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New veterinary intern joins CROW staff

March 8, 2017
By MEGHAN McCOY ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

The newest CROW veterinary Intern, Dr. Julia Hill, began her year at CROW on Jan. 1.

While a senior in high school, Hill started working with raptors at a local rehabilitation center in Roswell, Georgia. From that experience, which was her first, she gathered that she enjoyed working with birds and raptors. As an undergrad student she studied biology and worked with a local wildlife rehabilitator, igniting the desire to go to veterinarian school.

"From that I got into the University of Georgia veterinarian school. In school I still wasn't quite sure of what I wanted to do, so I kind of tried to have a broad base of knowledge and did some small animals, and some large and some exotics and wildlife," Hill said. "I learned that my favorite things are birds and specifically wild birds, so I did work in a private practice for about a year before I came here. I practiced on dogs and cats, but also saw some exotic animals and a little bit of wildlife."

Article Photos

Dr. Julia Hill prepares to anesthetize a non-releasable raccoon who was getting spayed and then transferred to an education center.


With the feeling of not receiving as much experience with birds as she desired, she sought an internship at CROW hoping it would increase her clinical skills with avian patients. The student externship, while attending veterinarian school, took place about two years ago for five weeks at CROW.

"I loved it and got a lot out of it. I loved the island and loved everything about it," she said. "I worked with the two veterinarian interns that were here at that time and learned a lot. They kind of let us take on some responsibilities for the cases, so we got to learn a lot about the hands on process and got to do some minor surgical procedures, which was a really great experience for me as a fourth year. Kind of really hands on that I didn't get to do on a lot of other rotations, especially on birds. That was one of my main exotic animal rotations that got me a lot of practical knowledge that I would not have got in another setting."

There were a few cases that stuck out during her five weeks at CROW. Hill said she had the opportunity to do necropsy, or autopsies, on animals after the fact. She said doing the necropsies gave her the chance to become very familiar with the anatomy. By doing the procedure she saw what caused the death, figured out what happened and if there were things that humans caused for it to die.

The most interesting thing Hill saw was a hook that had formed a granuloma in the bird's abdomen that penetrated through the wall of the ventriculus.

"I found that on necropsy. It was interesting to see the impact the hooks have and actually observe it. It was a good learning experience and it taught me a lot about the anatomy of a birds and how they heal from those types of injuries," she said.

She arrived back at CROW a few days before the new year. Hill's work day typically begins between 7 and 8 a.m. to check on all of the patients. She said they round three days a week and go over every case at the hospital.

In the morning, Hill said they usually do vet checks, or surgical procedures, because they start receiving their first round of intakes from vet clinics between noon and 2 p.m.

"Once we get those intakes we turn our attention to those and start to do triages and try to figure out who needs to be seen first. Do we need to stabilize anyone? What kind of procedures do we need to plan for them," she said. "That can take varied amount of times. We may even get a second shipment of intakes later in the afternoon."

By the end of the night, Hill said they go over the list of patients again to make sure they are up-to-date, check the records and make sure they know what will take place the following day.

"We usually get out of the hospital, I say on average 7 to 8," she said. "Then I do charts for another couple of hours."

Hill said it is helpful to stay in the dorms on location because some of the patients need overnight care, as well as some patients may be brought to the hospital overnight.

"It is nice to be close because it's definitely easier to get out of bed at 3 in the morning," she said laughing. "It's really nice to be on site."

Hill has two days off a week providing her the opportunity to explore the island. Her favorite place is Rabbit Road Beach because it is close by and she can bike to the location.

So far, the experience has been great, and a tad bit different in terms of transition from a private practice to a hospital like CROW.

"Not having to work with clients, but working with so many different patients, so many different species and having to learn and know so much knowledge about each one because they are all so different," Hill said. "We are always learning and always trying to gather new information. Ask Dr. Barron for help and just figure out everything we can."

One of her favorite things about interning at CROW is working with staff and the students because of the skilled technicians.

"I enjoy teaching the students. It's just a great community. The volunteers as well. Everyone just tries their best. They are knowledgeable. Everyone has their own niches where they know so much about one thing, so you can really pull from that and use it to your advantage," Hill said. "I think it's a really good community to work in."

Hill hopes to improve her clinical skills with birds because she may go on to get board certified in avian medicine. She is also interested in wildlife conservation medicine, which she does not fully know where it will take her, but Hill knows CROW is a great place to begin.

"It's great to be able to treat these things, but I would rather just prevent them. I may direct my attention more that way to try to find a job where that highlights conservation, or more research based on wildlife," she said.



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