March 2, 2021
UCalgary alumna named Alberta’s Young Veterinarian of the Year
It may not have come to her in a flash — more like a few sparks — but over the course of vet school, Jessica Law realized she wanted to be a pig veterinarian and researcher.
“Essentially, I ended up in swine practice by a lot of happy accidents,” says Law, who graduated from UCalgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM) in 2015.
Through an introduction by a first-year mentor, Law got involved in a summer research project with a swine veterinarian on pain medication for pigs. Then, in third year, a pig research project came up with Dr. Markus Czub, DVM, PhD, a professor of virology and emerging infectious diseases at UCVM, and Law was one of the students who headed up the project.
A trip to Mexico and a job offer
“When the project was done, Dr. Czub wanted somebody to go present it at an international pig veterinary congress so I volunteered. It wasn't hard to volunteer, I got to go to Mexico,” she says with a laugh.
“Our proposal was accepted for an oral presentation, which, now that I have applied for a lot of other conferences, was pretty amazing for a veterinary student to present at this international conference. I went there and I met several swine practitioners. And from that conference, which was totally Dr. Czub’s intention, I received a job offer.”
That job offer was from Dr. Egan Brockhoff, who owns Prairie Swine Health Services in Red Deer.
Recognition for outstanding community involvement
Fast forward a few years, and Law is a successful practitioner at Prairie Swine. She also serves as president of both the Western Canadian Association of Swine Veterinarians and the Canadian Association of Swine Veterinarians. Her exceptional clinical work and community involvement have been recognized with the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association’s Young Veterinarian of the Year award.
Brockhoff helped with the nomination of Law for the award. “Jessica is an exceptional leader and a tenacious advocate for the animal, the population, and evidence-based medicine,” he says. “She is highly driven to bring value to the farms that we work with and the people that make up the pork sector. I love her passion and drive. Nominating her for this award made sense on so many levels.”
Law credits Brockhoff and her colleagues for much of her success. “The biggest thing is the mentorship that Egan brought to the table when I first started and the team that we have at Prairie Swine. Those have a hundred per cent contributed to me being able to take time out of my daily practice to contribute to the community,” says Law.
“And having Egan be there every day for the last five years. I don't think I would be able to sustain a practice like this without the foundation he developed with our clinic.”
Taking on the role of mentor and swine veterinarian recruiter
Law is paying that support forward, mentoring UCVM students and encouraging them as they begin their careers.
“It’s been a lot of fun working with students from UCVM,” says Law, “trying to convince them to work with pigs and then seeing where we can possibly fit them into our practice and join our team.”
So far, she and Brockhoff have a pretty good recruitment track record, successfully convincing Drs. Kelsey Gray, Teryn Girard, and Hollyn Maloney, all UCVM alumni, to join the practice.
Law also teaches vet med students as a sessional instructor in swine reproduction and welfare at UCVM, as well as giving professional skills lectures on research in veterinary practice.
“I absolutely love teaching, so being able to come back to the school that I was taught at is really fun. There are more graduates in swine now from UCVM, and it's been nice to be a bit of a promotional poster and to see the students that are graduating.”