UW Health Clinicians Pair with Veterinarians in Anesthesiology Elective

UW Health Anesthesiology resident Nyle Larson, right, discusses induction of anesthesia in an equine patient with members of the UW Veterinary Care clinical team during a weeklong elective in the hospital.

Carrie Schroeder, section head of Anesthesiology at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine, wants clinicians in both human and veterinary medicine to know they hold a lot more in common than they might think. An elective at the SVM for physician residents of UW Health helps make that possible.

The program, coordinated and formalized by Schroeder, allows human medicine anesthesiology residents to spend a week at UW Veterinary Care to gain a new perspective in a different line of practice. The exchange happens around eight times a year, but Schroeder expects further expansion.

As the program has developed, so have opportunities for SVM trainees. UW Veterinary Care residents are now invited to UW Health Anesthesiology rounds (presentations of a clinical issue). Coordinators are also exploring opportunities for veterinary residents to rotate through the human hospital, as well as potential research partnerships.

During the week they visit UW Veterinary Care, each UW Health resident has flexibility on what types of cases they observe and study. Nyle Larson, a recent resident participant, had the opportunity to learn from patients ranging in size from a small snake to a 1,600-pound horse.

“I think the horse anesthetic was the most intense induction I saw while at the vet school and the most physically demanding that I’ve ever seen — humans or animals,” he says.

“From a recruitment standpoint, it’s been huge. I think we’re the only program in the country that offers an experience like this. … A lot of students are drawn to us because of their interest in getting that experience.”

Larson learned of the elective from program alumni, who praised it, and he wants to continue the tradition of recommending it to potential UW Health residents. He noted the rotation as a unique feature when interviewing for residencies four years ago.

Christopher Darling, associate professor and residency program director in the UW Health Department of Anesthesiology, confirms these sentiments. “From a recruitment standpoint, it’s been huge,” he says. “I think we’re the only program in the country that offers an experience like this. It’s one of the big things we’re asked about on recruitment days. A lot of students are drawn to us because of their interest in getting that experience.”

For Schroeder, the opportunity to facilitate and guide the program toward success has been rewarding. “Our jobs are very similar in veterinary and human medicine,” she says. “The elective provides low-stakes learning for visiting residents. They can learn for the sake of learning and appreciate what they do for anesthesia, how we do it a bit differently, and how the art of anesthesia is similar just with different species.”

Ultimately, the pairing encompasses the “one health” idea: optimal health outcomes are achieved when people work together and recognize the interconnectedness of humans, animals, and the shared environment.

“It was eye-opening to see how the physiology of animals compared to humans,” Larson says. “Also surprising was that a lot of the medicines we use are identical to medicine veterinarians use, even down to the doses.”

Alisyn Amant

This article appears in the summer 2022 issue of On Call magazine.

« Back to News