Dr. Charlotte Williams (DVM), who graduated from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at USask in 1994, was the first black female veterinarian in the province. (Photo: Submitted)

Dr. Charlotte Williams: a passion for pets and people

Growing up in North Battleford, Dr. Charlotte Williams (DVM) always had animals.

By Katie Brickman-Young

Her parents bred springer spaniels for many years and her grandparents had a farm with horses, cows, pigs and chickens, where she and her siblings spent most weekends and summers.

But it wasn’t until Williams attended the University of Saskatchewan (USask) that she knew she wanted to be a veterinarian.

“I was always surrounded by animals and I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but now when I reflect, I enjoyed them, but didn’t think I would be a veterinarian,” said Williams.

What really led Williams to veterinary medicine was the daily exposure to not just animals, but people too.

“I went towards marine biology at first, but when I found out they were mostly doing research and no exposure to people, then I knew that I had to be a veterinarian,” she said. “I like the people aspect because you aren’t just helping the animal, but you are also helping the individual.”

For the past 24 years, Williams has been running her own veterinary clinic, Hooves & Paws in Elrose. Learning how to own and operate her own business was a learning process, one that she finally feels she has a handle on.

“I am the jack of all trades, master of none,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve had good counsel with great peers, friends and mentors on how to get through the ups and downs of private practice.”

Some of those mentors include her USask professors from her time studying at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM).

“Fundamentally, my education shaped me. I had excellent professors that I am still in contact with today. They were a big part of my life and education in every positive way,” said Williams. “My professors took an interest in my success, not just professionally, but personally.”

Williams’ career is marked by many achievements, including serving as president of the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association (SVMA) in 2016. She was the first female black veterinarian in Saskatchewan and the first black SVMA president in its history.

“Serving as SVMA president was a highlight of my career. It was challenging, but very enlightening and gave me perspective that I didn’t have before,” she said. “Some of my other proudest moments includes being a board member of the Saskatchewan Hall of Fame and I am proud that I could be a mom and have my career.”

Williams counts her parents and her husband as the biggest influencers on her life.

“My parents guided me along the way in my decision-making and helped me be where I am today,” she said. “My biggest fan and supporter is my husband. Being a husband of a veterinarian who owns their own practice is not much fun.”

Family values have always been important for Williams. Her lineage includes Mattie and Joseph Mayes, who headed north to help establish Saskatchewan’s first black pioneer settlement back in 1910. February’s Black History Month takes on added significance for Williams, knowing what her great-grandmother—who was born into slavery on a Georgia plantation—did for her family to live and thrive in Canada.

“There was a lot of struggles to have our family settle here. I was raised in a society that did not make me feel different,” she said. “I do understand what brought me here and if it wasn’t for them, I don’t know where I would be today.”

Her faith has also been a key component in her life.

“I have the same faith that my great-grandmother Mattie had when my ancestors faced starvation. It gives me strength to persevere when the path you have chosen has obstacles and some potholes,” she said.

For Williams, she is hopeful she can encourage or inspire other people of colour to become veterinarians.

“I am willing to help and do whatever I can to help those who want a career in this industry,” she said. 

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