It’s difficult to grasp the idea that not too long ago, the word “coronavirus” probably didn’t evoke strong emotions for most individuals. It’s now difficult to find a person who hasn’t been deeply affected by the word. I have struggled with how to develop the right tone for this article, as I want to acknowledge that while the world of veterinary medicine is facing challenges, this is an incredibly challenging time for everyone. There is no doubt that this microscopic virus has made monumental impacts in both the world at large and the daily operations of veterinary medicine.
I first learned about coronavirus while sitting in my morning infectious disease course during my second year of veterinary school. While many in the world are hearing about this family of viruses for the first time, veterinary medicine has known the viruses for decades. Coronaviruses are the causative agent of diseases in both large and small animals. Cattle with shipping fever or respiratory disease, calves with diarrhea, and cats with mild to severe gastrointestinal and inflammatory disease, all have a coronavirus on their list of possible causes. Writing in the summer of 2020, I doubt veterinary students and veterinarians will ever think of coronaviruses as just another differential, as this pandemic has significantly changed how medicine is both taught and implemented.
As a student, COVID-19 forced classes online, and made my learning remote. I attended the last five weeks of class totally within the comfort of my own home. I took perhaps the strangest exams I will ever take, being able to glance at my dog for moral support. My surgery lab became a video chat and an at-home-surgery-on-household-goods-lab, including slicing into a makeshift “bladder” made of my dog’s lightly used rubber ball to practice cystotomies. Like many others, my online experience has continued into the summer. My internship with Zomedica is completely online. Communication occurs over the phone, video chat, and email. However, this move to an online-based platform has allowed for changes that I hope will remain when work and school continues off-line. Zoom meetings and recorded lectures have allowed me to increase my productivity by increasing the flexibility of my schedule and cutting out commutes. My experience is not unique, and many companies and schools have found these virtual tools have not only allowed for adaptation in this dynamic environment, but also sustainable change for a post-pandemic future.
In the clinic, online options have become the solution to a socially distanced society’s veterinary need. Telemedicine has allowed for veterinarians to make assessments of patients, and aid in determining which clients should and should not need to visit the clinic, allowing for a decrease in physical patient-client interactions. While this is currently helping to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2, it has the potential to rapidly evolve veterinary medicine. Telemedicine has been highly discussed and slowly entering clinics, but it seems as though it has now found itself to be an absolute necessity for many practices. While time and effort must be invested to synergize telecommunication into the workflow of the clinic, the payoff has the potential to be long-term. Furthermore, veterinary medicine is a field that has been built on the ability to adapt. Even now, in the face of a global pandemic, veterinarians are finding ways to overcome to keep patients and clients healthy today and tomorrow.