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Dr. Chris Luby is conducting a wet lab on milking system evaluation at the 2015 June Conference. Photo: Christina Weese.

College centre of lifelong training for vets

While the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) is widely recognized for its role in educating veterinary students, the college has also played a part in ensuring that Western Canada's practicing veterinarians continue to enhance their training throughout their careers.

That responsibility became apparent very early in the college's 50-year history. Soon after the college was created in 1965, requests for continuing education as well as animal health information for the public began to pour in. At first the college's small faculty tried to keep up with the demand, but it soon became evident that WCVM needed someone to manage continuing education and public extension initiatives.

In 1968, Manitoba veterinarian Dr. Ray Butler accepted a joint appointment with the University of Saskatchewan's Department of Extension and the WCVM while completing his master's degree in continuing education (CE). In short order, Butler set up a thriving CE program and worked closely with the provincial and national veterinary medical associations to address the educational needs of western Canadians involved in animal health.

One of Butler's projects was the development of six-week summer courses that tackled topics such as advanced swine medicine, exotic diseases and systemic pathology. After five years of successive courses, practitioners and government personnel could eventually earn a diploma in veterinary medicine through the program.

The WCVM also began to offer short extension courses for livestock producers, industry employees and the public. These included the annual Stock Person's School, assisted reproduction workshops and seminars focusing on equine and cattle health.

As the college's list of alumni grew, WCVM organized its first June Conference in 1979. Based on its success, the continuing education conference became a tradition that took place in Saskatoon every second spring for nearly 25 years.

From 2004 to 2011, the WCVM joined forces with the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association to deliver joint conferences. But when the two organizations decided to strike out on their own in 2012, the WCVM June Conference returned to Canada's continuing veterinary education scene once more.

To mark the WCVM's 50-year anniversary, some of the college's best and brightest veterinary graduates are coming to Saskatoon this spring and sharing their expertise during the 2015 June Conference (June 11-13). For more details, visit www.usask.ca/wcvm/fifty-years.

With files from WCVM: The First Decade and More by Christopher H. Bigland.
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