A love for the outdoors led Laura Ferguson to veterinary medicine. Photo by Christina Weese.

Veterinary career natural progression for Manitoba student

Although Laura Ferguson had always enjoyed being around animals, she was looking at a career in human medicine when she had an “aha moment” that changed her focus.

“One day while studying for my MCAT (medical college admissions test) at the community pasture where my boyfriend worked, I realized that I was much happier when I was outside,” Ferguson recalls, who is now in her first year of studies at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM). “I decided that animals make far better patients, and I’d be happier working with the cows and horses than I’d ever be if I was stuck in a hospital all day.”

While growing up on the family acreage near Onanole, Man., Ferguson had spent lots of time around the family’s horses and dogs. She shared her mom’s interest in horses and enjoyed riding, barrel racing and showing horses.

As a member of the Riding Mountain Wranglers 4-H Club for several years, Ferguson participated in annual trail rides and horsemanship clinics as well as public speaking competitions. She values the life skills she learned as a 4-H member and is particularly grateful for the confidence she gained while competing in district and regional public speaking competitions.

As Ferguson progressed through school, she developed a strong interest in science and medicine but was always torn between a career in veterinary medicine and one in human medicine. Even after she’d decided to gear her studies towards human medicine, she managed to keep her options open by taking general science and animal-related courses.

Once Ferguson had her moment of clarity and decided to change her focus to veterinary medicine, she realized that it was a perfect fit for her and her lifestyle.

“Veterinary medicine is much more suited to my personality and the way of life that I want to live,” Ferguson explains. “It would also allow me to practise in a rural area and still perform surgeries that would not be available if I was a physician.”

Ferguson set out to gain as much diverse experience with animals as she could. She’d already gained experience with cattle while working with her boyfriend and his family on their farm, and she continued to help them out with artificial insemination, pregnancy checking and general maintenance of their herd.

Ferguson also travelled to Australia where she worked with sheep on a farm and in a clinic, and she shadowed the specialists at an equine reproduction clinic and an equine veterinary clinic. 

In order to get experience in a clinical setting, Ferguson volunteered at Grand Valley Animal Clinic, a mixed animal clinic in Brandon, Man. She particularly appreciated the help and encouragement she was given by all of the supportive staff who willingly shared their advice and knowledge.

“My volunteer experience at the clinic helped give me an idea of what my future would look like if I were to go into a mixed animal practice,” says Ferguson. “It included dealing with clients, handling emergency situations, fast-paced environments and working as a team.”

In September, Ferguson and her 78 classmates received an official welcome to the WCVM and to the veterinary profession during a white coat ceremony in Saskatoon, Sask. Now that she’s a veterinary student, Ferguson is confident that the profession is the right choice for her. While she enjoys all of her classes, her favourite subject so far has been animal behaviour – an interesting class with fun labs that’s taught by Dr. Stookey, a great professor for an early morning class.  

As Ferguson contemplates her future, she looks forward to becoming a veterinarian and a ranch owner: “I’m interested in pursuing a career as a mixed animal practitioner in a rural area, and I hope to ranch with my boyfriend. I enjoy working with both large and small animals, and I enjoy being outside in the company of animals and helping in their care and maintenance.”

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