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Unusual Summer Experience at Portugal’s Exoclinic

Undergraduate- - By Alya Ahmad '21
Administering anesthesia to a parrot

Hi! My name is Alya and I’m a sophomore who is prospectively majoring in Chemistry.This summer I spent eight weeks working at Exoclinic in Portugal.

The apartment I shared with other Princeton students was in Lisbon – the colorful, dense, and modern   capital. In addition to the warm weather, the sea breezes, and fresh salmon from the supermarket, I enjoyed a really rewarding experience. I hadn’t previously considered veterinary medicine as a career option, or even as a bridge in my premed experience between my first and second years in college, but the immersion in veterinary medicine this summer was fantastic, with all of its C-sections, tumor removal surgeries, and even simple diagnoses and procedures.

View of Lisbon from my apartment

One particular illness that I hadn’t encountered before my work in the clinic was the “floppy rabbit” syndrome – a parasitic infection in the nervous systems of rabbits by Encephalitozoon cuniculi. It’s a very common disease for rabbits in Portugal, but it shocked me the first time I encountered it in the entirely limp rabbit (No bunny names for patient confidentiality!) that was admitted to the hospital

Guinea pig’s annual dental cleaning

section of the clinic. After a couple days of deworming medication, the rabbit began showing signs of recovery, from flinching away from sudden touch to eventually expressing the attitude and confidence he had displayed prior to becoming infected. The experience was heartwarming when procedures were successful, but there was no shortage of patients that had a hard time successfully recovering.

In the surgical center

While I don’t plan on pursuing veterinary medicine, the summer exposed me to a new field that has transferrable applications in other pursuits I might consider, such as medicine or research. There was much to learn and gain from the program and I am so grateful I had such a great opportunity.