How I Became a Veterinarian - Part 1

I think there are some unique paths towards veterinary school. For those of you outside of the profession, and outside of Canada, there are currently five veterinary schools in Canada. These schools have provincial restrictions, meaning, if you reside in one province, you can only apply to one school.


Things changed in 2008 when the University of Calgary opened their program. In the first few years (though I am not sure now) those students who lived in Alberta, were able to apply to BOTH the University of Calgary AND the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. I was born and raised in British Columbia, which at the time of my first application cycle, gave me fifteen (1-5) seats to apply to. So in 2008, I changed provinces and established residency in Alberta - this gave me 50 seats to apply to. (At the time WCVM took in 20 students from the Alberta pool and Calgary was estimated at 30 seats).


Going back in time, I graduated from Simon Fraser University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, ecology and evolution stream, and a minor in Psychology in 2005, which was the year I first applied to vet school. I didn't have any guidance going through university. My parents were fairly hands-off when it came to helping me through college then university. They separated between my year in college and when I started at Simon Fraser, which is also when I moved out on my own (with a friend) at the age of 20.


Out of high school, I recall on the day of my college course registration, lining up to register for classes, with no idea of what classes I was going to take. I was whisked away to a counselor who planned my first semester for me. Five courses, all three sciences, including labs, and math, and I cannot recall what else, maybe English, all I remember was that I was ill-prepared and very overwhelmed during my first semester in college. So set the stage for my college and university days for the next five years. I was working part-time and going to school full time. Needless to say, my straight A honor roll grades of high school diminished. At the time, I just wanted to pass. When I went on to Simon Fraser, I leaned into biological psychology courses, and all the animal courses that I could take.


After graduating, I applied for a job at the Greater Vancouver Zoo. I didn't get the job, but I got a job as a laboratory assistant in an environmental chemistry lab preparing water samples for trace metals testing. It was actually a fun change from the office job I had as a junior accountant, despite the almost half pay-cut that I took. Later on in 2005, I reapplied to the GV Zoo and got a job as a relief animal keeper.


Also after graduating, because I still really didn't know what I was going to do with my life, I started adding in volunteer work. I volunteered for the GV Zoo's veterinarian, the Wildlife Rescue Association and as a content editor for the BC Naturalist (even publishing a book review). If you can recall from my note, I wanted to be veterinarian in grade six, but was afraid of euthanasia. We had a veterinarian stop by in my sixth grade, and there was mention of injecting dogs with drugs or toxins and then trying to figure out the problem before the dogs passed away. In grade six, I would have been 10 years old, and I am pretty sure at that age I was even less mature than today's 10-year-olds, and definitely was steered away by this veterinarian's experience. That being said, my 24-year-old self was a little bit more mature and could handle incidents in a more logical way. I learnt through my experience at WRA the reasons behind euthanasia, and why it was a good option for some animals. This sparked my interest in veterinary medicine again.


So, in 2005, I sent in my first application. I wasn't at the bottom of the barrel, but I was also nowhere near the top either. I took a few courses in 2006, in hopes that I could improve my ranking, and it didn't.


In 2008, I moved on...

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