13 Weeks of Vet School… (Day 117)

Required Reading from first semester of vet school

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Something that has been my mantra of vet school so far is it is the quantity of information that I have needed to learn rather than the complexity (jinxed myself for next semester now!). Over the past semester my time has been very limited as its been stressful trying to balance fundraising for next semester with actually studying, revising and passing exams. So without further ado, lets put it all into context…

Required Reading from first semester of vet school
First semester of vet school required memorising!

Obviously this is a considerable amount over the 13 weeks, with a minimum of 30 hours a week in lectures and practicals I decided to try and break down my average week over the first semester. Depending on exams the amout of extra study per week did vary considerably.

There are 168 hours in a week
Minus 56 (8 hours a night) hours sleep = 112
Minus 30 hours scheduled practicals/lectures = 82
Minus 11 hours between lectures writting up notes = 71
Minus 3 hours a day for travelling, shopping, food + showering = 50
Minus 6 hours anatomy self study, 3 hours histology self study = 41
Minus avg 3 hours reading, revision & further study per subject (24 hours week) = 17
*** Minus whatever left doing diary, writting emails, and looking for funding = 0

*** – Depending on the urgency for grant applications or letter writting I did sacrifice study time to fundraising.

Anyways, onto what I am supposed to know now…

Anatomy
Was definately one of my most demanding subjects with a credit test every single week. During the 13 weeks the entire skeleton, all the muscles, joints and ligaments for the 7 major animals (Cow, Horse, Sheep, Goat, Pig, Dog, Cat) were covered. Whilst having similar bones and muscles there are differences in the shapes, size, attachment points and ligaments between species which all need to be known.

Histology
There were 3 credit tests this semester which involved being able to identify an organ by looking at its tissue and cell structure under the microscope in addition to knowing the function and normal structure. In the 13 weeks I covered epithelium, connective tissue, supporting tissue, blood, muscle tissue, nervous tissue, cardiovascular tissue, lympthatic system, endocrine system and the nervous system (whooo try reading that list out loud!).

Physiology
One of the most practical subjects with plenty of laboratory tests covered. This looked at the different body systems, their normal function and diagnostic tests associated with them. It included blood, nervous system, cardiovascular system,  respiratory system, urinary system, immune system, digestive system, physiology of birds, metabolism. The practical sessions looked at different laboratory tests for each body system with around 25 different tests just for looking at blood!

Microbiology
One of my favourite subjects of the week this was a refresher to and built upon Microbiology in my previous degree. It included bacteria classification, identification, morphology, structure, reproduction, growth, distribution, genetics, plasmids, mutations, and horizontal transfer of genetic information. The practical sessions included a ton of different culture mediums, special staining methods, testing metabolic activity, molecular techniques such as PCR, and bacterial resistance.

Immunology
The most intense subject nearly drowning me in infomation, its a single book of 122 pages, however the depth of the lectures was extensive and I used two textbooks to help me out here. The 6 year program has this subject over 13 weeks, where as we had everything crammed into the space of just 5 weeks so the practical time also went to lecture which I didn’t really like as I am an active learner. We covered antigens & antibodies, innate immunity, adaptive immunity, immune response, immune mediators, complement system, pathogenic mechanisms, serology, immunofluorescence, elisa, phagocytosis, lymphocytes, bacterial diagnosis, and hypersensitivity.

Genetics
Ok I have a love/hate relationship with genetics; the practicals are usually very interesting and highly practical (I got to take bone marrow from a cow!) yet the lectures are very indepth and intense. Topics covered included genetic material, cell divisions, genetic analysis, pedigree analysis, chromosomes, sex and abnormalities, blood groups, inheritance, karyotyping, chromosomal abnormalities, genetic protection in breeding, genotype frequencies, mutagens and cancerogenes, gene mapping and GMO. Genetics involves a lot of maths which is a good thing, however the amount of information is staggering with 3 textbooks being given as additional reading to the 130 pages in the course text.

Milk Hygiene
Another topic that I did enjoy was milk hygiene, basically if you think about everything you know about milk and then every product ever made from milk this is what it covered. The most memorable moment was when we accidently set butter on fire in the lab! Now this semester we covered milking procedure & equipment, legal requirements, butter, cheese (cow/sheep/goat), cream, yougurt, icecream, diseases of milk, microbiology of milk, components of milk, sheep milk, goat milk, pastuerisation, sterilisation. And in the practical sessions we covered all the different tests that were used in quality control of milk and milk products and the tests used to ensure milk is safe for human consumption.

Slovak Language & Latin
Both of these languages are very different to english (they use things like genders for words etc) and language has never been a particulary strong point for me. With Latin I now know enough to describe most medical problems, and with Slovak can have basic conversations, shop and order food. I do still prefer English though!!!

Now with 13 weeks gone, I have passed some exams however still have the big 3 (Genetics, Anatomy, and Milk Hygiene) to go. In addition I am also working furiously to try and raise the additional £1700 for tuition I need to continue studying next semester!

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Selective Breeding and what it takes to be an AI Sire… (Day 88)

UVM Kosice Campus Snowy and Deserted

The only lecture I had today was Genetics this afternoon as Milk Hygiene is finished pending the exam and there was no power on campus this morning because they were doing work on the mains. Campus today was looking very nice yet was practically deserted when I arrived for the lecture…

UVM Kosice Campus Snowy and DesertedTodays lecture was on health and disease according to genetics, starting with looking at the Simple and Multifactorial causes of genetic diseases before then moving onto Health Hereditary Care (HHC).

To understand why HHC is important we need to consider how genetics are managed now. Previously where dairy farms each had their own bull (which is a dangerous animal to keep and work with!) many farms now use artificial insemination. Artificial Insemination (AI) is safer, faster and also gives the benefit of widening the gene pool as semen can be collected the other side of the world to be used if necessary. The question is how do you know that the animal that donated this semen doesn’t carry a genetic disease? This is where HHC comes in, and most countries have very strict legislation here, this can be based on four basic principles:

  • Phenotypic (physical) expression of the disease
  • Pedegree Analysis
  • Health Status of the Progeny (children)
  • Cytogenetic and DNA tests

The downside to genetics is that it is just not the sire that needs to be tested, but for the offspring as well for a minimum of at least two generations (some diseases skip a generation).

Within the Czech Republic and Slovakia the HHC testing is based upon the health status of the progeny, this means that breeding of a test group of animals (this is usually 1000 animals) is required. These then need to be grown on to sexual maturity and a second group inseminated to test for diseases that skip a generation This not only takes time (in cows gestation is around 9 months, plus 2 years for sexual maturity) so this process takes around 4 years before the collected semen can be used in production animals.

During this testing the fertility of the semen is checked, offspring for genetic diseases and fertility, and the pregnancy and delivery of the calves are monitored. The semen is then graded on a scale of C – A depending on the outcome of this.

  • C – Is pretty bad with lots of problems in pregnancy and with diseases in the calves. The sire is not used for AI and the offspring are sent to slaughter
  • B – The sire is acceptable to be used as a father for non-breeding stock only
  • A – The sire is breeding standard, and progeny is suitable for further development of the breeding line

One of the most important things that I have taken away from this is the great responsibility that vets have. When looking at this testing it is important to consider the entire population and not just a single animal, and the wording used when reporting is also crucial. Neglecting the word “suspected” when dealing with a uncomfirmed animal with a genetic disease can send a thousand animals to slaughter unnecessarily.

With that week 12 has ended, I have one more week of lessons remaining, and just weeks left to find the tuition that I need to raise to continue in vet school. Please if you can help, whether it is just £1 of more, please do! You can make a one off donation on the right of the page or set up a monthly donation securely by paypal. If you want to do a bank transfer or direct debit please contact me for banking details.

Phagocytosis, visiting the dairy farm, and snow… (Day 85)

Milking time on the dairy farm

Today has been another long day, this morning went to Immunology and this afternoon has been about cows. Now today in immunology we started looking at phagocytosis, in basic terms this is when a cell “eats” another cell. Usually this is the phagocytes in the white blood cells which then engulf bacterial or foreign cells that have invaded the body. The phagocytic process generally has 5 steps

  • Activation of the WBC
  • Chemotaxis where WBC moves towards the bacteria
  • Adherence where the WBC will stick to the bacteria
  • Ingestion where the WBC invaginates around the bacteria moving it into the cell
  • Digestion where enzymes and chemicals within the WBC break down the bacteria

Testing the ability of the immune system to respond to a antigen is done using fresh blood to which the antigen is then introduced before it is incubated for an hour. Once this is done the a slide is then prepared for examination under the microscope using the Pappenheim staining technique. In the left of the image below you  can see 3 different phagocytes each containing multiple foreign antigens that they have ingested.

Phagocytosis of antigen by leukocytes observed under the microscope
3 different leukocytes having ingested bacteria

This afternoon Milk Production finished on a high note with a visit to the University Dairy Farm which is located outside of town in a small village in the hills. With snow on the ground, we could see mountains and forests stretching for miles…

Stunning Mountains by UVM Kosice Dairy FarmNow of course being a working dairy farm hygiene requirements are extremely high, they supply all the protective clothing including the wellies, labcoat and hairnet which did look rather fetching on top of my beanie whilst I hide in my scarf.

Me and Milk HygieneWith all that over I guess its time for some cows, here some are in the milking parlour (sorry for the poor photo’s, my ipod sucks at them!) which is automated with id tags on each cow to allow computer tracking of the milk yeild and milking times.

Milking time on the dairy farmWith that I really must be getting some sleep, I did however take this picture from the front door of dorms earlier to share with you all!

Snowy view from the front steps in Kosice, Slovakia