PROCTORVILLE, Ohio - If you have taken your pets to the Proctorville Animal Clinic during the past three summers, it's possible your beloved pup or kitten has been cared for by an Ohio State University veterinary medicine student.

For the past three years, the Stanton Summer Externship at the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine has placed rising second-year veterinary students at the Proctorville Animal Clinic, the Ashland Veterinary Clinic and four other clinics in Ohio and West Virginia. The clinics are chosen because they serve clientele from a broad socioeconomic background.

"The majority of our graduates go into small-animal practice," said Rustin Moore, dean of the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine. "One of our goals, although we already are graduating great veterinarians, is we always try to do more and try to increase their competence and confidence upon graduation.

"... One of our mantras within the 'spectrum of care' is, 'No matter the person, pet or place, there is always an option.' Sometimes people might want to be referred to a specialist, but oftentimes they can't afford to or aren't close enough to one, so having veterinarians who are trained across a broad spectrum is a really important goal for us."

Eight of the 24 vet students in the Stanton program currently are working with Dr. Mike Dyer in Proctorville, while eight other students are working in Ashland. The students get hands-on experience, including performing spay/neuter surgeries, that vet students normally would not get until their fourth year.

"I worked with vets before while I was teaching that weren't confident with spay and neutering, so this is a great chance to get better at it," said student Sami Decanay, who has performed more than 30 spay/neuter surgeries this summer already. "Back in Hawaii, I worked in this clinic that would hire a lot of people straight out of vet school. They were so scared and would call another doctor every time to check when they did stuff. I will have an edge, hopefully, when we finish."

Dyer said the program is a win-win-win. The clinic wins, because it has extra hands in surgeries and the students keep the practicing vets and vet techs sharp. The students win because they get experience other students don't get. The clients win, too.

"Our clients love that there is some student involvement," Dyer said. "If I have a student working on a dog, (the owner) will sometimes direct their questions to the student and tell them about their dog's problem. It's been a win-win situation for students, animals and clients, as well. They've embraced it more than we thought."

Dyer said when he was in vet school 25 years ago, students begged practices for experience like what the Stanton program provides.

"Many veterinary practices turned us down," Dyer said. "They were too busy. This opportunity for them is golden as far as being able to come into a real-world practice and get to touch the animals, learn the language and the medical concepts. It's a tremendous opportunity. Twenty-five years ago, I was able to find some practices, but it was tough. And you had to hope they had a teaching mentality."

Moore said the Proctorville Animal Clinic's educational mindset is another reason OSU wanted to work with the clinic.

"On certain things, the (students) scrub in with (Dr. Dyer) and he lets them do some, then he walks away," Moore said. "He said that's when they learn the most. He's not leaving the building, but he's not right there hovering."

The Stanton program is funded by the Stanton Foundation, named for the late Frank Stanton, former CBS president. Thanks to another gift from the foundation, the College of Veterinary Medicine is building a one-of-a-kind and state-of-the-art primary care clinic that will provide a realistic practice environment for students. The foundation also helped open a new center where students can do simulation surgeries on realistic models and cadavers.

To learn more about the OSU veterinary program or the Stanton Externship, visit vet.osu.edu. Moore said OSU's veterinary program is the closest program to the western half of West Virginia, with about an average five West Virginians enrolling in the program a year.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.

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