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Rachel (back left) and Hannah (back right) watch as JoJo, a parrot from the Saskatoon Parrot Rescue, receives acupuncture in the Rehab centre. Photo by Dr. Andy Allen

Kirkness program promotes learning

Watching a parrot receive acupuncture, learning about equine artificial insemination and visiting with a pot-bellied pig were highlights of Rachel Hageman and Hannah Dumont's week-long visit to the University of Saskatchewan's Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM).

The Grade 11 students participated in the Verna J. Kirkness Science and Engineering Education program that's offered to First Nations, Métis and Inuit high school students across the country. The program connects Indigenous teens with researchers in various fields and sends them to a Canadian university campus for a week of interactive, hands-on experiences. The program's aim is to close the gap between Indigenous students and mentors in the sciences.

In mid-May, 72 students from across Canada participated in the program. Ten of the students travelled to the U of S and stayed in dorms on campus for the week. Depending on their interests, students spent time at the WCVM, the Canadian Light Source, or in the university's colleges of engineering, kinesiology and arts and science.

Hageman and Dumont are from islands off the west coast of British Columbia and both have their sights set on studying veterinary medicine.

They spent a busy week under the supervision of Dr. Andrew Allen, a professor of anatomic pathology at the WCVM. The students sat in on a consultation with a canine patient in the WCVM's Veterinary Medical Centre, went on a farm call with field service veterinarians and watched spay-neuter procedures in the hospital's small animal surgical ward.

Before her visit, Dumont wasn't sure how she would react to seeing injured animals in pain. Once she saw how everyone at the college was doing their best to help their patients, she was no longer worried.

"I saw how everyone was trying their best to help it [the dog], and it made me feel way better," says Dumont.

Similarly, Hageman felt unsure about the amount of responsibility that was placed on individual students to diagnose difficult illnesses. After her week at the WCVM, she appreciated the amount of collaboration between students, staff and faculty.

"It was reassuring to know that there are all those people that can help when you're not sure," explains Hageman

Both young women enjoyed the experience and they look forward to the chance of returning to the WCVM as full-time veterinary students.

Caitlin Taylor of Saskatoon, Sask., was the Saskatchewanderer for two years and photo editor at The Sheaf on the University of Saskatchewan campus for 2015-2016. She is the 2016 summer research communications intern at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM).
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