First-year veterinary student Kierdree Shebaylo of Winnipeg, Man. Supplied photo.

The next chapter begins for vet student

While growing up in Winnipeg, Man., Kierdree Shebaylo was surrounded by a variety of family pets — a circumstance that she credits for inspiring her love of animals.

By Lynne Gunville

While she’d always dreamed of a veterinary career, she looks back on a chance encounter with a loon as the moment she resolved to make that vision come true.

Shebaylo and her family were boating when they came across a loon so badly entangled in fishing line that it couldn’t dive for food or fly away from predators. After a lot of chasing, they were finally able to get the distressed bird into the boat where they untangled him and set him free.

“This was one of the greatest experiences of my life, knowing that I had played a vital role in helping save an animal’s life,” says Shebaylo, who is now a first-year student at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM).

“After my experience with the loon, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to spend the rest of my life helping animals.”

As Shebaylo set out to prepare herself for veterinary school, she began by volunteering at Plessis Veterinary Hospital in Winnipeg. Although she started with only a vague idea of what a veterinary career entailed, she learned a great deal about the profession while helping and observing the staff at the small animal practice as they dealt with cases ranging from routine to fascinating.

Since Shebaylo was a city girl with very little experience with large animals, she also spent a summer volunteering at Central Veterinary Services — a mixed animal clinic that provided plenty of opportunities for her to handle and work with large animals during on-site farm visits as well as clinic appointments.

“My favourite experience was when we went to a dairy farm and repaired a left displaced abomasum (fourth stomach compartment) on a cow,” recalls Shebaylo. “It was the first surgery I had seen involving large animals, and it was very intriguing.”

Shebaylo also volunteered at the Winnipeg Humane Society where she spent over two years caring for the animals, assisting with veterinary care and helping to train new volunteers. Although she had to deal with the tragic cases along with the satisfying ones, she particularly appreciated that she was able to help animals that might not have received treatment otherwise.

In addition to her busy volunteer schedule, Shebaylo completed a Bachelor of Science degree in biology at the University of Winnipeg. She also managed to find spare time for writing fiction, a significant interest for her that has already proven to be successful — one of her plays received top honours in a French theatre competition.

“I am a very creative person, so I have many story ideas running through my head all the time,” explains Shebaylo who is now in the process of writing a fantasy novel that features both magic and technology. “I find it fascinating how the ideas I have will evolve throughout the writing process as I develop the characters and the world in which they live.”

Shebaylo credits her writing and directing experiences for forcing her out of her comfort zone and helping her to express herself and gain confidence — attributes that will be valuable to her as a veterinary student and as a veterinarian.

Now that Shebaylo is a WCVM student, she’s particularly enjoying the clinical skills course where she can learn and practise basic skills. Her favourite experience so far has been her first in-person lab in the college’s Bovine Teaching Unit.

When she considers the possibilities for her future veterinary career, Shebaylo is most interested in working with an animal shelter — the arena that she found most rewarding during her volunteer experiences. She would also welcome the chance to work with the wonderful staff at the Winnipeg Humane Society once again.

For now, Shebaylo is excited to finally be at the WCVM, and she’s looking forward to the next four years — to making connections with her classmates and meeting people who share her love for animals.

“I look forward to learning everything that makes a great veterinarian. I have dreamed about being a vet for so long; anything I can learn about how to succeed in the profession is exciting!”