July 15, 2011


 Foreign externs learn more than veterinary medicine

By Malinda Larkin

Posted June 29, 2011

It was the little things that impressed Jennifer Ailloud. Like the way the professors took time to ask students what they thought about a case. Or how they made sure everyone understood a certain diagnosis. Even the enthusiasm of her fellow students inspired her.

It was like a completely different world, she said. And really, it almost was.

Vet2011The fourth-year veterinary student from the Veterinary School of Lyon and one of her classmates, Maxime Cambournac, spent two weeks on a neurology rotation and one week on an internal medicine rotation at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

The two students came to the U.S. Feb. 13-March 4 as part of an exchange program between American veterinary schools and colleges and the Veterinary School of Lyon in France in celebration of World Veterinary Year, which marks the 250th anniversary of the French school and the veterinary profession. The exchange program was established by the AVMA and is considered an official Vet2011 event.

Another Lyon student, Claire Meyer, will attend the AVMA Annual Convention in St. Louis July 16-19 as part of the program. After the convention, she'll also stop by the AVMA Governmental Relations Division in Washington, D.C., and AVMA headquarters in Schaumburg, Ill.

Then, this fall, two American students will visit the Lyon veterinary school. They are Claire McPhee, a fourth-year student at North Carolina State, and Randall Trzaska, a fourth-year student at St. George's University School of Veterinary Medicine, Grenada, West Indies.

Each of the five students will receive up to $3,000 from the American Veterinary Medical Foundation for travel expenses.

Trzaska lived in France for two years before veterinary school. When he heard of this opportunity, he thought it would be a perfect bridge between his knowledge of veterinary medicine and the French language. Trzaska plans to complete a rural medicine rotation there. He says he would love to learn about ambulatory practice in France.

"I'm also looking forward to exploring the countryside and meeting the farmers who are responsible for the great French cheeses," said Trzaska, who wants to be a dairy veterinarian after he graduates.

Ailloud, who lived in Arizona for almost two years as a child and speaks fluent French and English, will be in Lyon to help the American students adapt to life and work in France. She said they will need it, because the French schools are run differently from the U.S. ones.

"I think it's wonderful for countries to work together because we have different ways of thinking. It's enriching and stimulating to bring that together. I thought this (externship) was a wonderful opportunity for us students to learn about the different ways of learning and teaching and working."  


In France, a more clearly defined hierarchy exists between the students and teachers. And usually, six students are paired with two professors during rotations, so there is less time to go through cases and ask questions the way they do in the states, she said.

"In America, it was awesome to have someone ready to answer questions in a positive manner. They were always encouraging us to look further into our cases, using the literature. You felt capable of your best," Ailloud said.

French veterinary schools have a five-year curriculum, and students start their clinical education in the third year; however, Ailloud explained that they don't do much hands-on work when they start. The students are in the clinics for a half day at a time and can't follow cases all the way through.

"The students I was with (at North Carolina State) were starting clinics and I was in my second year of clinics. They were better than me in the way they dealt with cases and questions they asked and treatments they suggested," she said.

By the French students' fifth year, they must specialize in small animal, large animal, equine, or another category of veterinary medicine such as public health or wildlife, which is Ailloud's choice. In January, she will study exotic and small animal medicine in Montreal for half a year.

Ailloud said she is proud that modern veterinary medicine started at Lyon, but she is quick to praise what other countries have done for the profession as well.

"I think it's wonderful for countries to work together, because we have different ways of thinking. It's enriching and stimulating to bring that together," she said. "I thought this (externship) was a wonderful opportunity for us students to learn about the different ways of learning and teaching and working."