Five University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine students traveled to Georgia earlier this spring to compete in the Student American Veterinary Medical Association (SAVMA) Palpation Competition, an annual event held in conjunction with the AVMA Symposium.
Of 14 teams, the MU CVM team finished second in both the didactic examination and laboratory portions of the competition and ended in fourth place overall after the actual palpation contest.
“This is the third year that our school has fielded a team and this year’s group performed particularly well, especially given that they competed against third- and fourth-year students from other schools,” said Dawna Voelkl, DVM, DACT, assistant teaching professor, who serves as the team’s mentor. “This is a completely voluntary activity for our students and they devote evenings and weekends to learning material in advance of when they would normally in our curriculum and to practicing bovine palpation and ultrasonography.”
CVM students attended a series of lectures and labs outside of the regular veterinary curriculum and then took an exam to compete for one of five spots on the team. The students who represented the CVM at this year’s contest were Rachael Bonacker, VM-2, Emma Knickmeyer, VM-3, Jody Sherman, VM-2, Katie Williams, VM-1, and Jacob Wilshusen, VM-2.
Wilshusen said he was interested in competing for a spot on the team and willing to spend the extra hours preparing for the contest as a way to hone the skills he will need to succeed as a bovine practitioner.
“This experience has helped to reaffirm my goal to work with cattle as much as possible after graduation, and it has made me want to focus more on assisted reproductive practices and offering them to my clients,” Wilshusen said.
Bonacker agreed that the hands-on skills she acquired are invaluable.
“To practice for the palpation part of the competition, we would travel out to Foremost Dairy and spend a few hours every couple of weeks palpating pregnant and open cows,” she said. “The most valuable aspect of this experience was having the opportunity to spend more time on a subject of veterinary medicine that I am particularly interested in. It is a part of our curriculum, but the palpation team allowed us to dive deeper into the subject and learn even more.”
Sherman developed a passion for theriogenology during her undergraduate years studying animal science at Mizzou. She said the contest allowed her to explore a subject that interests her and practice palpation skills.
“Dr. Voelkl lectured every month about a wide variety of reproductive topics – pathology, technologies, anatomy, improvements, etc. I joined the team my first year of veterinary school and it was by far the best decision I have made in my vet school career,” she said.
Knickmeyer, who is pursuing a master’s degree in animal science in addition to a DVM, added that the team also studied the estrous cycle, pregnancy diagnosis, estrus synchronization, management, diseases and performing soundness examinations.
“I would say this whole experience solidified my career goals rather than changed them,” Knickmeyer said. “I am more confident about my decision to pursue bovine medicine.”
Sherman said the team’s preparations for the competition were also helped by Associate Extension Professor Scott Poock, DVM, DABVP, Assistant Teaching Professor Brian Shoemake, DVM, MS, DACVIM, and Teaching Professor Dietrich Volkmann, BVSc, MMedVet, DACT, who volunteered their time to provide palpation practice sessions and fetotomy labs to the students.