Dr. Bruce Wobeser, the WCVM recipient of the Provost’s College Award for Outstanding Teaching. Photo: Christina Weese.

Wobeser receives Provost’s award for inspired teaching

The Provost’s College Awards for Outstanding Teaching recognized Dr. Bruce Wobeser for teaching excellence at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM).

By Nykole King

Wobeser, an associate professor in the WCVM’s Department of Veterinary Pathology, teaches a general pathology course for first- and second-year students along with an introduction to diagnostic pathology course for third-year students. In previous years, he has also taught a third-year communication course.

“It’s a great honour,” says Wobeser. “Especially in a year like this where a lot of this [work] is being conducted via Webex …. So, it’s just nice to know that what I’m doing seems to be working for people. I really love [teaching], and it’s nice to know that people seem to be enjoying my teaching as well.”

The annual awards, which were presented during a virtual ceremony on April 30, recognize University of Saskatchewan (USask) instructors in each of the colleges that teach undergraduate students. Recipients of this prestigious award exemplify learning, strive for excellence in teaching, assess fairly and enhance continuously.

Dr. Chris Clark, the college’s associate dean academic, nominated Wobeser for the award. For Clark, it was an easy decision to make based on Wobeser’s contributions as a faculty member and the overwhelming number of positive course reviews from students.

“We have a lot of gifted teachers and it’s really important to celebrate those that go above and beyond and really excel, and I think that Dr. Wobeser is a prime example of that,” says Clark. He adds that Wobeser has been heavily involved in the WCVM’s curriculum renewal committee that is adapting the first year of the college’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program.

“It's great to be able to celebrate him, and I think in many respects, he's representing the college and the work that everybody's done this year [in revising the first-year curriculum],” says Clark. “But I think he's absolutely the most deserving person I could think of to get the award this year.”

Wobeser graduated from the WCVM in 1995 and spent nine years working at small animal practices in Calgary, Alta. and Saskatoon, Sask. He eventually realized that he wanted to return to his alma mater to specialize in veterinary pathology and to follow in the footsteps of his father, Dr. Gary Wobeser, a professor emeritus in the WCVM’s Department of Veterinary Pathology.

Wobeser completed a Master of Veterinary Science (MVetSc) degree and board certification with the American College of Veterinary Pathologists (ACVP) in 2007, followed by a PhD degree in 2011. He joined the WCVM faculty as an assistant professor in 2010 and then became an associate professor in July 2016.

In addition to teaching, Wobeser is a busy researcher with studies targeting equine sarcoids, equine skin diseases, papillomaviruses and oncology. He currently supervises four graduate students and sits on several students’ graduate committees. He also takes on diagnostic pathology duties, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, he has regularly volunteered for necropsy diagnostic duty to assist the team at Prairie Diagnostic Services — the provincial veterinary laboratory based at the WCVM.

During his 11 years of teaching at the WCVM, Wobeser has been nominated for nine teaching honours and has received three awards, including two Carl J. Norden Distinguished Teacher Awards — the college’s highest teaching honour.

“When I left practice, the reason I came back to school here was that I really wanted to teach,” says Wobeser. “It really is my passion. It's the thing that I really love to do, and I guess in some way, students must realize that because … I have been nominated a few times for awards and so it’s nice.”

Wobeser jokes that he has been coming to the WCVM for all 49 years of his life. His appreciation for the college is what motivates him to engage and improve the college through committees that specifically relate to undergraduate teaching.

“My dad was a great teacher. He actually won the [USask] Master Teacher Award — he's won way more awards than I have for teaching,” says Wobeser, reflecting on how his teaching is a passion shared by his family. “My wife's a fabulous teacher. She teaches Grade 3 in Dundurn and you just see the passion that people like that have for teaching.”

As for his teaching philosophy, Wobeser approaches his general veterinary pathology courses by starting with simple concepts and building from there. Each student learns differently, he explains, so he will often draw upon his experiences as a diagnostician or use diagrams to help illustrate fundamental concepts.

“Dr Trisha Dowling, who won the Master Teacher Award, once told me, ‘Love your students, love your subject; make sure your students love your subject.’ And I think that’s exactly what Dr. Wobeser does,” explains Clark. “The students are well aware that he has their best interest at heart, and he’s just so enthused about his subject material. It's infectious.”

Wobeser often holds several exam preparation sessions in order to provide students flexible options to review the course material before exams. He also asks for student feedback so he can improve his courses and ensure that all students are benefiting from his lessons.

“There’s a whole [lot] of people that are just absolutely driven by the desire to serve the students here, and it's inspiring. And then you've got students that are so keen, and they ask you such incredible questions,” says Wobeser. “It's hard not to be inspired.”