Class of 2020 Spotlight: DVM Student Pursued Her Passion with Elite Equine Experience in the Middle East

Monday, June 15, 2020

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Equine hospital pictured with the Dubai skyline in the background at sunrise
The Dubai Equine Hospital, one of the largest private-practice equine hospitals in Dubai, hosted a selective externship program that accepted no more than two students from the same country each year.
Caitlin sits atop a horse with the desert scape in the background and a clear blue sky
Caitlin took some time out of her busy externship schedule to go riding at the Mleiha Archaeological Centre.

For Dr. Caitlin Smith, a graduate of the DVM Class of 2020, the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap took her across the globe to Dubai, where she became the first Purdue veterinary student to participate in the highly selective Dubai Equine Hospital Externship Program. Completed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Caitlin stayed in Dubai on the hospital’s campus for the entirety of her externship, which ran from November 30 to December 29, 2019.

The Dubai Equine Hospital is one the largest private-practice equine hospitals in Dubai and is located less than two miles from the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. There are usually anywhere from 20 to 50 horses at the hospital at a time. The externship program took one applicant every month from countries all over the globe, and did not take more than two externs from the same country in the same year. The students’ travel and food costs were covered and they were housed in an apartment on the hospital campus. When horses were not in the ICU, each student extern was responsible for conducting all treatments from six in the morning until midnight.

Caitlin loved the flexible schedule she had, which enabled her to make the most of the many educational opportunities the externship afforded. “When I wasn’t doing treatments, I was able to make my own schedule. I could scrub into surgeries, do appointments, look at the radiographs, and talk to the other doctors,” said Caitlin. “This program required that you were fully invested in being an equine veterinarian, as you worked strictly on horses 18 hours a day for 30 days straight.”

Caitlin stands along the track as a horse and its jockey ride alongside their team in the background
Dr. Caitlin Smith, of the DVM Class of 2020, was able to visit the Meydan Grandstand in Dubai, the largest racecourse in the world.

Many of the horses that come through the hospital are high quality racehorses or endurance horses, as Dubai has a large horse racing industry. Caitlin was able to visit and work behind the scenes at the largest racecourse on the planet, the mile-long Meydan Grandstand in Dubai. The Meydan Racecourse is home to an almost six-month long racing season, as well as the Dubai World Cup, which is the world’s richest race day at $35 million.

“I hope to eventually work on equines at world-class shows, so it was great to get a taste of that through this externship program,” reflected Caitlin. “It gave me global exposure to the horse racing industry and allowed me to build a lasting network of equine veterinary professionals.”

“Something interesting that I learned while at the Dubai Equine Hospital was that there are so many ways to achieve the same result through different approaches,” said Caitlin. “This is why I believe it is important for all DVM students to study abroad at some point; it provides you with a different perspective.”

Caitlin is from South Bend, Ind., and while at Purdue Veterinary Medicine, she participated in the Equine Club (AAEP), served on the college’s wellness committee, and served as an officer for the International Veterinary Student Association (IVSA). Following graduation, Caitlin planned to begin an internship at Fairfield Equine Associates in Connecticut working with performance and sport horses.

Writer(s): Maya Sanaba, PVM Communications Intern |

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