So a couple weekends ago I traveled from my snug home in Dallas, Texas to the wilds of Colorado to attend the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum (hereafter referred to as ACVIM). Well, not so wild, just downtown Denver, which, at least in the summer, pretty much looked like any other metropolitan downtown I’ve been to.

For me, this meeting was heaven. Internal medicine is my thing. Surgery, orthopedics, emergencies, you guys know those aren’t my thing; this is. I was surrounded by the smartest of the smart. People walking around talking about statistics, molecules, things I forgot about 15 years ago from organic chemistry. It was exhilarating.

I last attended the ACVIM meeting about ten years ago when I was highly pregnant with my first son. I think I was awash in hormones, a relatively new grad (therefore I still knew all there was to know about vet med, at least in my head), and the meeting was in Dallas, so it was a mini class reunion of sorts. Thus I was distracted and didn’t appreciate the sheer joy in learning all that brand new stuff.

This time around, after nine years of "refresher course" conferences and child/life induced journal reading deficiency, I had a much more profound sense of wonder at all the cutting edge information at my disposal.

One thing I noticed at this meeting, as an aside, is that the crowd seemed much better looking than the group I usually see at conferences. Everyone seemed pretty snappily dressed. (I have to admit, I am not a dresser-upper kind of girl, so the fashion decisions for this meeting were a little stressful for me, and I actually had to make an emergency Nordstrom Rack run the day before I left because I don’t own any pants that aren’t jeans or sweats).

The meeting had some international flair as well. There were a lot of sleek, trendy foreign DVMs in attendance. I saw quite a few thin women with crazy hair colors (i.e., green, red) who invariably sounded European. I heard accents from all over the world, here to share the latest and greatest in veterinary internal medicine.

Some people feel like this specialty meeting is "over the head" of a general practitioner, but as far as the big picture is concerned, the value of attending a meeting like this is:

  • I get reassurance that, as a rule, despite any perceived learning deficiencies on my part, I’m still practicing good medicine (I kind of fear falling into that "old school" mentality of doing things in an antiquated manner, because that’s how I’ve been doing it for ever…)
  • I kind of practice on "autopilot," using my wits. I fly by the seat of my pants and some concepts have become fuzzy, but I can get by with my basic knowledge of them. Meetings like this help bring those "fuzzy" concepts back into sharper focus.
  • There are plenty of things I flat out don’t understand. It’s nice to know that these things also puzzle the specialists. What’s cool is that they are the ones trying to figure out the answers.
  • As a practitioner, the fact that these specialists are hard at work trying to figure out the things that plague me gives me hope for the future. My mom’s dog died of Hemangiosarcoma, a horrible cancer. I attended lectures about this that were really not so practical, but boy did they give me hope that maybe someday dogs won’t die of this. Or that at least we can diagnose it before it just suddenly kills the dog.
  • The things I learn that are completely contrary to what I was taught in school. I worry about these because for every revelation, there are probably two or three that I don’t know about yet.
  • The things that I 100 percent didn’t know at all. There have been many a lecture where I’ve been sitting there listening and all of a sudden the name of some mystery case pops to mind. Sometimes the animal was euthanized or died because I could never figure out what was wrong. The best is when the pet is still alive and vexing me so I can run home and call the client and share what I learned and maybe help the pet.
  • This meeting brings in some comparative medicine aspects that I love, because it’s easier for me to explain a pet’s disease to his human if I can relate it to a human condition.

So that’s the general stuff. What about the specific stuff … the things I took careful (I hope) notes to share with you guys? This is a pretty herculean task, so I will do it in installments starting next week.

Dr. Vivian Cardoso-Carroll

Pic of the day: Colorado 046 by Tundra Ice

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