs, and numerous CT scans. I was also encouraged to get involved in the diagnosis of cases and saw the living, breathing presentation of many diseases that I had previously only seen in lecture slides.
The only drawback of my time at Hospital Molins was the difficulties I encountered due to my somewhat broken understanding of the Spanish language. I set up the externship through a third party, the IVSA Barcelona representative, and it was difficult to gauge the language situation at HVM before arriving. As it turned out, the hospital operates in Spanish and Catalan, and far fewer members of the staff were proficient in English than I expected. The clinic's library was all in English and the doctors could all read it very well, but I was able to communicate in English with only a few. The language barrier made it difficult to get as involved as I would have liked in the goings-on of the hospital and to follow the progression of cases from beginning to end, but in a way it was also a benefit, as my Spanish vastly improved during my time there.
One of greatest benefits of externing in Spain was of course that I was in Spain. I lived in a town adjacent to HVM, and a 25 minutes metro ride from Placa Catalunya, in downtown Barcelona. I can honestly say that Barcelona is now my favorite city in the world. The city is made up of an amazing, eclectic blend of architecture, filled with outdoor cafes and markets, connected by a web of narrow pedestrian streets, and populated with people from around the world, the average age of which appears to be 25. I also benefited from my proximity to the rest of Catalonia and Costa Brava, and was able to visit the towns of Tarragona, Horta de San Joan, and Cadaques, before and after my externship
Externing in Spain was one of the most enriching experiences I've ever had. I was given a unique look into the practice of veterinary medicine in the country, and about how the culture there affects the application of medicine. Most importantly, I was able to live and work, albeit briefly, in Spain and was allowed a more complete feel for the country and culture than would ever have been possible while just passing through.