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First-year veterinary student Matt Woodman of Calgary, Alta. Photo by Christina Weese.

‘Veterinary immersion’ helped prepare Alberta student for career

Matt Woodman of Calgary, Alta., was volunteering on a friend’s farm during calving season when he had an unforgettable experience.

“One of the calves wasn’t getting up, and the prognosis was not good. But with enough repetition, I was able to get her to stand, walk and drink from her mother,” says Woodman, a first-year veterinary student at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM).

“Starting with a calf that couldn’t stand, watching my efforts develop her co-ordination and then finishing with a full functioning cow-calf pair — I won’t forget that memory.”

That was one of the many experiences that Woodman had as he worked toward his goal of becoming a veterinarian. To help expand his knowledge of large animals, he volunteered with several large animal clinics in the Calgary area.

“I immersed myself in as many areas of veterinary medicine as I could,” Woodman recalls. “I was a sponge everywhere I went and had the mindset that I was going to do whatever it took. I networked with everyone I met and through the connections I made, I gained as much experience as possible along the way.”

In school, Woodman’s life revolved around athletics. He played rugby at Mount Royal University and coached high school rugby and football. A huge fan of team sports, Woodman credits them with shaping his character and providing him with skills such as resilience and determination. As a coach, he enhanced his communication skills and learned to approach each athlete differently while encouraging them to work together as a team. 

In addition to sports, Woodman is an avid hunter and fly fisherman. He developed a passion for the outdoors and for spending time in the Alberta wilderness, and he particularly enjoys the mental and physical challenges of exploring Alberta’s back country. With the goal of creating a community of like-minded people who participate in conservation and share a respect for the land and for wildlife, Woodman and a close friend started a company called 7R Outdoors.

“The experiences I’ve had in the wild are both humbling and empowering,” says Woodman. “We want to inspire others to experience the freedom of our natural world through our films, photography and stories.”

Woodman also spent three summers working at Energy Equine, a practice that specializes in high performance sports medicine. While he describes himself as “pretty green” when it came to large animals, the staff were always patient and took the time to teach him.

He particularly appreciated the help he received from Dr. Chad Hewlett, the clinic’s owner: “He motivated and coached me toward my goal. Dr. Hewlett and his team have been a huge part of my successful journey to WCVM.”

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

After graduation, Woodman hopes to end up working with large animals — right now horses and cattle are the most intriguing to him because of the culture that goes along with them.

“I hope to be working in a large animal practice with a smile on my face, learning something new about myself and veterinary medicine every day,” says Woodman. “I want to be a leader in the community I work in and a crucial liaison between people and their animals.”
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