Spanish resident Julia Borgens Castela shares her journey to become a specialist in equine internal medicine
September 22, 2023
Residents come to the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center (EMC) from all over the world to continue and expand their training and expertise. One of the EMC’s current residents, Julia Borgens Castela, hails from Spain and was educated at the University of Extremadura, Caceres, Spain.
Residents are veterinary graduates (DVM) who have chosen to pursue advanced training in a specialty, such as equine medicine, surgery, sports medicine, or theriogenology. They typically have completed at least one and often two one-year internships before applying for a residency position.
The EMC, a teaching hospital of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, plays a crucial role in advancing a resident's clinical skills, knowledge, and expertise in the exacting fields of equine internal medicine or surgery. A residency position is typically part of a structured postgraduate training program to produce highly skilled equine veterinarians capable of providing specialized care and contributing to the advancement of equine veterinary medicine through scholarship and discovery.
Borgens' path to becoming an equine veterinarian has been non-conventional.
As a small child, Julia dreamed of becoming a Hollywood actress. She also developed an interest in medicine due to her curious nature and her interest in why and how things happen and work. But, most importantly she loved animals and, at the age of 5 years old, out of nowhere, asked her non-horsey parents if she could learn to ride a horse.
When deciding where to go to college and what to study, Borgens thought that she would enjoy the combination of medicine and animals and decided to go to veterinary school but was not completely convinced that a career in veterinary medicine was in her future. Borgens' father recommended that she find her passion in life, and her passion and curiosity kept her going through each step of the learning process. During her first year, Borgens knew she was on the right path.
After graduating from veterinary college, Borgens decided to pursue internships in different countries to learn various techniques. During several months of travel, Borgens soaked up information, learning as much as she possibly could.
“I discovered that I loved treating sick foals and decided that I was meant to be an internist. I felt great compassion and adrenaline while dealing with critically sick patients.”
-Julia Borgens Castela
During her first internship, Borgens discovered her passion for equine medicine. She was drawn to truly sick patients, the critical cases, and the process of discovery and care necessary to save them.
“My first internship was in the Netherlands where I focused on internal medicine cases,” Borgens said. “I discovered that I loved treating sick foals and decided that I was meant to be an internist. I felt great compassion and adrenaline while dealing with critically sick patients.”
Landing in Maryland for her second internship, Borgens learned about the EMC, and after speaking to other veterinarians from abroad who had gone through internships and residencies at the EMC and had enjoyed their experience, decided to seek an internship at Virginia Tech’s equine hospital in Leesburg, Virginia. She initially accepted a position as a rotating medicine and surgery intern before moving into a medicine residency a year later.
Residents at the EMC work under the guidance and supervision of the EMC’s experienced faculty members who are board-certified specialists in their respective fields of expertise. As part of their training, they engage in intensive learning experiences, including case discussions, didactic learning, journal clubs, and patient rounds. These activities provide residents with a deep understanding of equine health issues, diagnostic techniques, and available treatment options.
Internal medicine residencies are incredibly demanding and Borgens found her first year as a resident tough.
“The elevated level of responsibility was initially challenging, alongside the added pressure that I put on myself to succeed and to study," Borgens said. “Learning diagnostic and therapeutic procedures while dealing with the pressure of a critically ill emergency patient is incredibly difficult.”
Her residency life has eased a little in its second year. “I have a good team around me moving into the second year of my residency and the experience and confidence gained during my first year to draw from,” Borgens said. “It has been hard to find a good work-life balance as there is truly little free time during my residency, but I try to find time to exercise, cook, and take care of myself as well as hang out with friends and travel.”
Veterinary medicine is constantly evolving, and residents must stay up to date by attending conferences, workshops, and continuing education events. Borgens is expected to take the first part of her board certification exams in the spring and the second part in the winter of her third year. When considering Borgens’ undergraduate degree, internship, and residency, she will have completed many years of study to become a board-certified specialist in her chosen field of equine veterinary medicine.
Ultimately, Borgens can see herself returning to her home country of Spain to be near her family and share all the knowledge that she has gained during her travels. When her residency is over, and before returning to Spain, she would love to travel, be a consultant in her field of expertise, and have clients all over the world.
But for now, Borgens intends to continue to learn and experience as much as she can to cement her place and continue to hone her skills and passion in her chosen field of equine internal medicine.