First-year veterinary student Sam Nixon of Ste. Anne, Man. Photo: Christina Weese.
First-year veterinary student Sam Nixon of Ste. Anne, Man. Photo: Christina Weese.

Pigs and performing in perfect harmony for Manitoba student

Samantha Nixon of Ste. Anne, Man., had wrapped up two years of undergraduate studies at the University of Manitoba when she decided to switch to a Bachelor of Science (Agriculture) — Animal Systems degree program and pursue a future in veterinary medicine.

By Lynne Gunville

“Switching to the Faculty of Agriculture was the best decision I ever could have made,” says Nixon, now a first-year veterinary student at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM). “I felt inspired and motivated to learn. I discovered that school is so much more rewarding when you are studying something you are passionate about.”

A year later Nixon discovered another passion when she took a summer job as a swine health and research student at HyLife, a Manitoba-based company that produces and exports pork products.

As she worked with the veterinary team and learned more about the different fields of veterinary medicine involved in food production, Nixon fell in love with the swine industry and the prospect of becoming a swine veterinarian.  

She particularly appreciated the support and encouragement of her mentors, WCVM graduate Dr. Melissa Desrochers (DVM’15) and Dr. Karine Talbot. In Talbot’s role as Hylife’s director of animal health, she even created a position for Nixon that would fit around her school schedule.

That position expanded over the next four years, especially after Nixon completed her undergraduate degree in 2021. As Nixon continued her work with the veterinary team and took on more responsibilities, she particularly enjoyed the chance to lead HyLife’s necropsy training project.

“I had the opportunity to travel to different farms across Manitoba and Saskatchewan to teach staff and production managers how to perform an on-farm post-mortem [examination] and what to take note of and take pictures of to help the veterinary team identify patterns to reduce mortality,” says Nixon.

Besides her work at HyLife, Nixon volunteered at the Winnipeg Animal Emergency Hospital where she had a chance to work with a variety of animal species while learning to cope with emergency situations.

During her leisure time, she continued her involvement with Esprit de Choeur, a celebrated women’s choir based in Winnipeg. A 10-year member of the group, Nixon has performed with them in Canada as well as in Iceland where she was a featured soloist during their tour of the country.

“The thing I enjoy most about my involvement with the choir is getting to perform with high-calibre musicians and getting to explore new and challenging repertoire,” says Nixon. “We get to perform interesting and diverse contemporary music, with a focus on Canadian repertoire with multiple commissioned works.”

In addition to her membership in the choir, Nixon was a music leader at her church, and she participated in mission trips to the Middle East and to Cambodia where her group partnered with Steps of Justice and Children at Risk.

While those experiences opened Nixon’s eyes to diversity and socioeconomic differences, they also taught her to show compassion and listen without judgment — skills that will serve her well as a veterinary student and as a veterinarian.

Over the next four years, Nixon looks forward to diversifying and increasing her knowledge as she learns from the WCVM’s faculty and staff as well as her classmates. She hopes to continue her involvement with Esprit de Choeur by participating in virtual rehearsals, and she aspires to re-join the group full time if her career takes her back to the Winnipeg area after graduation.

Nixon anticipates a future that involves working with swine and living in a rural Manitoba community.

“I envision myself pursuing a career in large animal medicine with a focus on the swine industry,” says Nixon. “I am also fascinated by diagnostics and pathology. I adore working with pigs and hope to do more in the future.”