International Programs

Dorothy Tam

Hong Kong

This summer, I worked with the veterinarians in Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden (KFBG) and Ocean Park in Hong Kong. KFBG is a major wildlife conservation and rehabilitation center, while Ocean Park is a famous theme park that houses a variety of animals including the Giant panda, tropical fishes, marine mammals, raptors, and reptiles.

Working at these two places, I got to see how different types of medicine are practiced. At KFBG, I had the opportunity to monitor anesthesia for different animal species, including raptors, primates, wildcats, bats, and squirrels. Since my interest is to work with birds, getting to work with different types of raptors allows me to become familiar with their anatomy and physiology. At KFBG, it’s a routine to do imaging on caught wild birds to check for possible fractures. It is the standard of practice at KFBG that the birds be anesthetized to reduce the stress level while the images are acquired. Through monitoring anesthesia, I learned to be sensitive to subtle changes in the patient’s status, especially for the avian species, and how to stay calm and think critically in response to possibly life threatening changes while the animal is under anesthesia. In addition, I got to practice positioning a bird for radiographs and analyzing the image. Working at KFBG did not just give me hands-on experience. Dr. Alex Groin also challenged me with different medical questions during the externship and this really helped me integrate my veterinary education into real life practice.

At Ocean Park, I shadowed the veterinarians as they visited different animals in the park. Ranging from animal husbandry and management to routine check-ups, blood collection and ultrasound examinations, I had the opportunity to closely observe how the animals are treated and the training involved in taking care of these wild animals, such as the giant panda, dolphins, sea lions, and kinkajou. In addition, I assisted in various types of medical procedures such as performing necropsy, bronchoalveolar lavage and imaging of a sick dolphin, an endoscopic examination of an anaconda with possible retained feti, and monitoring anesthesia for a prolapsed repair of a desert tortoise. Besides, I really enjoy the interaction between the vets and the nurses. Because of their shared wish to treat the animals with quality care, they supported each other with patience, care, and laughter. *Special thanks to Dr. Fernando because he taught me how to enjoy work and how to find a balance in life by having a cup of milk tea!

In addition to improving my skills, I got to learn about the life stories of the vets. Because there is no veterinary education offered in Hong Kong, the majority of practicing vets came from a different country. Through their sharing, I learned that most of them started working with small animals. Because of their interest in avian and exotic species, they chose to work at different places to enhance their veterinary knowledge. Before this trip, I could only see myself working as a general practitioner and I still do. However, I learned that I should never limit my potential to work in a field different than the one I originally expected to work in.

Externing at KFBG and Ocean Park was such a wonderful experience. I really enjoyed this trip and I highly recommend UC Davis vet students to visit veterinary practices in another country since there is so much opportunity to learn a different style of practicing veterinary medicine.