ID MyHorse

Vet School Vignettes… Catastrophic Cat Mites

In Part One of this series, I discussed my acceptance to veterinary school. Part One ended with the demographic description of my class in 1978. Currently, the ration of women to men students is 4:1. The “applicant to seat” ratio that was approximately 12:1 when I applied 40 years ago is now less than 2:1.

My Alma mater, Purdue, has expanded the class size from 72 to 84. There are more veterinary schools with larger class sizes. Today, the average individual entering veterinary school has spent 4.5 years in undergrad studies. Their average age is 23.5 years old. Less than 7% have not already obtained an undergrad degree. I obtained my Bachelor of Science Degree after completing my first year of veterinary school. (AAVMC Annual Data Report 2015-2016)

The idea for this blog series arose from a conversation thread on a Facebook group. A lady with broken ribs was lamenting that her veterinarian gave her better treatment advice than her doctor did. There was a running joke in vet school… “they” were the “RD’s” (the REAL docs) and “we” were the “also rans”.

I am a member of my church’s emergency response team, but I don’t ever intend to be the lead person in an emergency. I don’t want to be responsible for a human life as a DVM. Nevertheless, medicine is medicine and there is significant crossover of information.

About a month before vet school started, I developed an infection in my right thumbnail. I thought it was the standard mild infection I’d often get because I (gasp!) chewed on my cuticles! So I diligently soaked it in the hottest water I could stand. By the time school started, it throbbed like nobody’s business.

My first day of class I asked one of the professors about it, and I was promptly referred to Dr. Blakemore, the dermatologist. He was a dead ringer for Ralph Waite of Walton’s fame. Dr. Blakemore diagnosed it as a fungal infection, and of course, my hot water soaking had provided that fungus with an optimal growth environment!

Dr. Blakemore prescribed oral Griseofulvin, which was the first choice at that time for a fungal infection. I took it for 6 months (long enough to grow a totally new fingernail) and it appeared to clear up, but it returned. I took a second round of 9 months; however, it reappeared again. Finally, I took it for a full year and it resolved. I had some ‘splainin’ to do to my (human) insurance company about why I was obtaining medication from a veterinary school pharmacy.

Do any of you have any bug bites?

Between my sophomore and junior year of vet school, I worked for Dr. Blakemore. Keep in mind the Ralph Waite comparison (half glasses perched on his nose) as you picture this story.

My job was to plow through his copious collection of articles, notes and slides with the intention of organizing them for use in lectures. One day I hold up a plastic sleeve of Kodachrome slides… and they are up close and personal views of a woman’s breast. “Excuse me, Dr. Blakemore, but where do I file these?

He peered over his half glasses and his face flushed. He tells the following story…

A handful of young ladies appear in the clinic on a Monday morning. They had acquired a cat Friday night. Over the weekend they had passed the cat around and multiple gals had slept with it. Consequently, they were all itching on Monday. “Do any of you have any bug bites?” Dr. Blakemore innocently inquires.

As his question hung in the air, one young woman says, “YES!” and she immediately peels off her shirt. I guess she wanted some answers!

cat mites

The next thing you know, Medical Illustration guys are called to document Cheyletiella bites on human skin, with the young woman’s permission of course. The Medical Illustration guys were prototypical geeks; therefore, I would have loved to have seen the looks on their faces when called for this job. There was some serious zooming in that went on during that photoshoot!

Stay tuned for more memories of some of the toughest years of my life!

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