First-year veterinary student Heather Waddell of Shoal Lake, Man.

Vet student joins parents’ alma mater

Heather Waddell was working at the Shoal Lake Veterinary Clinic when she learned she’d been accepted to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM).

“I was working at the front desk of the clinic when I opened my email and saw ‘Congratulations!’” recalls Waddell. “The phone rang before I could tell anyone, so the farmer on the other end got a very enthusiastic answer to his question on vaccines.”

It’s a fitting tale for someone who has spent many hours at the mixed rural practice operated by her veterinarian parents, Drs. Bruce and Janice Waddell (WCVM ’85).

“When I was very young, it was a fun place to be,” recalls Waddell, who began first-year classes at her parents’ alma mater in August 2017. “I spent most of my time in the kennel room with the animals, chasing clinic cats around the halls and colouring in mom and dad’s office. As I got older and became more interested in the science aspects, I just absolutely loved being at the clinic and hearing about the cases.”

Waddell was still in elementary school when she decided that veterinary medicine was the career for her, and by the time she was 12 years old, she viewed the clinic as a place where she could learn about her chosen vocation.

“I began coming in to clean after school, but it wasn’t just my workplace. I became a student there, and I tried to learn as much as possible from every employee.”

Waddell also spent lots of time with the animals on her family’s beef cattle farm. She was always involved in feeding, grooming and looking after the family’s menagerie of cats, dogs, horses, birds and cattle. 

She also began seeking volunteer experiences that would prepare her for a veterinary career. She particularly enjoyed her time with Dr. Sharon Pydee (WCVM ’07), a clinician at the East St. Paul Animal Hospital in Winnipeg, Man. Shadowing and assisting Pydee provided Waddell with the chance to observe new technology while experiencing the operations of a small animal practice in an urban centre.

Despite her focus on a veterinary career, Waddell found time to pursue other interests. She spent 11 years studying and performing in Highland dance – an excellent workout and a chance to express her love for the Scottish culture. She also played softball for several years and still enjoys any opportunity to play catch and swing a bat.

Now that Waddell is at the WCVM, she’ll have the opportunity to build on all of those past experiences.

“Both softball and dance taught me how to work as a team, and how to encourage your peers,” says Waddell. “Dance was also an excellent tool for improving memory and co-ordination – those will both be helpful as I continue through the WCVM program.”

What’s in Waddell’s future? She talks about operating a private mixed animal clinic in a rural area – very much like the one that she played in as a child. She also hopes to follow in her parents’ footsteps when it comes to operating a business and juggling a career and her personal life.

“My parents have shown me as much about professionalism and management as they have veterinary medicine,” Waddell explains. “They’ve also demonstrated how to create a healthy work-life balance as they have somehow run a successful business, raised five well-adjusted children and maintained a loving marriage.”
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