NC State: from Navajo Nation, DVM student Briana Blackwelder reports

By NC State News Staff

Students at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine have access to all kinds of internships, externships and research experiences during their four years of school. This summer, several students are sharing some of what they're doing and learning in real time.

This article from the NC State News team features DVM student Briana Blackwelder, who completed an externship in the Navajo Nation and worked in Utah and Arizona. 

On Aug. 8, Blackwelder wrote that the trip to the Navajo Nation is almost impossible to put into words.

There are a few moments that I know will stick with me forever. One was meeting a man named Jimmy. Due to a train accident several years ago, he lost his left arm, but that hasn’t slowed him down at all. While working with his horses, I learned that even now in his late 70s that he is riding and training horses. I watched him load and handle his horses and even tie a quick-release knot one-handed.  He is so knowledgeable and has so many wonderful stories to share. It was such a neat experience getting to meet him and help with his horses. 

Due to the scarce number of veterinarians in the area, for some residents this is the only time they have access to veterinary care for their animals that doesn’t require hours of transportation one way. There were many people I met, Jimmy included, who made multiple trips so all their horses could be seen. Some people don’t own trailers, so they saddled up and rode to us. I really felt like I was helping and making a difference on this mission trip. 

With the help of the supervising veterinarians, we were able to provide preventative care to so many horses I lost count. To me this embodies what I love most about vet med. I love connecting with people and their animals. I cherish the moments when I know I have helped make a difference and both the owner and horse are grateful for it. 

To me vet school isn’t just about learning medicine. Obviously, this is very important and necessary, but there are many other lessons we as students need to learn. We need to learn how to connect, communicate and listen to our clients. NC State has wonderful professors who work with students throughout vet school teaching us communication and active listening techniques. These are skills that will help us all throughout our school career, professional and personal lives.  

Read more from Blackwelder and see additional photos in this story from NC State University. 

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