Veterinary student works with a feline patient during a remote clinic
Amanda Charpentier of Sooke, B.C., a fourth-year veterinary student at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, examines a feline patient during a northern remote clinic in La Ronge, Sask. Photo: Brandon White.

B.C. continues expanded support of WCVM and student seats at USask

The Government of British Columbia is permanently doubling the number of subsidized seats for B.C. veterinary students attending the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) at the University of Saskatchewan (USask).

By WCVM Today

The number of provincially subsidized seats in the college’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program will increase from 20 to 40 with the support of an initial investment of $21.8 million over three years.

The province of B.C. first increased its investment to the WCVM for the 2022/23 academic year, which included support of the additional seats for B.C. students in the veterinary program.

“Veterinarians play a critical role in supporting the agricultural sector, people, and the health and welfare of animals across B.C.,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills. “Last year, we doubled the number of B.C. students funded to study veterinary medicine and today we are committing to continue this funding so more people receive quality training, and our pets and farm animals can get the health care they need.”

“The services and care vets provide B.C. farmers supports our province’s food security and results in British Columbians enjoying the benefits of a healthy and stable farming community,” said Pam Alexis, Minister of Agriculture and Food. “It’s clear we need more veterinarians in our communities, so our pets and livestock receive the attention they need, when they need it, and our government continues to take action on both recruitment and training to make that happen.”

The Government of B.C.’s decision to maintain increased funding of the WCVM is a critical step toward addressing the shortage of veterinary professionals in B.C. and across Western Canada, said WCVM Dean Dr. Gillian Muir (DVM, PhD).

“This commitment also allows B.C. and the WCVM to work together to target priorities for British Columbians, including training more veterinarians who want to practice in rural communities and attracting more Indigenous students to the profession.”

(L to R): Pam Alexis, B.C. Minister of Agriculture; Werner Stump, rancher and vice-president, B.C. Cattlemen's Association; B.C. veterinarian Dr. Adrian Walton; Selina Robinson, B.C. Minister for Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills; Andrew Mercier, B.C. Minister of State for Workforce Development; and Blair Schurmann, owner of Schurstar Dairy in Abbotsford, B.C. Photo: Government of B.C.

A dramatic uptick in pet ownership during the COVID-19 pandemic and several other factors have led to an urgent shortage of veterinary professionals, not only in Western Canada but across North America. B.C.’s increased investment means that all 88 of the WCVM’s annual seats—the college’s maximum capacity for its DVM program—will be supported by all three of its partner provinces.

In September 2022, the Governments of Saskatchewan and Manitoba announced increased funding for the WCVM, enabling each province to boost its student seat quota by five. Saskatchewan now has 25 seats in the college’s first-year class while Manitoba has 20 students. One seat is annually allocated to a student from Canada’s northern territories, while two seats are designated for Indigenous applicants.

The WCVM’s Interprovincial Agreement with the three provinces helps to ensure that Western Canada has a steady supply of veterinarians with in-depth knowledge of animal health and public health, as well as an awareness of the standards and issues facing livestock, fowl and fisheries producers, and pet owners.

Click here to read the Government of B.C. news release.