Veterinary student goes extra mile to help canine patient and owner

Published: May 08, 2017
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Often a doctor's bedside manner is as impactful in a patient's treatment as the medicine prescribed. This proved true with fourth-year veterinary student Karly Hicks, of Niceville, Florida, and her work on a particularly challenging and puzzling case at Auburn University's College of Veterinary Medicine.

Hicks, who will graduate May 9, was recognized in March during the college's Clinical Student Awards program for her outstanding work on the medical case and for going the extra mile. Her compassion not only helped calm an anxious pet and its owner, but her initiative also led to a diagnosis, which resulted in the animal's recovery.

Tiger, a miniature Dachshund, was brought to the Wilford and Kate Bailey Small Animal Teaching Hospital last June by his owner, Patricia Simmons of Columbus, Georgia. Tiger was diagnosed as having a reaction to medication administered during routine healthcare.

"The adverse drug reaction was due to an abnormal response from Tiger's immune system," said Dr. Amelia White, assistant clinical professor of dermatology. "We had never seen this reaction to this particular medication before and Tiger's response was severe, leading to fever, weight loss and extensive skin lesions. It was very abnormal and difficult to diagnose."

White said Simmons was very anxious, but Hicks was on clinical duty that day and helped to calm things down.

"Karly just bonded with Ms. Simmons," White said. "Their bond was so strong that Ms. Simmons wanted to schedule their monthly clinical follow-up appointments only when Karly was going to be there."

"Karly came in and sat in the floor to calm Tiger," Ms. Simmons said. "Sometimes when you meet a person, you just get a feeling that they are a genuinely good person with your and your pet's wellbeing at heart. That is what I felt when I met Karly."

Ultimately, Tiger's condition was diagnosed and a successful treatment program was begun. But that is not the end of the story.

Hicks took a special interest in Ms. Simmons and Tiger's medical case, White said. She began researching and spending extra time studying and reviewing Tiger's case.

"Her going that extra mile helped us to solve the medical puzzle and to develop a program of treatment that is proving successful," White said.

Hicks currently is working with White to co-author a scientific paper on Tiger's case. Additionally, Hicks presented the findings during her Senior Clinical Pathology Conference presentation to the faculty and students of Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine.

"It was a battle in the beginning, and that first day was a hard day for Ms. Simmons and an anxious one for Tiger," Hicks said. "But Tiger is doing very well now."

Hicks started her preceptorship in March working in her hometown of Niceville. The preceptorship is the on-the-job educational and practice program that veterinary students fulfill just before graduating. After graduation, Hicks will enter an internship program in Nashville. Her future plans are to pursue a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine specialty in dermatology.