Iva Novak, a final year veterinary student from the University of Zagreb, Croatia share with us her amazing experience:
After living one year in a pandemic, I decided to take one last chance at an Erasmus adventure before graduating this summer. When I came to Padova, I first took a couple of days to explore the beautiful Prato della Valle, Palazzo Bo and the historic center; and also find my way to the clinic. The San Marco veterinary clinic and laboratory is located outside of the city itself, halfway from Padova to Vincenza, another beautiful Italian city. The location makes it available to clients and owners from all over Italy, but also Spain, France, Switzerland and the Balkans. It stretches over 50,000 square meters and 2 floors, with a terrace that gives a wonderful view of the nearby fields.
My first day I was greeted by Dr. Busato who gave me a tour of the clinic, which seemed like a spaceship to me, as I was impressed with magnetic name cards that opened the clinic’s doors! It was nice to put a face to the name of the person I had been messaging with to plan this whole visit, and as expected Dr. Busato was as nice and welcoming in person as she was over email. I am not the best Italian speaker but it turned out that there was no language barrier as everyone at the clinic spoke English and I had no trouble following cases.
To get me started, my first week I was put in the hospitalization ward; where each day one doctor is in charge, but the nurses are the true heart and engine, with over 100 cages, often full, and the nurses still know every patient’s quirks and details. The patients are divided into 6 rooms: for cats, dogs, dogs’ oncology, cats’ oncology, dogs’ infectious and cats’ infectious ward. The intensive care unit is separate and equipped with special beds for patients that can be moved to different areas of the clinic, specialized monitoring devices to provide optimal patient care and diagnostics, CPAP, continuous electrocardiographs, fresh gas and oxygen flow for each patient and round the clock care given by the amazing team lead by Dr. Rocchi. We gave hope and a fighting chance to every animal that walked through the clinic’s door and thanks to doctors Pelizzola, Grossi, Botto and Pallares I practiced my E-FAST skills, ultrasound volemic status assessment, wound management; and there was always good food at morning rounds.
The scale of the clinic is so that if I were to write about each department, this article would turn into a book! San Marco is a tertiary clinic so it provides patients with general medicine and specialist care in neurology, cardiology, nephrology, dermatology, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, nutrition, and behavior science but one of the most important departments there is radiology. I learned just how big of a part echography can play in disease diagnostics and control check-ups and I also spent one week studying CT diagnostics, which was a whole new world for me. I was lent literature to prepare since CT diagnostics weren’t a part of my studies at the University of Zagreb, and with the help of Dr Negro I was quickly able to follow and recognize pathologies in multiplanar reformatted reconstruction and three-dimensional volume renderings.
As a referral clinic they take in over 6000 patients a year, so cases were abundant but I learned even more during the weekly evening lectures and clinical cases presented almost daily by the clinic’s rotating and specialist interns. The clinic is research oriented, they publish around 30 peer reviewed papers every year and they also provide professional training, traineeships, specialised and rotating internships and residency with evening lectures, seminars and congresses that I have all been attending.
My morning would start in the staff kitchen, where I got to master my coffee-making skills with the instructions given to me by the clinic’s interns, and during lunch, we would exchange pasta recipes. In cardiology, Dr Ledda taught me how to use spectral, flow, and tissue doppler and being one of the doctors that can perform interventional radiology he taught me the theoretical part of it as well. Out of internal medicine, I had the honour of working with Dr Furlanello, Dr Zoia, and Dr Pantaleo. We would receive their own patients, as well as consultations and referrals from other clinics all over Italy.
Since my time there was short compared to the number of procedures they perform at the clinic, out of ophthalmology I was able to only attend one electroretinography on a Tibetan mastiff with SARD syndrome. During surgery week, I observed a TTT with trochleoplasty, nodulectomy with a flap, extrahepatic portocaval shunt closing with fluoroscopic portography and a correction of tibial varus among other procedures. I also helped perform bronchoscopy, rhinoscopy, colonoscopy, gastroscopy with duodenoscopy, and uretroscopy. The endoscopy equipment was also used for intracervical artificial insemination, which was performed by a doctor Ferré.
In the end, one of the things you can’t miss when you first walk into the San Marco clinic is the big swimming pool that can be seen from the waiting room. It is used for physical therapy but I can’t say I didn’t see any of the staff jumps in just before it is supposed to be emptied. At physical therapy, they explained to me the history and progress of every patient and taught me how to use laser therapy in theory and practice along with applied hydrotherapy in the pool or the underwater treadmill.
Now, after 3 months, my adventure is coming to an end, I plan on visiting all the beautiful places in Veneto and surrounding regions I still haven’t seen, like Bologna, Verona and Milano.
I embarked on an Erasmus in the middle of the pandemic but I was lucky to be welcomed into an amazingly organized clinic, following the rules and measurements put in place, my Erasmus experience was barely affected by the pandemic. I am thrilled to have had this opportunity to meet amazing people who work in the same field as me. I can recommend San Marco Vet Clinic to colleagues that want either basic training or to further their skills with specialist grade education. Thank You to everyone who shared their knowledge with me. I will treasure it for a lifetime.