First-year student Brendan Loewen is from Radville, Sask. Photo by Christina Weese.

Mentorship helps student realize love for veterinary medicine

As a kid growing up in Radville, Sask., Brendan Loewen gained lots of experience with family pets and wildlife, but he didn’t decide to pursue veterinary medicine as a career until he spent a couple of days shadowing Dr. Rebecca Corrigan (WCVM ’03) at Prairie Veterinary Clinic in Saskatoon, Sask.

“During my time with her, I realized that the veterinary profession combined some of my favourite things in life: amazing science, direct contact with animals and a chance to help others – animals and humans,” says Loewen who is now in his first year of classes at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM).

Although Loewen was still in high school when he came to that realization, he knew he had a long road ahead of him. He had to start working harder in school, increase his involvement in animal and veterinary-related experiences and work on developing other skills and abilities.

“I think communication skills are probably one of the most important skills that a veterinarian can possess,” Loewen says. “I took a communication training course through Toastmasters that was extremely important for my personal development and for reaching my goal of attending the WCVM.”

Loewen also began seeking opportunities to gain experience with handling both small and large animals. He got a chance to work with cattle by helping former WCVM graduate student Dr. Chad Paetsch (WCVM ’09) as well as working with Dr. Andrew Acton (WCVM ’92), a board-certified specialist in beef cattle and the owner of Deep South Animal Clinic Ltd.   

Through his work with these veterinarians in the clinic and on field calls, Loewen grew to realize that a veterinarian’s responsibilities aren’t limited to the animals they’re treating.

“I remember a family inviting Dr. Paetsch and me for supper after we’d been at a farm pregnancy checking cattle,” says Loewen. “It really struck me how well respected and important a veterinary can be in a community and drove home for me how much responsibility veterinarians have to the people and animals that live in their community.”

Loewen saw further evidence of that responsibility when he participated in a spay and neuter clinic in La Ronge, Sask. At the invitation of Dr. Karen Sheehan, a clinical associate at the VMC’s Small Animal Clinic, Loewen worked with veterinarians and other volunteers from across the province to provide veterinary services to the northern community.  

“My favourite part of the experience was meeting all the people who were volunteering at the clinic and seeing how much of an impact they were making in a community,” says Loewen who hopes to continue participating in community initiatives such as the clinic.

Having grown up in rural Saskatchewan, Loewen values community involvement and is mindful of the important role that sports teams and clubs play. As an undergraduate student, he was active in the U of S campus community, playing a variety of recreational sports and belonging to campus clubs such as the U of S Pre-Vet Club.

He looks forward to continuing that involvement, including his role as president of the Kameniari (student council) at his Saskatoon residence, the Mohyla Institute. Loewen enjoys these opportunities: he meets people with similar interests and it’s a great break from the everyday grind of student life.

Over this past summer, Loewen had a chance to try one more aspect of veterinary medicine before beginning his studies at the WCVM. He participated in scientific research investigating the relationship between wood frog tadpoles and diving beetle larvae – a chance for him to spend time outdoors while trying something new.

He came away from the experience with an appreciation for all the hard work put into making scientific discoveries that help to guide and formulate the way people understand and apply veterinary medicine.

Once he graduates, Loewen likes the idea of joining a mixed animal private practice. But he’s also open to having his career choice guided by his classes and veterinary experiences over the next four years.

For now, he’s enjoying his early days at the WCVM.

“Everyone I’ve met so far has been amazing with helping me feel welcome in the college and the profession,” says Loewen. “I guess if I put my feelings into one sentence, I’d have to say, ‘There is definitely no place that I would rather be!’” 

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