October, 30th 2023
By Noah Evans
A group of Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences students recently traveled to Italy as part of the Doctors in Italy Fellowship Program’s annual pre-veterinary summer program. During the trip, students had the opportunity to shadow veterinary professionals at a variety of animal sanctuaries, wildlife recovery centers and veterinary clinics and learned how to care for over 30 animal species.
The Doctors in Italy Fellowship Program offers two-week summer programs in Rome, Florence, Perugia and Milan. In addition to building connections with skilled professionals and learning about the interconnected relationships between animal and human health and the environment, students experienced Italian culture.
Adella Shepherd, a third-year student studying veterinary and biomedical sciences, chose to attend the two-week program in Florence, Italy.
“It was an amazing trip,” she said. “I was in a small group of just four students, which allowed us to get one-on-one experience with the veterinarians and animals. It is very hard to find shadowing opportunities that give you this many hands-on activities.”
While at Italian Horse Protection, Italy’s first rescue center for mistreated equines, Shepherd performed a variety of tasks including physical examinations on horses, taking blood samples and administering vaccinations. Additionally, she observed an equine ophthalmologist perform an ocular nerve block that was necessary to inhibit motor function in the eye for surgery.
Adella completed the Pre-Vet Program
- 20+ clinical shadowing hours per week
- Shadow at two animal rescues
- A variety of species from exotics to farm animals
- 24-hour on-site support
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Shepherd also learned how to properly stabilize and wrap a bent leg on a horse by shadowing a specialist who visited the Italian Horse Protection.
Her group shadowed veterinary professionals at Rifugio Ohana, a rescue center that houses animals of many different species that come from situations of mistreatment and abuse. She learned how to perform routine check-ups on donkeys, sheep and cows and later had the opportunity to conduct them herself.
A dental specialist also showed Shepherd and her group how to perform a tooth filing and grinding procedure on a donkey.
“Being able to meet so many different types of specialists was one of the best parts of the experience,” Shepherd said. “It was really eye opening to see how many different career paths are available to pursue in the veterinary field.”
Outside of learning about veterinary practices, Shepherd’s group toured a different city each week and experienced Italian culture.
“It was fascinating to see the differences between veterinary practices in the United States and in Italy,” said Shepherd. “Oftentimes, farms are hours away from the nearest veterinary clinic in the Italian countryside, which can create a lot of challenges. The differences in technology are also pretty significant, so it was really beautiful to be able to not only immerse myself in another culture, but in an entirely distinct way of life for veterinary professionals.”
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