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First-year veterinary student Kaitlyn Denroche of Yellowknife, N.W.T. Photo by Christina Weese.

Northern experiences benefited first-year veterinary student

Kaitlyn Denroche is a product of the North, shaped by her experiences growing up in Yellowknife, NWT – a city of about 20,000 residents that offered her access to various animals including dog teams, horses, house pets and city wildlife.

“It gave me a real appreciation for the rhythms and routines of life in a small city and the different cultures of our country, as well as a genuine love of winter [and] the outdoors and an interest in the ways that humans and nature intersect,” says Denroche, a first-year veterinary student at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM).

It’s been months since Denroche received the news, but she’s still savouring that initial thrill of finding out she’d been accepted to the WCVM.

“It’s hard to describe the feeling of blind joy that I got when I saw that ‘Congratulations’ on my computer screen. To hear that I’d finally gotten in after working so hard … I spent the rest of the day on Cloud 9, and I’m still not sure I’ve fully come down.”

A veterinary career wasn’t a clear choice for Denroche until she was 18 and started a summer job at Great Slave Animal Hospital. By the end of that summer she was determined to become a veterinarian. She greatly benefited from the guidance of long-time veterinarian Dr. Tom Pisz, who owns the small animal practice.

“I can’t talk about my interest in veterinary medicine without mentioning Dr. Pisz,” says Denroche. “He taught me a lot about horses and small animals and what it means to be a good vet. He was an invaluable resource regarding small animal practice and small-town practice, and he was endlessly patient with all my questions.”

Denroche also spent nearly 10 years working as a stable hand and instructor at Pisz’s riding facility, North Country Stables. She could work there whenever she was in town, and it was a great opportunity to gain experience handling horses while helping with riding lessons.

Denroche’s post-secondary education includes a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Victoria and a Master of Arts degree at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ont. During her summers, she volunteered at the local SPCA in addition to her stable work. She also spent several months on a cattle ranch in northern Alberta — a chance for her to learn about the challenges faced by cattle producers and gain animal handling experience.

When Denroche reflects on her volunteer and working experiences, she’s grateful that she had those opportunities to learn how to work with people as well as with animals.

“I hope I have learned to be a patient, persevering and curious person, someone who’s always willing to listen and learn something new. I hope that with this knowledge I will be a better, more empathetic veterinarian than I would have been otherwise.”

Denroche began the four-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program at the WCVM in mid-August. She and her 78 classmates received an official welcome to the veterinary college and the profession during a white coat ceremony on Friday, Sept. 21, in Saskatoon, Sask.

After graduation, Denroche is hoping to head back home and put her new skills to use at a practice in the North where “professionals of all stripes are badly needed.”
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