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Volunteering with a spay and neuter clinic set Yellowknife student Sasha Ross on her path toward veterinary medicine. Photo by Debra Marshall.

SPCA clinic spurred N.W.T. student's passion

For as long as she can remember, Sasha Ross of Yellowknife, N.W.T., has been preparing herself for a career as a veterinarian. And while she was volunteering at Great Slave Animal Hospital, she was given a chance to focus her love for animals on a cause that was close to home.

When the local veterinarian, Dr. Michelle Tuma, a Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) alumnus, asked Ross to assist at one of the SPCA's community clinics – a component of its community spay, neuter and vaccination program, it was an eye-opening experience for Ross.

"What stood out was how dedicated the N.W.T. SPCA is to the animals," says Ross. "The volunteers work tirelessly to fundraise and provide essential services. They are incredibly passionate about educating people about animal care and welfare."

Ross was impressed with the clinic's impact, particularly with its effect on the children when they were told how their pets could benefit from vaccinations as well as spaying and neutering. She plans to continue volunteering with the program and looks forward to participating as a veterinarian once she completes her degree at the WCVM where she's now a first-year student.

Ross and her 77 classmates received an official welcome to the WCVM and to the veterinary profession on Friday, Sept. 23, during a white coat ceremony in Saskatoon, Sask. The new students, who will graduate from the WCVM's four-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program in 2020, come from communities across Western Canada and the northern territories.

Ross worked hard to gain the education and experience that would help her reach her goal of becoming a veterinarian. While attending university, she volunteered for the British Columbia SPCA as well as for private clinics in B.C. and N.W.T.

Although Ross learned a great deal through her volunteer experiences close to home, she's also grateful for the year she spent as an undergraduate student in Scotland. She expanded her experience with animals by volunteering at Edinburgh's Gorgie City Farm where she helped with feeding goats, sheep, horses, cows and pigs as well as mucking out stables and assisting with daily chores.

Ross now looks back on the year as a character-building experience that increased her confidence and helped her to become self-reliant – characteristics that will help her in the years ahead.

"Veterinary medicine is about more than just helping animals; you also need to be focused and mentally prepared to make smart and frequently difficult decisions in stressful situations."

Right now Ross is focusing on her classes at the WCVM, but she looks forward to working in a private practice after graduation. She's also determined to continue working to improve animal welfare – most likely with her home territory's SPCA.

"I believe their program is critically important, and I want to do my part to make sure it continues. Once I've graduated from the WCVM, I hope to return to the N.W.T. where I feel I can make a difference in the welfare of animals by engaging with the communities and educating people about responsible pet ownership."

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