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Kendra Elliott. Photo credit: Debra Marshall Photography.

4-H comes in handy for Manitoba vet student

Kendra Elliott was about eight years old when she knew she wanted to grow up and be just like the veterinarians who visited her family's cattle farm near Cromer, Man.

"It was likely the combination of growing up on a farm, being in beef 4-H and reading a lot of Animal Ark and James Herriot books," Elliott said.

"I also vividly remember a night when one of my heifers prolapsed while calving. Waiting for the vet to arrive and then seeing the work that she could do made me wish that I could have those skills."

Over the years, Elliott pursued her childhood dream by volunteering at the Virden Animal Hospital and completing an undergraduate degree in biology with a focus on biomedical studies at Brandon University.

During the next four years, Elliott will have the chance to realize her career goal at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) where she's now a first-year student in the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program.

Elliott and her classmates received an official welcome to the college and to the veterinary profession on Sept. 18 during a white coat ceremony in Saskatoon, Sask. Representatives from national and provincial veterinary medical associations handed out personalized white lab coats and stethoscopes to the first-year students.

"This year's white coat ceremony is particularly exciting because members of the Class of 2019 are joining the college exactly 50 years after our first students began their veterinary education in 1965," said WCVM Dean Douglas Freeman.

The new students, who will graduate in 2019, come from communities across Western Canada and the northern territories. The regional veterinary college has produced about 3,000 veterinarians — most of whom live and work in western Canadian communities.

Like many other veterinary students before her, Elliott developed a love of animals through her involvement in 4-H Canada.

"I can't remember not being involved in 4-H. I started showing my own calves as a Pee Wee at age five, but I'd already been tagging along with my two older sisters for years," said Elliott, who just completed her 17th year as a member of the Pipestone 4-H Beef Club.

Elliott has travelled across Canada as Manitoba's representative on the 4-H Youth Advisory Committee, and she also visited Japan and England through 4-H.

In addition to travel, the national organization helped Elliott develop communication skills through public speaking competitions and opportunities to meet all ages of people from different backgrounds.

Elliott is keeping her options open for the future, but she acknowledges that a position in a rural mixed practice would make a good fit.

"I like the client interaction that rural vets can have, and I like the variety that a mixed practice offers," said Elliott. "It's a huge position of trust and responsibility, but it's also extremely rewarding."

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