Students are a cut above in UNL Veterinary anatomy class
There may be more than one way to skin a cat, but when it comes to goats, in one University of Nebraska-Lincoln classroom, the method really matters.
"There's a right way to skin a goat and a wrong way to skin a goat," said John Kammermann, smiling, as he begins teaching the second semester of Veterinary Anatomy, a required course for students in UNL's Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine.
Anatomy involves knives--very sharp knives--for dissection, and a lot of learning. Boots, coveralls and long plastic gloves are the attire. A tolerance for the smell of embalming fluid is a plus.
It is one of the most difficult, perhaps even the most difficult, of the classes students take in their first year of veterinary studies.
"Anatomy has an extreme amount of detail," Kammermann said. "And I have high expectations for these students. They don't have anatomy again, and they really need this information." He has written his own dissection guide, which students put to good use.
Advanced imaging such as CT scans and ultrasound have made learning anatomy even more critical because veterinarians need to be able to interpret the images, he said.
Students are expected to know the structure, function and composition of the bodies of domestic carnivores and swine. They also are expected to have a working knowledge of veterinary anatomical nomenclature.
Kammermann lectures when he needs to, but anatomy is a hands-on class in which students gain "walk-around knowledge." Most of the teaching occurs in the lab during dissection.
The class focuses on small animals such as dogs and cats in the fall and larger animals such as cows, sheep and goats second semester. "A cow is essentially a big dog, at least from the standpoint of anatomy," Kammermann said.
"The fall semester is so critical for them (students) for buy in for this class," he said. "If the students master the material in the fall semester, it really pays off in the second semester."
Veterinarians must have good time management and organizational skills, be able to put concepts together and be able to work hard and efficiently, he said.
"Successful veterinarians are really motivated and have a curiosity and interest about why things are and how things work," Kammermann added. Students with those traits probably will do well in this class and in the veterinary program as a whole.
"It's my favorite class because we do hands-on things. He (Kammermann) is one of our best instructors and one of the toughest. He pushes us to learn," said student Amanda Van Pelt of Mitchell, who wants to specialize in equine veterinary medicine. "Ever since I was a kid, I loved animals. I always knew that this is what I wanted to do."
Fellow student Jeremi Wurtz of Valley wants to work with cattle. "Cattle have always been a passion of mine," he said. "This probably is the best class in terms of building knowledge. It's the most hands-on and applicable class that we are taking."
Kammermann's goal is to make Van Pelt, Wurtz and the other students the best entry-level veterinarians they can be.
"We feel we have an advantage over some other schools. We have a more positive instructor-to-student ratio. The students have better access to faculty and get more individual attention," he said.
The UNL veterinary medicine program is a partnership with Iowa State University. Nebraska students receive their first two years of veterinary education at UNL and complete their doctor of veterinary medicine at Iowa State.
"It is truly a privilege to work here. We have excellent students who also are excellent people and people of high character. I know they're all going to be successful," Kammermann said.