University of Wyoming Extension News

UW diagnostic externship program hosts veterinary students

Matt Hille and Vanessa Chen are immersed in diagnostic veterinary medicine during their summer externships at the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory.

Veterinary students Vanessa Chen and Matt Hille are studying diagnostic veterinary medicine at the Wyoming State Veterinary Lab (WSVL) in Laramie this summer through the University of Wyoming’s Diagnostic Externship Program.

Externships are available to third- or fourth-year veterinary students and offered by the Department of Veterinary Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. An externship is supervised practice off-campus or away from a student’s affiliated institution.

“It exposes the students to the realities of diagnostic veterinary medicine as a career,” said Donal O’Toole, professor in the department and diagnostic externship mentor. “We need more students – ideally, of the right type: curious, outgoing, broadly educated, compassionate, problem-solving – looking at this career option.”

Chen, a native of Canton, China, and who grew up in Temple City, Calif., is on a four-week externship from the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis. She has an undergraduate degree in neuroscience and plans to pursue a career in pathology.

“The defining feature of this veterinary lab to students is the learning environment the lab engenders,” said Chen. “Among the various labs there are undergraduate pre-vet students, graduate students, externs and professors all working together. This continual pulse of new energy keeps students and professors excited.”

Hille, a Cheyenne native who grew up in North Platte, Neb., holds a master’s degree in animal and veterinary science from UW; he is entering his third year of veterinary school at Iowa State University through a joint Iowa State and University of Nebraska, Lincoln collaborative program.

Hille’s externship is supported by the Kelly Palm Memorial Externship, which is only offered to UW graduates attending a veterinary school in the United States.

“Ever since I found out about the opportunities available to someone with a DVM degree, I have had an interest in anatomic pathology or microbiology as a career option, and that is the main reason I pursued this externship in the first place,” said Hille. “The ability to essentially jump around different labs at the WSVL and see all the more interesting things on a daily basis throughout the laboratory has been great, and I’ve learned a lot.”

Hille said he wants to practice mixed animal medicine, including small and large animals, in one of the Rocky Mountain States upon graduating from Iowa State and may pursue anatomic pathology or microbiology. Hille said his wife, Katie, a native of Sidney, Neb., and a UW College of Education graduate, likes that idea.

“Fortunately, my wife misses Wyoming as much as I do and returning to Wyoming would be our ideal situation,” he said.

In addition to necropsies, microscopies and other lab work, Chen and Hille participated in bison vaccinations, radio tracking deer in Douglas and branding cattle at the Y Cross Ranch, owned by UW and Colorado State University, in Horse Creek.

“They will be exposed to the full range of diagnostic services and to wildlife cases,” said O’Toole. “Unlike full-service veterinary diagnostic laboratories that are affiliated with veterinary schools, our caseload is from the field. It is not from cases that have been worked up extensively in a veterinary teaching hospital, which tend to be referrals like weird or terminal cases.”