On the road ... Iowa to North Carolina

January 2018


Since our last visit, I have wrapped up a few more rotations and done a bit of traveling. I spent two weeks on the Clinical Pathology and Necropsy rotation. We spent the first half of each day evaluating blood smears, serum chemistries and complete blood counts. This is not my strong suit, but I was able to vastly improve my ability to perform and interpret these diagnostic tests. In the afternoon, we performed necropsies on deceased animals in the hopes of identifying the cause of their clinical signs. Altogether, it was a good two weeks, and I certainly didn’t mind being inside when the temperatures started dropping below zero degrees.

My next rotation was an externship in North Carolina, where I visited two vet groups. I traveled with my friend Chris Deegan, a fourth year at Minnesota. He is also interested in swine medicine and we visited the same practices. This helped us save money on travel expenses, as well as make the long drive more bearable. On our way to NC, Chris and I stopped in Nashville for New Year’s Eve, which did not disappoint. We made sure to hit up BBQ joints in St. Louis, Nashville, and Raleigh.

Chris and I spent our first week with Livestock Vet Services in Kinston, NC. This practice works primarily with hogs, and some cattle. LVS is the largest, and likely the only large, independent swine veterinary practice in NC, if not the entire East coast. We spent most of our time with Dr. Randy Jones and Dr. Cary Sexton (no relation), and were able to gain hands-on experience. Pork production in NC was very similar to that in the Midwest, although there were some differences. These differences include farm layout and design, primarily due to the differences in climate; but also differences in geography and government regulations.

We planned the timing of our North Carolina externship to escape the cold weather, but unfortunately it followed us and we experienced over a week of weather that was 35 degrees below normal and included 4 inches of snow. Over the weekend, we went to Raleigh and then Wilmington. We ate some great seafood while we traveled, and tried our hand at in-shore fishing which was fun but not very productive.

The second week we rode along with Dr. Jeremy Pittman with Smithfield Foods. Smithfield is the largest pork producer in the United States, and Dr. Pittman was a phenomenal veterinarian to shadow. It was a great learning experience seeing hog production within a large integrated system. This trip was a terrific way to see how diverse commercial pork production is within the United States, as well as getting to travel to an unfamiliar region. I’ve always believed we need a diverse array of experiences in order to become well-rounded and better veterinarians; so this trip was incredibly beneficial.

If you have a chance to visit veterinarians in different regions or different countries, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity.

Until next time,
Brent Sexton