DVM Student Pursues Her Passion with Elite Equine Experience in the Middle East

Friday, February 21, 2020

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Equine hospital pictured with the Dubai skyline in the background at sunrise
The Dubai Equine Hospital, one the largest private-practice equine hospitals in Dubai, has a selective externship program and accepts only two students from the same country per year.

For Caitlin Smith, a member 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.  Caitlin stayed in Dubai on the hospital’s campus for the entirety of her externship, which ran from November 30 to December 29, 2019.

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.

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 takes one applicant every month from countries all over the globe, and does not take more than two externs from the same country in the same year. The students’ travel and food costs are covered and they are housed in an apartment on the hospital campus. When horses are not in the ICU, each student extern is 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 requires that you are fully invested in being an equine veterinarian, as you work strictly on horses 18 hours a day for 30 days straight.”

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.  

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

“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. “I would recommend this study abroad experience to other equine-track DVM students because 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 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 has 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). After graduating in May, she plans to pursue an equine-based internship at a private practice in Connecticut.

More information on study abroad and externship opportunities is available through the PVM Office of Global Engagement.


Writer(s): Maya Sanaba, PVM Communications Intern | pvmnews@purdue.edu


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