Fourth-year veterinary student Becky Gilday. Photo: Myrna MacDonald.

WCVM student makes vital links at NAVC

As the North American Veterinary Conference (NAVC) OnCampus® representative at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, I had the pleasure of spending a week in Orlando, Fla., from January 18-23 for the international event.

Florida is well known for its warm climate, and it's no wonder that the temperature difference between Saskatoon and Orlando reached as much as 60 degrees Celsius at times. While I might have returned a shade darker, I brought much more back with me — a wealth of new information and a network of great friends and mentors.

NAVC is definitely one of the most impressive productions of the veterinary profession in North America. Each year, nearly 15,000 people — veterinarians, technicians, students and practice managers — attend the conference to take in hours of continuing education lectures on topics ranging from practice management and communications to small animal medicine and equine surgery.

Specialists spoke on almost every species from common domestic animals to the less conventional goats and ferrets. A giant trade fair showcases some of the newest products available to veterinary practice.

While the days were filled with lectures, the benefits of attending NAVC as a student representative weren't solely academic. One of the most memorable events was meeting most of the other 35 student representatives from across the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. The result is that I have made some amazing new friends from across the continent who will become great connections as I continue on my career path.

We also had the opportunity to meet with staff and board members of the NAVC at a number of lunch and evening receptions. Everyone was keen to learn how they might improve the NAVC's student programs — everything from the clinical case challenges to guest lectures — and valued the input from all students.

Since a wide range of universities and private practices were represented by the speakers and board members of the NAVC, there were plenty of chances to network for externship, internship, residency and employment opportunities. I personally attended several lectures by an equine surgeon with whom I hope to arrange a short externship during my final year at the WCVM.

The WCVM, like many other veterinary schools, considers the NAVC OnCampus® student representative position as an award based on leadership activities and an interest in continuing education. NAVC's generosity had a significant impact on my experience at the conference. In addition to paying for my flight, hotel and registration fees, the NAVC provided me with a substantial cash award, per diem compensation and most of my meals. Even more impressive was the fact that the NAVC staff and board members were so interested in getting to know each of the student representatives.

My NAVC experience was over all too soon. However, the friendships that I made in Orlando will last for the duration of my career. I have visited, toured and chatted with students from a diverse range of veterinary schools. It's absolutely fascinating that everyone's veterinary school experiences are at once the same and profoundly varied — owing to the fact that each program is structured differently.

I reunited with friends that I had met at previous conferences, met people with connections to other friends that I have made through veterinary medicine and visited with veterinarians and students who call the same places home as I do. It's amazing that I can now visit places from New York to California and have friends there to share the experience.

My experience at the NAVC was certainly worth the early morning and late night flights, the missed lectures and the make-up exams. It was an incredible and busy week in Orlando that I will not forget for a long time.

Becky Gilday of Carvel, Alta., is a third-year veterinary student at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine.
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