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COVID-19, Viewpoints

An unforgettable freshman year

An unforgettable freshman year
Oregon State University veterinary student Brooke Weinstein and her dog, Jack.

It was 34 years ago that I received my DVM from the University of Illinois. As I look back to the end of my freshman year, my biggest panics were dealing with really challenging faculty members in virology and immunology and getting past the large animal anatomy final. Disruptions were limited to snow, rain, heat, cold and parking. There was no way any of us could have envisioned the disruption of COVID-19.

My daughter Brooke survived her first year at Oregon State University amid the pandemic, and to help herself, she did what all good veterinary students do — she adopted a dog. As a DVM dad, I had been looking forward to her anatomy and physiology questions, but they never came. Instead, she asked about her dog Jack’s behavior. Not my forte!

Sitting in my hotel room during the 2020 WVC conference and preparing for the next day’s meetings, talks and workshops,  I got a text from Brooke. An EKG was attached — “Do you know what is going on?” I was so excited to have a cardiology consultation with my first-year veterinary student. Finally, the real stuff, EKGs! (Thank God it wasn’t an ultrasound.)

I knew the diagnosis, but I needed to be sure. There was no way I was going to give my daughter the wrong information. Getting through the curriculum is hard enough, but when someone phones a friend, queries a colleague or texts a parent, you must get it right, especially when the parent is a friend, colleague and perfectionist. So, with a little confidence and a lot of trepidation, I replied: ventricular tachycardia. And then I waited.

A few minutes later, she replied, “That’s what I thought, too. Thx”

In March, I went to Oregon State to speak to a business class on the economics of the veterinary profession in 2020 and to the Veterinary Business Management Association, and to celebrate Brooke’s birthday. And then “it” happened. Coronavirus changed the world.

Interestingly, the first question from Brooke and her roommates was, “Do you think they’ll give us a tuition refund since we won’t be in class?” I chuckled as I thought about the other expenses that go into running a veterinary school. Eventually, I explained it all to them.

Since March, Brooke has lived a life I could never have imagined. We texted and talked frequently about school, Jack (Instagram handle JackJack_thegoodestdog) and her new COVID classroom: bed, kitchen table, computer and Zoom. No on-campus contact and, frustratingly, no clinical contact.

Brooke, like thousands of other veterinary students, experienced a once-in-a-lifetime (hopefully) challenge that will make all of them stronger, more resilient, agile, tolerant, patient and able to think differently than those who came before them. It ain’t easy, but veterinary medicine is all about perseverance and resilience in the face of challenges.

I also had the opportunity to learn about telemedicine with Brooke (my client) and Jack (my patient). Through pictures, phone calls and texts, we discussed Jack’s pruritus, papules and erythema. Bottom line: Jack needed to see a veterinarian and get on meds for what was most likely atopy. After seeing a veterinarian in Corvallis, she (we) decided on Apoquel with a recommendation for allergy testing. Jack is doing much better.

As I live vicariously through Brooke and the plethora of veterinary students I follow on social media, things are different than we expected last fall. Brooke is at her best with animals. It’s what she missed most about veterinary school, and I miss the photos.

Brooke’s plans for a summer externship abroad were squashed by COVID-19. Her backup plan for summer work in Corvallis was pending the next phase of viral safety and protection.

Despite all the challenges, tests, trials and tribulations, Brooke kept her sense of humor and her focus. Kudos for staying focused when the world around you is chaotic!

As a veterinarian parent of a veterinary student, I will say that speaking intelligently about clinical cases or classroom information Brooke shared with me was my highlight of her first year.

Oh, by the way, it indeed was ventricular tachycardia.

Dr. Peter Weinstein, a frequent contributor to Today’s Veterinary Business, owns PAW Consulting and is executive director of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association.


Brooke Weinstein writes a blog on the Veterinary Professionals’ NextGen website. Read it at bit.ly/BWeinstein. For Dr. Peter Weinstein’s first Viewpoint on his daughter’s veterinary school journey, visit bit.ly/2BwHQ5t.