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Oklahoma State University
Center for Veterinary Health Sciences

Healthy Animals - Healthy People

Zoetis Externship Student Winner Talks About Experience

Sunday, November 16 2014

It’s 7:30 a.m. and time to start giving patients their morning treatments at Brazos Valley Equine Hospital in Navasota, Texas.  At 8 a.m. the clinic will open and more patients will arrive.  The clinic will close at 5 p.m. and by 6 p.m. the ‘morning’ treatments will be completed.  At 8 p.m. the night treatments will begin and every two hours, someone will check in on the animals depending on which patients are in the hospital.  This is the schedule that Andrew Willis of Woodward, Okla., lived for four weeks, seven days a week, during his Zoetis Equine Externship during the summer between his second and third year of veterinary college at OSU.

“It was awesome,” smiles Willis.  “I did anything and everything.  I don’t think I had more than three consecutive hours of sleep the entire time I was there.  It was intense.  I saw a corneal transplant.  By the time I left the horse was off all medication and seeing.  Whenever they have to put a horse down, they take the corneas and then transplant them as needed.  I saw a lot of colic surgeries, too.  One thing they don’t teach us in school is that colics only come in after 10 p.m.,” he adds.

According to Andrew, Brazos Valley Equine Hospital (Brazos) treats mules, donkeys, zebras, all breeds of horses as well as alpacas and llamas.

“In Oklahoma when you drive west from Stillwater, you see herds of cattle,” he says.  “In Texas when you drive through the countryside, you see herds of horses.  Not just quarter horses or cutting horses but Arabians, thoroughbreds, draft horses and polo horses.  We visited an Arabian horse farm where one Arabian sheik kept his $20 million horse.”

Andrew was one of two veterinary students nominated to receive the Zoetis Equine Externship. Each student completed a five question application and Andrew was selected to receive a $2,000 stipend to cover expenses along with two Zoetis scrub tops.

“The veterinary center has other Zoetis externships but this is the first year we have had one focused on equine veterinary medicine,” says Todd Holbrook, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM-Large Animal, Dipl. ACVSMR, equine section chief, June Jacobs Endowed Chair in Veterinary Medicine and the professor who nominated Willis.  “I nominated Andrew because I was impressed with his innate skills of observation and problem solving which I noted when I interacted with him in our equine clinical techniques courses.”

As a teenager, Andrew worked on a ranch and loved it.  His great uncle, Dr. Ron Guthrie (’66), and three of his cousins (Drs. James Giles, ’98, Kimber Guthrie, ’98, and Danielle Husted, ’05) all earned their DVM degrees at OSU so it didn’t take much persuasion to pursue a career in veterinary medicine.

 “I shied away from doing an externship between my first and second years of veterinary college because I felt I didn’t know enough and that would be frowned upon.  I would encourage anyone considering an externship to just do it,” says Willis.  “I was very surprised at how laid back people were at Brazos.  At a specialty equine hospital you would expect everyone to be uptight but people were very relaxed and on a first name basis.  The owner, Dr. Terrell Buchanan, better known as T-Bone, told me that anytime I wanted to get my hands on something, all I had to do was ask.  No matter how busy everyone was, they were happy to sit down and explain what they were doing and answer any questions I had.  T-Bone told me to take their horse, Ethel, out of the corral and practice my joint injections on her in between client appointments.

“The contacts I made were incredible.  I met one of two surgeons in the world that can do a specialty surgery called a C7 T1 wobbler surgery.  An externship is well worth your time.  You will learn a lot and you will be able to apply what you have already learned in class.  A big thanks to Dr. Holbrook, Zoetis and Brazos as well as the student chapter of the American Association of Equine Practitioners for making this experience possible for me.”

After graduation, Andrew hopes to do an internship and residency in equine internal medicine.

“Brazos said I was welcome to come back anytime and they would make room for me,” adds Willis.  “I plan to take them up on that offer at some point.  I would go back in a heartbeat.”