Mind Over Miller: Lessons taught—and learned—from interns

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Mind Over Miller: Lessons taught—and learned—from interns

Interns may come to you to continue their education, but they can also teach you a thing or two, in practice and in friendship.
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Sep 30, 2015

When our group practice had grown to three doctors, we began an annual internship program, which went on for 15 years. We deliberately sought out interns from many different schools. They learned a lot from us, but we also learned from them. Without exception, every intern we had gave us a technique we were unfamiliar with. Sometimes it was a concept or medication used at their schools. One intern modernized our bookkeeping system. Another designed the multispecies logo that decorated our doors.

Several of these interns were graduates of European schools. I’ve had contact with each one of them ever since they interned in our practice, and all of them have had successful careers.

I commented to Sabina, who interned with us from Germany, several years ago how gratified I was that all of our foreign interns have been so successful. She answered, “Don’t you think that European graduates who sought an internship in a big, mixed animal practice in the United States have some special qualities?”

Sabina’s father and brother were veterinarians in Germany. Her dad was not pleased that she had chosen to intern in America. He told her “I’ve seen so many American movies and TV shows, and I follow the news. I see so much violence. I fear that I may never see you again.”

Late in her internship, Sabina was riding with me on my large animal calls when we passed a client’s heard of longhorn cattle. “Oh,” she said. “I should take some photos to take home.” 

So I stopped. She crawled through the fence with her camera, wearing the cowboy hat she had purchased early in her visit. “Let me take the picture of you with the cattle behind you,” I said, and handed her a lariat. She posed with it and I took the picture over the fence.

Her dad wrote to her after he received the photo: “I am afraid for your life! You are in the Wild West. Be careful!”

Speaking of the Wild West, Paramount Studios had a western town movie set where countless western movies had been made a few miles from town. I received a call to treat a horse there, accompanied by Karl, an intern from Sweden. When we arrived I went to see the horse while Karl excitedly took pictures of the main street with its saloons, barbershop, sheriff's office and blacksmith shop.

Afterward, Karl asked, “Why are there no people in the town?” I explained that it was because they weren’t filming a movie at the time. Realization flooded his face. It wasn’t a real town.

Cecile was a young lady from Spain. In addition to the time she spent in our practice, she followed me around the world as I did horsemanship seminars in Hawaii, the contiguous states and Europe.

Four years after she graduated, I said to my wife, “Do you think she’ll ever practice?”

“I don’t think so,” Debby replied. “I think she’ll get married, raise a family and not go into a demanding equine practice.”

I agreed.

We couldn’t have been more wrong. Cecile did get married (to a farrier). The last time I saw her in the United States was at an American Association of Equine Practitioners convention. She bought a portable x-ray machine, an endoscope, and all kinds of medical equipment. She did raise a family, but she also built a very successful equine practice within sight of her alma mater, The Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona. She and her family, including her parents, have become good friends and we have visited them in Europe. 

Robert M. Miller, DVM, is an author and a cartoonist, speaker and Veterinary Medicine Practitioner Advisory Board member. His thoughts in "Mind Over Miller" are drawn from 32 years as a mixed-animal practitioner. Visit his website at robertmmiller.com.