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First-year student to become third-generation vet in family

As far back as he can remember, Austin Jacobson has wanted to be a veterinarian – just like two other key people in his life.

“My dad and grandfather have always been two of the biggest role models in my life, and I’ve always strived to be like them,” says Jacobson, a first-year student at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM). “Through their experiences I gained an understanding of the lifestyle, people and the day-to-day challenges of being a veterinarian, and I realized there is no other profession for me.”

From an early age, Jacobson enjoyed going to work with his dad, Dr. Murray Jacobson Jr. (WCVM ’91), at Ponoka Veterinary Clinic, a busy mixed practice in central Alberta. Another favourite pastime was helping his grandfather, Dr. Murray Jacobson Sr., a 1969 veterinary graduate of Washington State University who operated a purebred Simmental farm and an embryo transplant business in Lethbridge, Alta.

In addition, Jacobson worked on the family farm, a cow-calf operation that also includes dogs, cats and horses. With his dad’s motto being, “You’re not going to learn any younger,” he quickly learned how to check cows, assist with calving and even pull calves on his own once he got older and stronger.

With a veterinary career in mind, Jacobson welcomed those responsibilities and attempted to gain as much experience as he could with all types of animals. He got plenty of hands-on experience by helping out at his dad’s clinic as well as volunteering at other practices.

He particularly enjoyed volunteering at Westlock Veterinary Centre. The mixed animal practice’s team of veterinarians includes two brothers — Drs. Collin (WCVM ’05) and Robert (WCVM ’08) Lawrence. The pair have a positive working relationship – an encouraging example for Jacobson should he decide to eventually join his dad’s practice.

Growing up, Jacobson was active in the Ponoka 4-H Beef Club for many years and enjoyed the chance to raise and work with his own animal – starting with a six-month-old calf and raising it into a trained, show-ready steer.

Sports were always a focal part of Jacobson’s life. He played minor hockey for 15 years and participated in a wide variety of sports throughout high school and university. He plans to continue those activities as much as possible during his time at the WCVM.

“I’ve always found sports were a great way to relieve stress and meet new people,” says Jacobson. He credits 4-H and sports for teaching him about teamwork, communication, leadership and responsibility – all traits that are integral to being a successful veterinarian.

After high school Jacobson’s life changed dramatically when he moved to Kingston, Ont., to complete a Bachelor of Science degree in biology at Queen’s University. Although he found it a tough transition to move from small-town Alberta to a city across the country, he enjoyed being part of a tight-knit community of students with lots of traditions.

“I definitely missed helping out on the farm, spending time and working with all the animals,” Jacobson recalls. “But I never got too upset because when I was home, my dad always made sure that I got in a full year’s worth of chores.”

Jacobson returned to Alberta for his summer breaks and spent several of them working at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Lacombe Research and Development Centre where he worked in the piggery, lab and abattoir. He also gained some hands-on experience in scientific research.

Now that Jacobson is finally at his father’s alma mater, he’s enjoying the chance to become part of the WCVM community.  

His future goals? In five years Jacobson hopes he’ll be a mixed animal practitioner somewhere in rural Alberta – perhaps even working alongside his dad in Ponoka.

“My dad and grandfather have shown me the hard work, long hours and sacrifices the job demands, but I’ve also seen the rewards, successes and feelings of fulfilment that come with making a meaningful contribution to agriculture and the community,” says Jacobson.

“That’s why I’ve always wanted a career in veterinary medicine, and I’m thankful that I’m now closer to fulfilling that dream.” 

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