Dr. Ann Duncan is the chief veterinarian for the Detroit Zoological Society.
Earlier this month, the Detroit Zoological Society’s veterinary team had the opportunity to work with a wonderful group of seventh graders, as we helped them explore their interest in veterinary medicine. This was the second summer that we’ve worked with our talented education department to offer this very special Summer Safari Camp experience. During this particular weeklong camp, the students learn about zoo medicine in general, hear stories about the babies we’ve cared for in our nursery, and practice placing a bandage on a limb (of a stuffed animal). They also spend some time in our laboratory to see how blood, urine, feces and other samples can provide valuable information about an individual’s health.
To put into practice what they learned during camp, we challenged the students with a weeklong (pretend) case involving a female otter. The students met with a zookeeper to gather a complete medical history, and then helped develop a diagnostic plan, interpreted bloodwork and radiographs and ultimately made the decision that the otter needed surgery. To prepare for “surgery”, the students practiced their surgical and suturing skills on bananas. On the last day of camp, we invited the students to the surgical suite in the Ruth Roby Glancy Animal Health Complex. There, we showed them how they would prepare themselves and their patient for surgery and how to carefully handle surgical instruments. After our student surgeons made a delicate abdominal incision on our stuffed otter “patients”, each student was able to explore the abdomen to find a coin foreign body. Then, each student placed several sutures in both the deep “tissues” and “skin”, just like real surgeons!! And of course, all of the otters made a full recovery after their efforts.
It was fun to work with the students throughout the week. They were very attentive and engaged during camp, and it was very rewarding to watch their curiosity and skills grow during their time at camp. Even if these students decide that veterinary medicine is not the career for them, I am confident that their interest in medicine and in providing the best care for animals will be lasting.
– Dr. Ann Duncan