Thursday, September 2, 2021

My Dog Got Sick After I Changed Her Food.

 My dog got sick after I changed her food. 

It was my first year of veterinary school, and I started her on a diet to try and finally lose the extra weight she'd been carrying for too long. My dog loved food. The first red flag was when she had less appetite. "Well, it's a diet food," I thought. "She probably doesn't like it as much, or it's helping her stay full." 

The second red flag was a loss of energy. My dog was older, 12 at the time. "Well, she's getting up there," I thought. "She isn't going to act like a puppy forever." 

The third red flag was smaller, less frequent stools. Again, this was a new diet for weight loss. "It's higher in fiber," I thought. "That should cause bigger stools, more often, but maybe she's just adjusting." 

Finally, my dog collapsed. It was a brief episode, she was back to herself afterwards, but I was out of reasons. That night, we drove to my old workplace back home and I had her seen. 

Monday, August 30, 2021

An Open Letter On Entering a Profession In Crisis.

     Normally, I like to keep it science-y here. As any long-time readers know, I'm very passionate about evidence-based medicine and accessible science communications. This one is personal. Feel free to turn back now. 

    In less than a year, I'll be a veterinarian, but I am already very much a part of this profession. I have been there in the flurry of CPR on a dog whose name I don't even know-- because he arrived already coding. I have spent day after day with long term ICU patients providing nursing support to get them back with their family. I have worked through strings of 14-16 hour days. I have cried alongside people I barely know in the collective grief of providing a suffering animal permanent relief, a safe and peaceful passage to the rainbow bridge. And I have suffered. 

But I've also played with puppies. I've assisted in the wonders of helping new lives come into this world. I've cuddled kittens. I've danced in the play yard with the boarding dogs. I've laughed. I 've worked alongside so many amazing people. I've loved my patients. I love interacting with pet owners. And I love this field. 

    I love this field so much, I'm currently staring down more than $200,000 in student loans-- and that's with scholarship aid! I love this field so much, the mounting debt and the bad days and the sights of suffering and the long hours and the sleepless nights and the grueling curriculum rarely haunt me. I love this field so much, I am at total peace with the awful debt to income ratio that awaits me, burdened with the knowledge that I and my colleagues will be almost certainly overworked and underpaid.

But today I had an experience that shook me. One that was not the first, and will not be the last, and is not unique to me, but that represents a really dark side to being in this profession:

Some of the people whose pets we treat see us as monsters. 

   

Saturday, August 28, 2021

When is correlation due to causation?

    "Correlation isn't causation," is an accurate statement that is, unfortunately, oft' misemployed when members of the public discuss science or research. Specifically, it is used (incorrectly) to undermine actual instances of causative relationships. "Correlation," refers to an association between two events, scenarios, or factors. "Causation," refers to such things directly impacting one or the other in a cause-and-effect type of relationship. What becomes confusing is that correlations can be due either to a non-causative, indirect relationship (such as a common causative factor, or simply random chance) or to a mechanism of causation. Whenever causation is present, correlation is as well. 

Rather than broadly dismissing actual instances of causation by appealing to the existence of a correlation between two values, one must ask themselves: When is correlation due to causation?