By Isaac Burrell, DVM Class of 2019
With the support of the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine International Travel Scholarship Fund, I traveled to the American Fondouk in Fes, Morocco for a three-week clinical rotation. Thanks to the flexibility built into the clinical phase of the curriculum and the support of the faculty at the College, I was able to have this experience—a highlight of my time in veterinary school, and I am truly grateful for the scholarship to aid with the expenses involved in this trip.
The hospital where I spent my time is a full-service, working equid hospital that provides care at no cost to the owners of the animals. My time in Morocco taught me valuable clinical experience, how to work harder than ever, and how similar veterinarians are around the world. All of these lessons will assist me in clinical practice going forward.
During my time at the American Fondouk, I was responsible for the medical care of five to fifteen patients each morning—working equids, donkeys, horses, and mules. The complaints presented ranged from suspicions of lameness, respiratory issues, and wounds from ill-fitting harnesses to tetanus, rabies, strangles, and other conditions that are rare in Michigan. I learned how to refill and replace IV bags under sterile conditions, how to perform nerve blocks to diagnose lameness, and how to mix up a buffet of oral rehydration options. I also had endless opportunities to give IV injections, practice dental floating, ultrasound and radiograph various areas of horses, and perform a thorough post-mortem exam in field conditions. Working with Moroccan and European clinicians to diagnose and treat these patients gave me an excellent library of cases on which to rely as I enter practice on my own.
In addition to any outpatients presenting during the open hours, I was responsible for inpatients, some of whom needed treatments or monitoring every two hours throughout the night. Working through a language barrier, very little sleep, and temperatures ranging from 30°F to 80°F within a single day made for challenging conditions, but I was grateful for them; they gave me an opportunity to see how far I could push myself. This experience both motivates me and gives me confidence to know that I will be able to perform similarly when practicing on my own.
Finally, the cultural experience was absolutely thrilling. During this rotation I met veterinarians from Morocco, Tunisia, France, Belgium, and Scotland—in fact, I was the only American at the the American Fondouk hospital! Sharing their food, schedules, languages, and humor was priceless in developing a network of professionals around the world that I can call my friends. I look forward to seeing them again and exchanging more stories of difficult cases and proud moments as we continue our careers in veterinary medicine.