Chris Clark was honoured with the Master Teacher Award at Fall Convocation in October.

Clark committed to class and clinic

It was a chance encounter with a U of S professor that first brought Dr. Chris Clark to Saskatchewan.

By Lesley Porter

Now Clark, an associate professor of large animal medicine and associate dean academic at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM), is the newest recipient of the Master Teacher Award—the university’s highest honour in teaching.

“It’s a huge honour, there’s no doubt about that at all,” said Clark, who received the award at Fall Convocation. “I started as a graduate student, then as a clinical associate and a faculty member, and teaching has been my focus since I’ve been here, so it’s really nice to be recognized.”

Originally from the south of England, Clark decided at a young age to pursue veterinary medicine. “I think probably when I found out what a veterinarian was—I was about seven or eight—I decided that’s what I wanted to do,” he recalled.

Throughout high school he volunteered in veterinary practices and worked on local farms, giving him more experience before completing his undergraduate and veterinary degrees at Cambridge. He was set on remaining in the U.K. and working as a dairy practitioner until his final year of veterinary school, when he got to know Dr. Hugh Townsend—now a professor emeritus at WCVM—who was completing sabbatical research at Cambridge. Townsend convinced Clark to travel to the U of S for an internship, which he did—the day of his graduation from Cambridge, in fact.

Following the internship, Clark returned to England, where he worked as a rural veterinarian for one more year. He then returned to Saskatchewan to complete his residency, followed by master’s and PhD degrees in veterinary pharmacology. He joined the WCVM faculty in 2002.

In his own career, Clark said he has had his own share of incredible teachers that have instilled in him a zest for teaching and learning.

“I’m very aware that in my life I’m continuing a tradition of what I’ve seen in some of my very best teachers,” he said. “In that respect, it’s paying on the great favour that was done to me.”

Despite a full plate of responsibilities—including lectures, labs, research and clinical duties—Clark prioritizes his teaching and the time he spends with his students, who he considers the best and brightest.

“It’s really tough to get into vet school, so we have amazing students here,” he said. “And watching them get enthused is really the best part about it.”

Naturally, this is not his first time being recognized for teaching. In 2012, he received the Provost’s College Award for Outstanding Teaching. He has also been awarded the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union Teaching Excellence Award twice (2004-05 and 2015-16) and has received numerous teaching awards from colleagues and students alike within WCVM.

His collection of teaching awards is almost as expansive as his collection of bow ties—something he is also known for in the college.

“It started as a bit of a joke, but there is actually a reason behind it,” he said with a chuckle. Prior to becoming an associate dean, Clark was responsible for infection control and biosafety in the college. He noted that the U.K. medical system had instituted a ban on doctors wearing traditional long ties in clinical settings.

“They recognize that they’re a source of spreading infection,” he explained. “So I started wearing a bow tie really as an element of demonstrating that point.”

Additionally, he sees the benefit of not having a dangling tie, especially as a bovine veterinarian. “A lot of other stuff could get on my tie.”