I promise to update some older blog posts on medical conditions, and also to post some new cases, and rehab/pain management techniques.
Part of the delay in posting was that over the last year I was focusing on attaining board certification from the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation (ACVSMR).
The ACVSMR is the pinnacle of specialty training, as recognized by the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA). This specialty college is a working group of diplomats in (separately) canine and equine sports medicine and rehab.
Starting in 2014, I began working on my requirements to be eligible to take this exam. This included rotations with mentors in other specialties, as well as a peer-reviewed research project.
With those steps completed, along with letters of recommendation, I had been accepted to sit for the specialty board exam in January of this year. In the fall of 2017 I started working at VOSM. I had been there about 4 months when I took a 10-week break from clinical work to prepare for my exam.
The board exam is given once a year, and consists of 400 questions over two days The first day is 200 questions on general topics, including exercise physiology, anatomy, and rehab concepts. The second day is species specific, so I had to review all the canine literature. There is a list of required reading, including multiple textbooks, and the last 5 years of medical journals on advances in research.
While this sounds like a daunting task, I approached my ten-week study period in short blocks, and worked seven days a week. A few of my colleagues were also taking the exam, so we had online review sessions, and worked together on difficult topics when possible.
Prior to starting the study period, I set up a system of how I wanted to approach the exam, and a daily routine. Having a set structure helped me to keep on track.
I decided that each day I would rise at 6am and walk the dogs. This helped to get my blood flowing a bit, and shake off the cobwebs. Then, I would study for the morning, and take a break around lunchtime. I would let the dogs out, and then take Penny (my pit bull) with me for a 3-mile run. The run helped me to organize my thoughts, and keep me physically active.
Penny and I ran 7 days a week, and it always helped me to clear the overwhelming amount of info that I was forcing into my brain. After the run, came lunch and a shower, and then back to studying until dinnertime.
After dinner, some nights I would return to studying for a few more hours, and other nights I relaxed, depending on how the day went.
Adelaide, my Newfoundland, would lie near my desk when I studied, and I affectionately called her my study prison guard. She kept tabs on my whereabouts in the house, and I appreciated it.
Did the studying go as planned? No, I got the flu and was out of commission for nearly a week in December. That whole time I slept and didn’t study. But I made headway when I felt better, and tried to stay on target.
About a month into studying, I started to go through review questions, and quiz myself. This helped me to understand my strengths, but also my weaknesses.
It was difficult to study during the holidays, but other than a short time off for sickness and a day or so for Thanksgiving and a half-day for Christmas, I kept to the routine. This was difficult, but I only wanted to take this exam once.
The board exam was given in late January, in Colorado. I honestly don’t remember much from that time, other than sitting and seeing question after question. My friends and I got through it, and then the next waiting began.
I flew back from Colorado and went back to work at VOSM in 24 hours.
We would be notified via email sometime 2-6 weeks after the exam of our results. The “ping” of a new email from my phone became Pavlovian, in that I began to sweat and become tachycardic. After two weeks, I muted my phone.
I share my birthday at the end of February, with my vet friend, Katie. I still hadn’t received my board results, and needed to stop pacing and making myself nervous. Before I left for Philly I got the email that I had passed! Being able to celebrate my birthday, Katie’s birthday, and passing boards all together was a great time.
A year later, while I don’t have to take the exam, I work on practice exams for the residents, helping to get them ready for their turn to take it. I am extremely thankful I never have to take it again!
Please check out VSMR.org for more information about the specialty, and leave your comments below.