Senior DVM Student Gains Valuable Equine Experience Abroad

Friday, April 29, 2022

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Katelyn stands against a stone wall with the town in the background
Katelyn Rehn, of the DVM Class of 2022, visits Baden bei Wien, a small town just outside of Vienna, during her study abroad trip to Austria.

Katelyn Rehn is one of several senior Purdue DVM students who leaped at the opportunity to study abroad after a year when such opportunities were shut down by the pandemic. Katelyn grew up in New Palestine, Indiana, where she fell in love with everything that allowed her to interact with animals – especially horseback riding, which she had the opportunity to participate in throughout her childhood at a ranch in Colorado. Although Katelyn’s dreams are bright and clear today, she didn’t know she wanted to be a veterinarian until the latter part of high school; she grew up wanting to be a professional artist. “My lifelong love of animals and the realization that I really liked science and problem-solving led me to major in animal sciences at Purdue with the plan of going to vet school,” she said.

After an amazing learning experience pursuing her animal sciences degree, it was a no-brainer for Katelyn to continue her education at Purdue. She already had decided to attend her top in-state school, but the Purdue DVM program interview day sealed the deal as the College of Veterinary Medicine drew Katelyn in with its sense of community, the quality of the curriculum, and specifically the prevalent opportunities for studying abroad. When deciding where to pursue her international studies, Katelyn was drawn to the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (VetMedUni) in Austria by their Traineeship for Artificial Insemination and Embryo Transfer program. Although she does not plan to work with horses in her professional career, Katelyn holds a strong interest in equine reproduction, and this program provided the perfect opportunity to gain experience in this area. And in a twist of fate, this trip made up for a previously scheduled visit to Austria in 2020 that was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Upon returning home, Katelyn reflected on the highlights of her experiences across the globe. “I think the best part of my experience overall was seeing how veterinary medicine is practiced in another country, as well as the people and horses I was able to work with,” she says. One of her favorite patients was a Lipizzaner foal with tendon laxity that Katelyn and the team were able to dramatically improve during her stay. “She was born at the breeding stud of the famous Spanish Riding School in Vienna, where I was able to see the Lipizzaner stallions perform, so it was really cool to work with the mare and foal at the hospital,” Katelyn says. She also worked with a foal that was born via emergency c-section due to uterine torsion in her mare, named Seven Up. The foal became very sick and weak with aspiration pneumonia shortly after birth, so it was extremely rewarding for Katelyn and the team to observe her improve to the point of regaining health and running around the pasture like a normal foal. She was deemed fully recovered and able to return home on the last day of Katelyn’s stay.

Katelynn stands smiling with a river, colorful buildings, and mountains in the background
Katelyn in Innsbruck, a mountain town in southern Austria famous for its architecture.

One of the most important lessons Katelyn learned from studying abroad is one we can all take to heart, no matter our age or occupation – to slow down. “In general, Austrians have a much more relaxed lifestyle than we do in the U.S., and that translates to their work, as well,” Katelyn says. She goes on to stress the importance of this lifestyle as it relates to working in veterinary medicine, acknowledging that a practitioner can miss a lot during a case if the focus is purely on efficiency and not on truly understanding the patient and what they need. “I know I would not have succeeded in vet school without intentionally making time to live normal life with my family and friends, even at the cost of giving up something school-related, like studying more for an exam,” Katelyn says. “I have never regretted taking the time to go to a dinner, wedding, or birthday celebration, but I have regretted missing important things because I felt like I had to study harder.”

Katelyn is excited to begin her career as a small animal general practitioner, with an interest in soft tissue surgery, emergency, and diagnostic imaging. “In the next few years, I hope to obtain an ultrasound certification and become involved in organized veterinary medicine, as I am passionate about advocating for veterinary students and the profession overall,” she said. Katelyn recommends studying abroad to everyone at PVM as a fun way to challenge yourself, push past your comfort zone, and learn valuable lessons that will remain relevant throughout your professional career and lifetime. Or, put another way, be a valuable small step toward the next giant leap. 

Writer(s): Madeline Brod, PVM Communications Intern |

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