Volume 12, Number 2 September 10, 2004

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Alberta to keep spots at WCVM despite plan for new college

By Colleen MacPherson

The recent announcement that Alberta will set up its own veterinary medicine program may have taken the dean of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) here by surprise, but it is not all bad news.

WCVM Dean Charles Rhodes
WCVM Dean Charles Rhodes

Charles Rhodes said he and Steven Franklin, vice-president research, made a presentation in Edmonton Aug. 23 to Alberta’s standing policy committees on agriculture and learning and employment in an effort to convince that province of the value of the WCVM. Rhodes said they pointed out to government officials the “historical record of performance” by WCVM undergraduate and graduates, and the widely recognized research being done in Saskatoon, particularly in the areas of animal health and animal production. He also reiterated a previous offer to increase to 30 the number of spots reserved annually at the WCVM for Alberta students.

Other presentations were also made by the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association and the Universities of Calgary and Alberta. “I thought it was a good meeting and I expected more discussion”, leaving Rhodes “very surprised” that just three days later, Alberta announced a three-year veterinary medicine program will begin in 2006 at the University of Calgary.

In news reports, Alberta’s minister of learning Lyle Oberg said the “condensed course” will turn out about 30 vets per year and will focus on research into animal diseases and food supply safety. It will also investigate the detection, containment and eradication of diseases that spread among species and affect humans.

The good news, said Rhodes, was Oberg’s statement that Alberta will continue to use the 20 spots it is currently allocated at the WCVM. “I have to take the minister at his word,” said the dean, who added that “informal discussions” indicate Alberta intends to use its spaces even beyond the term of the WCVM’s current inter-provincial funding agreement. It expires in 2007. It is “great news that Alberta will continue to support the college.”

The dean did express some concern about the new program attempting to acquire adequate human resources. Recruitment and retention of qualified faculty is a problem for all four veterinary colleges in Canada as well as their counterparts in the United States. At a July meeting of the Association of American Veterinary Medicine Colleges in Philadelphia, Rhodes said the faculty shortage was a common item of discussion, and having a new program attempting to staff up “has the potential to make that situation worse.”

Now that the decision has been made, Rhodes said the WCVM will continue to work to “convince Alberta that we’re a valuable resource”. He expects the Saskatoon college will eventually work collaboratively with the Alberta program, just as it does with other Canadian and American colleges, because “you can’t all have all the resources”, either financial or human.

“There are a lot of exciting things happening at the WCVM, and we plan to continue to move ahead.”

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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