Emily Schaefer has recently moved into her dream position as a clinical assistant professor of equine emergency and critical care after becoming board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care (ACVECC). 

Schaefer has always thrived in high-adrenaline situations and as a young child thought that she would pursue a career as a jockey. But, after committing to a career in equine veterinary medicine, she found her true calling.  

Pursuing formal training in emergency and critical care became the ultimate goal for Schaefer and in 2019 she began the process to identify a college offering a fellowship program that would be willing to let her participate on a part-time basis. This would allow her to continue to work at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center (EMC) -- a Leesburg, Virginia-based teaching hospital of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine -- while also studying for the ACVECC board-certification. 

The Ohio State University was willing to accommodate Schaefer and stood out to her as a well-established and proven program, with which she was already very familiar after completing an internship there. 

Starting the program had to coincide with her completing her American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) requirements to make her eligible to enter a ACVECC fellowship program. The fellowship would be a three-year part-time commitment as opposed to the normal two-year full-time program. Schaefer would split her time equally between Ohio State and the EMC. 

Schaefer was fully supported by Ohio State and the EMC faculty and staff. She was able to complete the program in the three-year timeframe. “It was clear what I wanted to do, and this was a specific step to reaching my goal” said Schaefer “It was enjoyable but extremely challenging.”  

What Schaefer didn’t take into account was the toll that travel back and forth would take, including booking her accommodations and the time commitment away from home.  The program was enjoyable but also extremely difficult and challenging from an educational standpoint. Schaefer was expecting the long hours and the clinical aspect to be challenging and certainly has no regrets.

Veterinary professional reviewing an x-ray.
Emily Schaefer, clinical assistant professor of equine emergency and critical care at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, VA. Photo taken by Sharon Peart for Virginia Tech.

The ACVECC exam process is stringent -- eight to nine hours on two consecutive days. Schaefer, having completed a residency program and certification process, found that this exam was different, but in a good way.  Five different sections - which could be individually passed or failed – tested rote memory, comprehension, and physical skill over the two-day exam.  

Schaefer took the exam at Ohio State and described it as fair but challenging and unique. 

“You really had to be familiar with the material as the exam focused on really important and specific facets of emergency and critical care for large animals and also physiology and drug medications,” said Schaefer. 

Funding for travel and accommodation was covered by generous sponsorship from EMC Advisory Council Vice Chair Shelley Duke and her husband Phil, who have supported the center’s strategic goals for many years. “I am extremely grateful for the Duke’s financial support” said Schaefer. “They share my drive and passion to provide outstanding clinical care to our equine patients.”

Working as a team with Sarah Dukti, clinical assistant professor of equine emergency and critical care, has been a shift from her previous work life. Although they have regular remote meetings, they rarely see each other in person. But Dukti and Schaefer complement each other as two veterinarians with different board-certifications, providing a unique learning experience for interns and residents working alongside them.  

Moving the critical care portion of the workload to a dedicated team has allowed the remainder of the EMC clinical team to focus on their primary caseload, while still allowing them to participate – in a much-reduced way – on emergency cases. This opens up opportunities for research and teaching while protecting off-clinic time, which is important for their work-life balance. Schaefer has appreciated the collaboration and support she has received from EMC colleagues.

Schaefer said she loves her new position and loves working at the EMC. Her office window has views of the center’s grounds, which are particularly stunning in the spring and fall, and the indoor-outdoor nature of her work appeals to her.  Her unique schedule, working at night and during weekends, that her position requires would not be for everyone, but she really enjoys it.  

After a long, hard battle Schaefer is relieved that the exam is behind her and now feels truly content. It is a huge relief for her to be exactly where she wants to be in her career.

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


Andrew Mann
Director of Communications and Marketing