University of Calgary

Vet med undergrads

Vet med welcomes first undergrads

Students have diversity of backgrounds and goals for the future

By Leanne Niblock

L-R: Dale Atkin, Heather MacQuarrie and Maryam Jajouei are among the first students in the veterinary medicine program.

L-R: Dale Atkin, Heather MacQuarrie and Maryam Jajouei are among the first students in the veterinary medicine program. / Photo by Ken Bendiktsen

In September, the University of Calgary’s new Faculty of Veterinary Medicine launched its undergraduate veterinary program, welcoming 34 students to its inaugural class. All the students are from Alberta, have excellent academic records and come from a variety of backgrounds. The first class will graduate from the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program in 2012.


On Campus asked three of these new students four questions about their studies and hopes for the future.

Dale Atkin

1. Why do you want to be a veterinarian?

One of the key draws of veterinary medicine for me is the lifelong learning aspect, and the continued application of one’s knowledge. In veterinary medicine, there is always something new to learn, and what you learn you have to keep fresh, because you never know in advance what is going to walk through the clinic doors.

2. What are you most looking forward to in the program?

I’m really looking forward to interacting with and learning more about the large animals (cows, horses, etc.). Most of my pre-veterinary experience has been with cats and dogs, with only minimal exposure to other species. I feel like there is a whole sea of knowledge just waiting to be tapped there, and it’s very exciting to be on the edge of it.

3. What kind of career are you looking toward?

I’d very much like to be involved in primary practice, probably in a relatively small community. Primary practice is of particular interest to me because of the unknown. Most of the time, no one has seen these animals before you, and it’s up to you to figure out what is wrong with them, as efficiently and effectively as possible. You also get to interact repeatedly with the same clients, sometimes over many years.

4. What did you say or do when you first found out you had been accepted?

I remember quite vividly the phone call I got from Dr. [Alastair] Cribb. When he told me I was in, it was all I could do to keep from jumping for joy, but I felt I should really keep some measure of decorum while I was on the phone, this was “The Dean” I was talking to, after all, so I wanted to make a good first impression.

Heather MacQuarrie

1. Why do you want to be a veterinarian?

My desire to become a veterinarian is driven by my love for animals, medicine, science and people. There are many facets of veterinary medicine that drove me to become a veterinarian, namely the human-animal bond, public health and zoonotic disease epidemiology. I want to promote animal health and welfare, and protect public health.

2. Why did you choose the UCVM program?

In looking at the different veterinary colleges I could potentially attend, I did not find a school that has as innovative a program as that at UCVM. I could not find a comparative program that incorporates
clinical skills and presentations as well as professional skills from day one.

The hands-on learning I have received thus far has solidified my decision to attend UCVM. In only the second week of school I had already helped to immobilize (tag and radio collar) an elk! I also wanted to be in the pioneer class of such a contemporary method of educating DVM students.

3. What kind of career are you looking toward?

At the present time I am looking toward to a career in mixed animal practice, with an emphasis in emergency medicine and critical care, as well as zoonotic disease epidemiology.

4. What did you say or do when you first found out you had been accepted?

When I got the notification that I was accepted, I was at work and I remember asking one of my co-workers to pinch me to make sure that I was not dreaming. I feel so blessed to be given the opportunity to be one of 34 students chosen to be part of UCVM’s inaugural class; the feeling is pure euphoria.

Maryam Jajouei

1. Why do you want to be a veterinarian?

My ties to nature provoked me to take action for the wellbeing of wildlife. One of the main challenges of biodiversity conservation is to control the transmission of human and domestic animals’ diseases to wildlife. A wildlife veterinarian with a broad knowledge about the diseases common between different species can help in finding practical solutions to protect wildlife.

2. What are you most looking forward to in the program?

I am looking forward to learning about animal handling and clinical skills.

3. What kind of career are you looking toward?

Wildlife/zoo veterinary medicine or mixed practice.

4. What did you say or do when you first found out you had been accepted?

I was watching So You Think You Can Dance on TV around 9 p.m. when Dr. Cribb called my house to let me know I was accepted. I remember I screamed, “Wow, really?” and I do not remember the rest of the conversation because I was up in the sky at the time. When I hung up I started to cry—out of joy.