Madison Audeau is a member of the WCVM's Clas of 2023. Photo by Christina Weese.

Let’s talk veterinary medicine

First-year University of Saskatchewan (USask) veterinary student Madison Audeau was completely obsessed with animals when she was a child, and her mother nurtured that passion by letting her have dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, mice, gerbils, fish, frogs and salamanders.

By Lynne Gunville
After growing up in Alberta, Madison Audeau headed to the West Coast. Submitted photo.

“The running joke in our family was that we should charge admission to our house — it was almost a zoo,” says Audeau, who grew up in Whitecourt, Alta. “I delighted in spending all my time caring for all of them, and once I got older I became the neighbourhood dog walker as well.”

Although Audeau had always loved being around animals, she didn’t even consider a career in veterinary medicine after high school. Instead, she completed a two-year diploma in radio broadcasting at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT).

Soon after graduation, Audeau was hired to help launch a new radio station in Nanaimo, B.C. — a move that led her to a new home and a lasting affection for the mountains and the ocean. It would also lead her to a new career.

As a radio host and on-air personality, Audeau organized and hosted radiothons and events for charities, including the B.C. SPCA. She found herself spending more time with the SPCA’s rescue animals and eventually started fostering cats and kittens. As she developed working relationships with a number of veterinarians, she became increasingly interested in their career.

“I had a lot of fun working in radio but couldn’t shake the feeling that I had more to offer the world than making funny quips between songs on air,” says Audeau. “Veterinary medicine offered me a greater purpose for my academic skills, increased job security and the opportunity for lifelong learning.”

Audeau quit her on-air host/producer job and enrolled in university — initially studying at North Island College for two years and then transferring to Vancouver Island University for another two years of a Bachelor of Science degree program. She also set out to get a well-rounded sense of veterinary medicine by volunteering and working in various settings.

Audeau expanded her experience working with pets and companion animals by volunteering at Nanaimo’s Applecross Veterinary Hospital under the tutelage of Drs. Julie Lamb (WCVM ’03) and Tara Westworth (WCVM ’15). She also fostered and co-ordinated adoptions for over 30 cats and kittens, many of them with special needs, at Nanoose Bay CatSpan Society.

Looking to increase her knowledge of aquatic life, Audeau volunteered with the Discovery Passage SeaLife Society, using her skills in broadcasting and promotional design to promote the facility. She also volunteered as an interpreter at the Discovery Passage Aquarium in Campbell River, B.C. — a chance to give tours and teach people about the local marine life.

“It was so fun to see the fascination on a child’s face as they held a starfish for the first time,” says Audeau. “Their generation is going to be largely tasked with preserving marine ecosystems, and it’s so important to foster that love and respect for the creatures we share our coast with.”

Her work at the aquarium helped open the door to a summer position working for scientists at the B.C. Centre for Aquatic Health Science — an opportunity to meet local aquatic veterinarians while working on a research project aimed at mitigating the effects of a parasite of marine fish.

“I went from having zero experience with necropsies to dissecting hundreds of fish over two summers,” she says. “I also learned how to collect blood from a live fish, prepare samples and run diagnostics. I really enjoyed getting hands-on experience, and it gave me an appreciation for how many different career paths are possible within veterinary medicine.”

Audeau began classes at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) in mid-August and is impressed by the breadth of animal experiences she’s already had in the labs where they get hands-on practice working with horses, chickens, dogs and dairy cows.

Although Audeau expects that she’ll return to Vancouver Island after graduation, she’s keeping an open mind about her plans.

“I’ve always loved companion animals and can see myself working at a private small animal practice,” she says. “The relationships we build with our cats and dogs — such different species from ourselves — are so fascinating to me. Pets have always been valuable members of my family, and I look forward to caring for my patients in the same way.”