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First-year veterinary student Celine Ward. Photo: Debra Marshall.

Manitoba student nets veterinary goal

Celine Ward of Winnipeg, Man., is no stranger to goals. As a talented and skilled hockey player for many years, she learned the importance not only of scoring goals but also of setting them to achieve success.

"Since I was a kid, I've played hockey as a forward," said Ward. "Seeing opportunities, setting goals and going for those goals is what helped me to succeed in hockey and, in turn, my academic career."

It's that winning attitude that led to Ward's acceptance into the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) at the University of Saskatchewan.

She's now one of 79 first-year students who began the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program in mid-August at the WCVM.

Ward and her classmates received an official welcome to the WCVM on Friday, September 27, during a white coat ceremony in Saskatoon, Sask. All first-year students received personalized white lab coats and stethoscopes from representatives of national and provincial veterinary medical associations during the evening ceremony.

The new students, who will graduate in 2017, come from communities across Western Canada and the northern territories.

Although Ward didn't have much involvement with animals when she was young, she always thought that she would be a veterinarian someday.

"I don't know that it was ever a conscious decision that I made," Ward explained. "I guess my initial interest came from a love for animals and a curiosity toward science and medicine. When I was a kid, becoming a vet was simply ‘what I want to be when I grow up.'"

While Ward's career goal was always in the back of her mind, she spent her high school and university years focused on hockey as well as on her classes.

In addition to her role as centre-forward and captain of the Manitoba Blizzard hockey team for four years, Ward coached hockey while she completed three and a half years of an agriculture degree program at the University of Manitoba.

"I love being involved in any type of team setting, and I've especially always been comfortable in leadership roles," said Ward. "Prioritizing my time between my undergrad and playing for the Manitoba Junior Women's Hockey League took some practice at first, but eventually I got the hang of it."

Ward's enjoyment of team sports also led to her involvement in bandy, another winter sport played on ice, and she was a member of Team Canada when they became the 2011 North American Bandy Champions.

Although she was busy with sports, Ward spent time volunteering at a veterinary clinic in Winnipeg as well as with the Winnipeg SPCA. And in January 2013, she seized an opportunity to do volunteer veterinary work in India.

"I felt I needed to regroup and do something different," recalled Ward. "Going to India was the perfect way to balance my love for adventure and travel with forwarding my education. I was lucky to see a totally different side of vet medicine that included extreme cultural differences, poverty and very minimal resources."

During her time in India, Ward witnessed cases of foot and mouth disease, distemper virus and rabies. She also gained hands-on experience working in a variety of settings that included government dispensaries and private clinics.

Now that she's achieved her goal of getting into veterinary school, Ward is excited about the four years ahead. She's enjoying her classes, particularly animal production and anatomy, and she's also eager to become involved with student organizations and teams.

"I've already joined four clubs and five intramural teams – I definitely plan to continue with hockey in vet school at the intramural level," said Ward.

For now her future is undecided, but wherever she ends up, Ward hopes to combine her veterinary career with continued involvement in hockey – a winning combination for her.

"I hope to get back into coaching in a few years once I've graduated, and I look forward to being involved in my community. I'm passionate about working with both people and animals."

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