Mind Over Miller: An unforgettable lesson

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Feb 01, 2009


The course in physiological chemistry, required of all first-year veterinary students, was popularly called p-chem.
When I was a freshman veterinary student in 1952, two women were in my class of 60 people. The Colorado A&M College of Veterinary Medicine was one of the few schools that would accept women, and Phyllis Brown and Frankee Paige were good-natured students with a valuable sense of humor. Both were well-liked by our classmates.

Physiological chemistry was a required course for first-year veterinary students. The faculty member who taught the course had a PhD, and he seemed to resent students working toward a DVM, frequently making remarks such as "I know this bores you and that you would much rather be studying a course that will help make you financially prosperous once you graduate, but you'd better pay attention because I'm going to work you hard."

One of his pet projects was to put his students on a weeklong restricted diet and have them carry an Erlenmeyer flask around all week to collect every drop of urine. The urine was then assayed for its chemical composition. You could always spot the new veterinary students because they had to haul around this large flask.

I remember that I was on a high-purine diet. I had to eat sardines every day for a week. That was the last time I ever ate sardines. In fact, sometimes I have trouble looking at goldfish.

Anyway, when the Erlenmeyer flasks were handed out to the students, Frankee asked the professor, "Doctor, can Phyllis and I have a funnel to go with the flask?"

Scarlet-faced, the teacher excused the women from the experiment.

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