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DVM student Erin Patterson was the first winner of the family support award. Photo by Debra Marshall.

New award recognizes student struggles

This year, students at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) had the chance to apply for a unique award that recognizes the struggles many students face in the process of earning their degree.

Call it the silver lining award.

This year, students at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) had the chance to apply for a unique award that recognizes the struggles many students face in the process of earning their degree.

While other awards identify academic success or financial need, this award is about the unique stories that get people here.

The Family Support Award was created by an anonymous donor close to the college who wanted to support students who faced the familial and financial challenges of relocating to earn their degrees.

This $1,000 scholarship was given out for the first time at this year's WCVM Fall Awards event.

Fourth-year student Erin Patterson was the first ever recipient of the award.

The donor selected her essay, which detailed the difficulties she faced in losing her father and supporting her mother emotionally, all while completing the college's four-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program.

Patterson, who is from Regina, Sask., says she knows many of her classmates face personal challenges that can make it hard to focus on school.

"This is a tough program, and given the regional nature of the college, people are moving and they're leaving behind family and significant others and friends. That is really difficult, so I really appreciate that somebody decided to focus on that," says Patterson.

More than 30 students applied for the award, which indicates to Jennifer Molloy, WCVM's director of development, that there is a true need to recognize the struggles students face to complete the challenging DVM program.

"It was an eye opener," she says.

Molloy says the donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, had someone in their family make a lot of sacrifices to complete their education and decided to help students who might face similar struggles.

At the WCVM, 80 per cent of the student body comes from outside the province.

"Naturally, there are a lot of stories of sacrifice, be that financial or familial," says Molloy.

"It really resonated with students."

Molloy says the donor was overwhelmed with the amount of applications and hopes this example will encourage others to provide similar supports for veterinary students who face difficult circumstances during their program.

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