This summer I had a great opportunity to go for a 3-week small animal surgical externship at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. This experience exceeded my expectations in terms of professional skills, friendships and memories I can cherish forever.
Picking this externship was easy because I knew that I wanted to gain more hands-on experience in a country where veterinary medical care has high standards. I was also looking for an experience that would differ from the typical senior year rotations or internships offered in the US. I strongly believe that working side by side with Danish clinicians gave me the opportunity to look at different aspects of veterinary medicine, thus broadening the resources I can use as a future DVM in the US. Lastly, due to a typically flexible schedule, I was able to explore Copenhagen after work and during weekends, which were an extra bonus in my overall experience because I learned about Danish culture, visited amazing places and developed friendships that will last forever.
During my three-week rotation in Copenhagen, I externed in the Small Animal Surgery department, which is a part of the university teaching hospital, “Dyre Hospitalet.” It is a newly built, state of the art facility. I was amazed with the architectural integrity of the facility, the progressive equipment and the workers’ competence. Although every person in the hospital (including surgeons) works precisely 8-hour shifts, the caseload presented for the day was managed efficiently.
I was lucky to go to Denmark during the summer because a significant portion of the staff and students where on vacation while the surgical caseload remained constant. This way, my presence was appreciated and, for my sake, I was able to assist in any case that was presented. Common emergencies I saw were cats falling from high-rise flats. Typically this led to broken jaws, thoracic limbs, excoriations and internal bleeding. Non-emergencies included ovariectomies (instead of ovario-hysterectomies), neuters, thoracoscopic pericardectomy, sialocele and mass removals. I also saw many interesting orthopedic surgeries including: tibial plateau leveling osteotomy(TPLO), tibial tuberosity advancement (TTA), fracture repair, tracheostomy, tail amputation, patellar luxation reoperations, and arthroscopy procedures. The surgical faculty members were teaching- oriented and I received a great eal of mentorship. Whenever we had time, the faculty provided me with plenty of materials to study from, including articles and research papers regarding surgeries we were going to do the next day. I spent many hours learning how to read radiographs and measure distance/angles in order to pick the right plates, rods or screws for the patient.
As for my free time, I spent it by bonding with friendly Danes and exploring their beautiful country and culture. Every day after work, I saw different places like the famous Nyhavn (a district filled with colorful townhouses, cafes and canals), Tivoli, countless museums and botanical gardens, castles and beaches. I enjoyed spending my time in Copenhagen with my co-workers who introduced me to many aspects of Danish life. We went on long bike rides to the countryside, swam in the Oresund (part of the Baltic sea) and barbequed at night.
My experience at the Small Animal Hospital at the University of Copenhagen was extremely rewarding to me. Not only did I gain veterinary knowledge of surgery, but I also received the gift of unforgettable summer of events and friendships.