Hands-on learning

CHS science students tour vet clinic, observe surgery

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Miranda Buechler, 17, left, assists Dr. Kendall Bodkin, a veterinarian at Hayden Pet Medical Center, during a spay procedure on a dog Thursday. Students tour the veterinary clinic and observed the surgical procedure for extra credit in a Coeur d'Alene High School biology class.

HAYDEN - Mackenzie Phillips discovered an unexpected challenge she faces if she decides to pursue the career she's most drawn to, in veterinary medicine.

The 16-year-old doesn't like watching animals undergo surgical procedures.

Phillips, a Coeur d'Alene High School junior, was among 15 students who spent some time Thursday at Hayden Pet Medical Center, watching Dr. Kendall Bodkin perform a canine spay procedure.

"I feel that if I get used to it, I might still want to do it," Phillips said, when asked if she was thinking of changing her career choice.

The visit to the Hayden Avenue veterinary care practice was an extra credit assignment CHS teacher Pam Gomes gave students in her biomedical science class, a course in anatomy and physiology with a career focus. Many of Gomes' students are interested in going into some field of medicine. The time and effort the students put into the animal hospital visit, coming out at 8 a.m. on a snowy day during Christmas break, would be factored into their grades, Gomes said.

The students paid rapt attention, most of them asking and answering questions posed by Bodkin as he and his staff prepared Penny, a female Shih Tzu/Yorkshire terrier mix, for the spay procedure. The dog rested in the arms of its owner, Linnea Mills, a groomer at the pet medical center, as Bodkin explained each step leading up to the surgery.

The animal gave a yelp when Bodkin injected a sedative into its upper rear leg.

"What bone did I just give the injection beside?" Bodkin asked.

Several students gave the correct answer, the femur.

While they allowed time for the dog to begin responding to the sedative, Bodkin showed the students some x-rays and challenged them to find the fracture and name the bone involved. He also showed them how to determine the approximate age of a dog by checking its long bones for "open epiphyses," an indication that the animal could continue growing and is likely less than 6- to- 9 months old.

After a discussion about the machines used to monitor the heart, blood pressure and blood gases during surgery, one of the students asked Bodkin what type of surgery he likes to perform the most.

"My favorite surgery is bone surgery. I love it. You have all these pieces and you get to put them back together," he said.

One of the most complicated types of surgeries involves gunshot wounds, Bodkin said.

"The bullet will just tear them up inside," he said.

When the little dog's leg was shaved in preparation for the intravenous anesthetic, some of the students began ducking their heads behind their peers, sneaking occasional glances at Bodkin and the dog.

One of the students backed away and then fainted. Gomes, a student teacher and Liz Andreassen, a vet assistant, helped the student while Bodkin continued.

A spay procedure usually takes about 10 minutes, Bodkin said, but because they were explaining each step, Thursday's surgery took a bit longer.

A few students had trouble watching as Bodkin removed the dog's reproductive organs.

Taylour Kelly, 16, one of the students who chose not to watch, said that although she didn't like viewing the procedure, she still plans to become a nurse.

Another student fainted.

But most of the students, wearing surgical masks, crowded around the table watching each step of the surgery. They called out the names of organs as Bodkin pointed them out inside the dog's abdomen.

"This was fun. I definitely learned a lot," said Corey Davis, 16.

Teacher Pam Gomes said they anticipated that some of the students would have difficulty watching the procedure, and could possibly faint.

Following the surgery, Bodkin gave the students a tour of the complete facility.

They looked at microscope slides, watched Bodkin's own pet, a rescued pit bull, receive an ultrasound and visited the pet boarding and grooming areas.

Before the students left, Bodkin noted that things are far different behind the doors beyond the reception area at a veterinarian's office.

"There's a lot going on that you don't see. You may decide this is not the life you want," Bodkin said.

He urged students interested in studying veterinary medicine to speak with their own veterinarians and seek out opportunities to volunteer.

Bodkin said they welcome students into the facility from time to time, and said he enjoys the opportunity to interact with the kids and share his passion for the work he does.

"It's a lot of fun. It kind of just gives them a little kick-start, gets them exposed to medicine," Bodkin said.

Miranda Anderson, right, and Corey Davis, both 16, watch a veterinary surgical procedure Thursday as their classmate Emilee Nelson, 17, documents the surgery with her phone.

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