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Dr. Zöe Ross is an owner of Dawson Creek Veterinary Clinic, staffed by WCVM alumni. Submitted photo.

Northern B.C. clinic home for WCVM graduates

The Dawson Creek Veterinary Clinic is a busy mixed animal practice in British Columbia’s northeast Peace River region, just across the provincial boundary from Alberta.

It’s staffed entirely with graduates from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM). That includes the husband-wife team that owns the clinic, Drs. Mike and Zöe Ross, who graduated from the regional veterinary college in 2000 and 2003.

Zöe Ross says it hasn’t always been that way. They have had graduates from various colleges working at the clinic, as well as veterinary students from Europe, U.S. and Canada.

Ross appreciates the ability of WCVM graduates to get along well with clients. She says WCVM grads also tend to be well-rounded, practical and independent with “a decent skill set.”

“That practical skill set is really, really critical” in a place like Dawson Creek, Ross explains. The northern B.C. community is a six-hour drive to Edmonton where the closest veterinary referral centre is located.

Given the wide range of cases that come through the clinic, it’s important to have veterinarians who learn quickly and can deal with cases that they haven’t seen before by doing their own research, Ross says.

Ross’s positive experience with WCVM graduates reflects the results from the WCVM’s most recent employer survey. Since 2014, overall employer satisfaction with graduate performance has been rising — especially in food animal medicine, food safety and small animal surgery. 

Areas that need improvement include equine surgery, food animal production and dentistry.

In the college’s most recent employer survey, more than a third of respondents expect to hire one new veterinarian in the next two years. Three-quarters of respondents believe it’s difficult to hire qualified veterinarians because of their clinic’s geographic location.

But Ross says recruitment at her clinic hasn’t been difficult. The Dawson Creek practice tends to attract a lot of veterinary graduates who want to experience a mixed animal clinic because they haven’t yet decided whether they prefer small animal, large animal, bovine or equine practice. Clinics like hers that cover such a broad scope of cases are also becoming fewer to find.

Dr. Christa Harder is one of the WCVM graduates who stayed in Dawson Creek. She arrived in 2009 after graduation and started as a mixed animal veterinarian at the Rosses’ practice. But she soon developed a strong interest in cattle and horses “and is very successful at it,” Ross relates.

“Clients really like her, she’s got great communication skills and is really down to earth and practical. Clients like that.”

Harder has settled in Dawson Creek, buying a ranch in the area where she raises cattle.

If Ross could suggest any changes in the WCVM veterinary program, she recommends that the college increase the practical opportunities for students since she’s seeing more recent WCVM graduates with less hands-on experience than in the past.

She also emphasizes the importance of giving veterinary graduates the ability to know what resources are available and how to get help with cases they’ve never dealt with before or make them feel a little overwhelmed.

Other employers agree with Ross’s observation: about one-third of respondents believe that the WCVM needs to provide its graduates with more practical experience to improve performance.  

Ross says she still encounters new situations 14 years after her own entry into veterinary practice.

Meanwhile, Ross is still looking to hire more veterinarians — small animal practitioners in particular — to help expand that aspect of her family’s practice.

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