Giving back is vet student's goal

Manraj Sidhu of Mackenzie, B.C., has spent a large part of his life helping others, and that background was a key factor in his decision to pursue a veterinary career.

“Whatever career path I pursue, I hope to contribute back to the profession in some way,” says Sidhu, who began his first year of classes at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) in August. “I’ve always imagined myself as a veterinarian that treats animals while learning more about animal health to help expand the knowledge of the veterinary field.”

Sidhu’s history of making a difference stems from a diverse range of life and volunteer experiences that began when he was a teenage patient at the B.C. Children’s Hospital.

“My social worker at the hospital thought I was a ‘mature’ patient and asked me to speak with another particularly reserved patient in the oncology ward,” recalls Sidhu. “I ended up being an unofficial volunteer for the hospital for over seven years.

Sidhu also became a spokesperson for The Sunshine Kids Foundation. He travelled extensively in the United States and Canada, speaking with teens and their families and promoting the charity which sponsors trips for children with cancer.

After being named the British Columbia Difference Maker of the Year in 2011, Sidhu travelled with Rick Hansen to promote the Rick Hansen Foundation. He continued to do speaking and video projects for the foundation over the next two years.

Sidhu recalls being taken aback by the generosity of others as well as the optimism of the people he met, even in dark circumstances. Although he no longer volunteers as often as before, he still helps out whenever he’s asked to do so.

“I learn a lot from the experiences of others. Even though there are many hard times encountered while working with these organizations, it’s incredibly satisfying to improve the lives of others.”

Sidhu was already in his third year of an undergraduate degree at the University of British Columbia (UBC) when he decided to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. He began preparing himself by observing veterinarians in different settings that included a small animal clinic, a research lab and the Vancouver Aquarium.

When he realized he needed experience with aggressive dogs, he took a job at a canine training centre that specializes in aggression and anxiety. A year and a few dog bites later, he was confident and relaxed with dogs – and he thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  

Sidhu had a keen interest in infectious diseases and acquired significant research experience through an undergrad co-op job at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. He spent three years working in the company of elite scientists as he honed his research and lab skills and presented his work at various conferences.

Sidhu was also influenced by Dr. Ravi Singh, a family friend and small animal veterinarian who allowed him to observe a variety of procedures and animal diseases and provided support and advice over the years.

Sidhu is optimistic that his background and work experiences will contribute to his success as a student and as a clinician.

“I hope my life and volunteer experiences will enable me to better deal with the stresses of vet school and life as a veterinarian. I hope I can empathize well with my clients, and I hope that all my research experience will stick with me.”

Although Sidhu has no definite plan for the future, he aspires to make a difference – to contribute back to the profession in some way, either through lab-related research or disease monitoring at a local clinic.

“Hopefully, in five years I will be treating animals and monitoring infectious diseases at the same time. I hope to see myself with a DVM – and petting a dog.” 

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