Putting in the time and effort

Published on June 19, 2013
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Dr. Emily Barquet examines a horse that will soon be gelded. She found her internship through the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Avenues Program.

The musty smell of hay wafted through the stalls as Dr. Emily Barquet bounced from one hospitalized horse to another, administering treatments and performing physical examinations. 

Just a few weeks from the end of her internship in July at Merritt & Associates in Wauconda, Ill., Dr. Barquet is fully into the swing of things. Through the course of the day, she’ll prepare a patient for surgery, assist with several lameness examinations, and take radiographs and ultrasounds of a fetlock joint—all without breaking a sweat. Or leaving behind her thermos filled with a homemade shake, which serves both as breakfast and lunch.

Vital experience

Dr. Barquet is originally from Puerto Rico. She received her DVM degree in 2012 from Tuskegee University. Previously, she worked as a veterinary technician for eight years at an equine clinic in Ocala, Fla., to gain experience before veterinary college. It took four years of applying before she was accepted, but it’s what she’s wanted to do ever since growing up around her family’s Paso Finos and trail riding with them. 

The clinic where she worked as a technician had interns and residents, which helped her decide to pursue an internship. 

“I picked people’s brains way before veterinary school,” she said. 

Dr. Barquet determined that she wanted a private practice internship. She knows people who have done academic ones and has heard they have lower caseloads. Here, the caseload varies; sometimes the practice is very busy, and, other times, it’s not. Plus, she was already accustomed to the private practice setting. 

Her responsibilities include caring for hospitalized patients, assisting in surgery, being on call, and, since a few months into the internship, responding to field emergencies. She and the other intern, Dr. Victoria Gnadt, rotate among the four clinicians to gain experience in various aspects of practice.  

Dr. Barquet says she’s learned a lot from Dr. Keith Merritt about lameness, which she didn’t get to see much of in veterinary school. 

Give and take 

It’s midmorning now, and Dr. Barquet proceeds again to the barn to place a catheter in the horse next up for surgery. The 1-year-old, soon to be gelded, will remain in the stall, she said, because he gets skittish easily. 

Dr. Barquet is supposed to work from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., but often, she’ll stay late because of last-minute appointments or paperwork. 

On weekends, she’ll make house calls and do physicals. She and Dr. Gnadt live in the blue, two-story house just a stone’s throw from the clinic. Technically, they’re on call all the time, because if anything happens, “It’s like, oh, the interns are here,” she says. 

During the first few weeks, she would get no more than six hours of sleep each night. One time, Dr. Barquet spent 32 hours working without even a break. She says the hours have been intense, but she expected nothing less from an internship. 

Her salary is $25,000, which she had also expected, and the housing is free. The interns also receive $1,000 for continuing education and payment of some association membership fees, but nothing toward health insurance. Dr. Barquet has amassed student debt from completing her undergraduate, master’s, and DVM degrees, and says she’s become numb to it. 

Basic requirement 

Lunchtime rolls around, and Dr. Barquet is busy analyzing an ultrasound image taken of Midnight the Quarter Horse’s fetlock region. More specifically, she’s looking at his lateral collateral ligament, which the 21-year-old horse has a history of tearing. 

Dr. Barquet says that for those who want to go into equine practice, internships are “almost obligatory.”

“Most places don’t hire someone straight out of school. That’s probably because so many people are doing internships,” she said.

Dr. Merrit says it’s because of expectations from horse owners.

“You have to prove yourself every day to a client,” Dr. Merritt said. “The horse-owning public wants people who have experience before they trust you to take care of their horses.”

Some of Dr. Barquet’s friends are doing internships, but most of the veterinarians she knows who went into small animal practice didn’t.

She says the biggest drawbacks are the salary and the hours but notes that anyone who is an equine veterinarian—intern or not—will work long hours and answer emergency calls.

As of May 1, there were a few internship positions and one residency opening Dr. Barquet was applying for, but nothing had been secured. 

“I have a plan; we’ll see if it happens,” she said. 


To view additional photos of the interns at work,
go to www.avma.org/javmaphotos
for the online photo gallery titled “Day in, day out.”