The Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center (EMC) has a robust outpatient and emergency caseload with specialist faculty and staff, providing an excellent environment for students to learn about equine veterinary medicine and surgery.  

Students can observe diverse and challenging clinical cases and learn what it is like to work in a busy equine outpatient and emergency hospital setting.

“The compassion shown to clients, level of care provided to the patient, and attention to detail while continuing to instruct students was astonishing,” said Paul Rusak, VMCVM Class of 2025, about his time at EMC. “Whether it was holding hands with clients in prayer after saying goodbye to their best friend, or receiving emergencies during a rain-soaked lightning storm, the staff at the EMC work with safety, wellness, and accommodation at the forefront of their treatment plans.” 

Person petting a horses face during an examination.
Julia Utting, DVM Class of 2024. Photo by Sharon Peart for Virginia Tech.

Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine (VMCVM) students visit the EMC in the third and fourth year of veterinary school. The EMC treats all types of equids from backyard ponies to show jumpers and eventers, donkeys and mules, along with the odd zebra, zorse or zonkey -- a horse or donkey mare crossed with a zebra stallion. 

Students learn how to triage surgical and medical emergencies and are introduced to specialized procedures and diagnostics that are available in a referral hospital setting. Students also learn how to perform common technical procedures, observe outpatient examinations and procedures and participate in intensive care of critically ill patients.  

The transition from an academic setting to a busy equine-centric practice can be a stunning transition for some veterinary students.  “Coming out of my second year of veterinary college and being sent to do a rotation at a prestigious equine hospital was nothing short of extremely intimidating,” said Rusak.

“We want our students to enter the field of veterinary medicine ready to handle not only clinical tasks but with appropriate interpersonal skills as well”


-Krista Estell

One key area covered by EMC faculty with each student is when and how to make an informed decision to refer a patient to a specialist hospital. Triaging an equine patient can be daunting and there are so many variables -- such as the client's financial capacity -- that need to be carefully considered.  

Good client communication is also an area of focus.  

“Taking a comprehensive history of each patient and truly listening to your client is an important part of our work as veterinary specialists.” said Krista Estell, clinical associate professor of equine medicine at the EMC. “We want our students to enter the field of veterinary medicine ready to handle not only clinical tasks but with appropriate interpersonal skills as well”

“It was an incredible experience to watch how swiftly the clinicians implemented both tried and tested methods and cutting-edge treatments and techniques,” Rusak said. 

The student learning experience at the EMC is not just about clinical responsibilities. During the third week of their visit, students are required to present a 15-minute case study as an oral presentation. The presentation should clearly demonstrate the knowledge and thought process gained to fully manage a patient in a hospital setting from beginning to end. Faculty evaluate the presentation and provide constructive criticism.

Written by Sharon Peart for the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.


Andrew Mann
Director of Communications and Marketing