Garrett Oetelaar is the recent winner of the Evelyn Margaret Manfield scholarship. Photo by Debra Marshall.

Hard work reaps rewards for WCVM student

Garrett Oetelaar didn't always want to become a veterinarian – but once he got started, his passion for the field put him at the top of his class.

While many veterinary medicine students dream of becoming a veterinarian from elementary school onwards, Oetelaar thought his academic path would lead to the laboratory.

But after a year spent working in research, he decided to make a career change.

That's when the University of Calgary zoology graduate realized veterinary medicine was an ideal fit, combining his interests in anatomy and the animal world with his fascination for physiology and medicine.

"The natural coalescence of those [interests] was veterinary medicine," he says. He decided to apply and was accepted to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) in 2012.

As the recent winner of the Evelyn Margaret Manfield Scholarship, Oetelaar's talent for academics has paid off.

The scholarship – given to the top student in their third year of studies – covers his tuition and student fees for his fourth year of veterinary school. This year, the scholarship's value is more than $9,400.

Oetelaar credits his success to the "very academic mindset" he's carried since junior high school.

"My folks … don't have a lot of money and they said, ‘We'll do our best to support you through your education, but most of it's going to have to come from you,'" says Oetelaar.

He's devoted himself to his studies throughout his post-secondary career at the WCVM. Oetelaar also received the Mary Ellen Tait Scholarship following his first and second years of veterinary school, which paid tuition and fees for the following years.

"I know it sounds cliché, but I truly owe nearly everything I have accomplished to the love and support of my family," he says.

While he's a conscientious student, he says he didn't pay much attention to grades after his first year at the WCVM.

"I figured they'd tell me if I'd done something wrong," he says. "I wanted to do my best and that was enough for me. I didn't want to stress myself with the grades and competition that goes along with that."

Oetelaar is thankful for the scholarship, which demonstrates the long-lasting impact of a bequest. Manfield, who died in 1992, donated half her estate to the WCVM to create scholarships and bursaries for students.

"It's a very generous scholarship, and I'm very grateful for it," he says. "It's been extremely helpful."

As he moves through his fourth-year clinical rotations, Oetelaar has already had the chance to experience a few different areas of veterinary medicine.

He's a reptile enthusiast and has already considered branching into exotic animal medicine as well as surgery. He's thinking of doing a clinical internship after graduation, and one day, he hopes to end up back in the classroom — this time as a teacher.

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