Vet graduate eager to put skills to work

Challenging program | The four year course at the University of Calgary combines academic study with practical field work

Eoin Clancy knew he wanted to be an animal doctor by the age of five.

“I thought being a vet would be the coolest thing ever and I just worked toward that,” he said.

Clancy and 29 others are members of the class of 2012, the first to complete the University of Calgary’s veterinary medicine program.

He planned to join the General Veterinary Hospital in Edmonton May 14, where he will work with small animals in a large practice that offers mentorship, a large case load and surgery.

“It is the equivalent of a family care practice for small animals,” he said.

The school accepted its first students in 2008, combining academic study with practical work in vet clinics throughout the province.

Clancy went as far north as Peace River and as far south as High River. His most challenging work was at the Calgary Zoo.

“I saw things there that I never thought I would see. I got up and close with lions. It was one of the more exciting opportunities that we have at UCVM, the partnership with the Calgary Zoo,” he said.

Born and raised in Calgary, Clancy earned a biochemistry degree from Queen’s University. He applied to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon and the University of Calgary. The addition of a new school opened the door for him be-cause there are only five schools in Canada with limited enrolment.

“Without UCVM, my opportunity to become a veterinarian would have been very limited,” he said.

The program was demanding.

He thought his biochemistry program was competitive, but it was nothing compared to his last four years of study.

“Veterinary school was incredibly challenging. We have put in a huge number of hours,” he said.

He survived and has told new students to be prepared to work hard.

“It is not something you should enter into lightly. You have to make sure you are committed to learning and it is something you really want to do because, you know, it is a huge challenge. And it should be,” he said.

“I would do it again.”

The Calgary program came about following the BSE crisis when the Alberta government recognized a shortage of veterinarians and researchers.

The program developed a one of a kind approach combining academic study with practical work in the field with 50 veterinary practices.

While the emphasis is on large animal care, the 30 graduates have found jobs in urban settings as well as mixed practices in the country. Some are pursuing internships for further study, said dean Alastair Cribb, who was charged with building the program and recruiting faculty.

There has been positive feedback from a supportive Alberta veterinary community that is committed to serving as advisers, mentors and teachers.

The course involved a combination of technical training along with broad background in the classroom and professional skills development that covered business, communication and ethical studies.

“The comments we got was that they were very quick in interacting with the clients and they were able to give them a lot of independence,” Cribb said.

“What we did in the program was absolutely committed to the knowledge of veterinary sciences.”

All 30 students passed the licensing exam in November, but they are not close to filling the demand for more vets.

“In looking at the number of jobs that are still being advertised, it is going to take a number of years to fill that gap,” Cribb said.

“It is not going to happen by putting 30 students in.”

The program now has about 125 students at various stages of study. The goal is to continue building.

“Our focus on the first four years was getting this program running and now we are going to work on refining the program and expanding the research even farther,” said Cribb.

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