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Getting Clinical with Dr. Thomas Jenei

In veterinary school, education is largely divided into two main areas: classrooms and clinics. Students spend the first two-and-a-half years in the classroom, learning as much as possible about veterinary medicine. During the second half of third year, they put on their white ‘doctor’ coats, and step into the clinic. They then spend the next year-and-a-half learning as much as possible about practicing veterinary medicine.

While learning in the classroom is relatively streamlined—there is a curriculum, weekly lectures and labs, and periodical quizzes and tests—learning in a clinical setting is varied. Students rotate through different hospitals and clinics, entering a new service every three weeks. Every rotation is unique, and each clinical professor has their own way of teaching.

The clinical professor position is dynamic. Most clinical professors teach both during rotation, and in the classroom. They have the opportunity to teach knowledge and skills that they believe are important, then reinforce those competencies in action during clinics.  Assistant Clinical Professor, Dr. Thomas Jenei shared some insight into the goals and methods of a clinical professor, based on his experience in the General Diagnostic and Surgery Service in the Hospital for Large Animals:

“As the rotation director for students rotating through the General Diagnostic and Surgery Service, my primary goal is to provide the best possible clinical learning experience for our senior veterinary students, while trying to model excellence in evidence-based medicine, communication, and teamwork.”

During a typical rotation with Dr. Jenei, students participate in elective soft tissue and emergency surgeries.  These surgeries can range from routine castrations, to complicated surgical oncology cases, and various emergency procedures.  When possible, Dr. Jenei prefers the students get involved in a case from start to completion: participate in the initial evaluation, scrub into the surgery, and provide post-operative care. He explains, “In this way, they experience a cohesive and holistic approach that provides both exposure to and understanding of the individual cases.”

Throughout the day, Dr. Jenei quizzes students about what steps they should be taking, and why.  At the end of the day, students participate in daily ‘case rounds’, where they present and discuss the cases they have worked on.   For him, the question of ‘why’ is particularly important:

“Given sufficient time anyone can memorize the relevant details, but our students need to be able to integrate all of the information into a larger picture with clinical reasoning to make the right decisions.  During surgery, before we start a given step of the procedure, I’ll ask the student what we should do next.  For example, what suture pattern should be used.  If they give a wrong answer (or an answer different from our intended plan) we will explore that while working and lead them to the right answer, while identifying what was wrong with their plan.  Equally, if they give the right answer, I’ll challenge them to support their position.  Again, I’m happy if they know the “right” answer, but I want to know why they think it is correct, and be sure that they understand the rationale behind the decision-making.”

In addition to senior veterinary students, Dr. Jenei also works closely with the surgery residents.  As a former Cummings School resident, he has a unique insight into the program.  The faculty have worked closely together to improve the structure of the residency program, and provide a stronger academic base to complement the clinical training. The new structure now provides dedicated time reserved for case rounds, imaging rounds, board preparation, journal club, and periodic mock exams to prepare residents for the board exam that follows their residency. Since changing the structure of the program, 100% of Large Animal surgery residents have passed their surgery board exams.

As a clinical professor, there is a balance that must be struck between providing and modeling evidence-based medicine as a clinician, and being mindful and engaged as an educator. Dr. Jenei achieves this balance naturally, with a patient, measured demeanor. Rebecca Bishop, V17, a fourth-year student who has worked closely with Dr. Jenei explained:

“As a teacher, Dr. Jenei’s patience and steady demeanor fosters a learning environment even during potentially difficult or stressful situations. As a mentor, he has always been willing to answer questions and give advice at length, even late at night after emergency surgery.”

Dr. Jenei is one of the many talented clinical professors at Cummings School who goes the extra mile for his students. He provides exceptional care for his clients, while fostering an enriching educational experience for his students and residents.  It is because of Dr. Jenei, and clinical professors like him, that our students are able to confidently graduate, ready to jump into clinical work as a DVM, on ‘day one’. For this, we salute him!