U of S vet med college opens new clinical learning centre

SASKATOON – Veterinary medical education has relied on models for decades, but a new learning centre at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) will use the latest technology to make those models more realistic than ever.

Workers recently completed construction on the new BJ Hughes Centre for Clinical Learning at the veterinary college. This customized classroom was made possible by a major donation from Bev Hughes, who saw a need for the facility when she toured the human medicine-focused Clinical Learning Resource Centre in the University of Saskatchewan’s Health Sciences building.

“It is advanced learning,” said Hughes, who along with the BJ Hughes Foundation, contributed $340,000 toward the centre that cost nearly $500,000 to build and equip.  “I think any advanced learning is good. More importantly, it is 21st century learning and 21st century technology. I want our vet college in Saskatoon to be the most progressive in North America.”

Hughes, who has supported the college for more than 10 years through a scholarship, said her dedication stems from her passion for animals and her love for the WCVM and the work done at the college.

The new classroom will give students a chance to practise clinical techniques and hone their skills in a safe learning environment. The lab’s flexible learning space will offer the college’s faculty the opportunity to teach various levels of simulation — from running through client scenarios with actors to practising surgical techniques on computerized models.

“The use of clinical simulation has exploded in human medicine, and veterinary medicine has really been following this trend,” said Dr. Douglas Freeman, WCVM dean. “The development of this new centre will place the WCVM at the forefront of these developing technologies and give our students the best learning experience possible. We are so thankful for the vision and drive of Bev Hughes, whose gift has put ideas into action at the WCVM.”


When Freeman began his veterinary studies, he and his classmates practised suture patterns on tea towels. While this is still an effective way of teaching stitching skills, today’s models are much more advanced.

Students can use them to learn everything from placing catheters to practising administering fluids with an anesthesia machine. These new tools allow students to repeat important skills until they become proficient.

“Repetition is really what drives confidence and competence,” said Dr. Chris Clark, the WCVM’s associate dean, academic. “You can’t practise multiple times on an animal – that would be inhumane. But on the models, you can practise as many times as it takes,”

Students eventually complete procedures on live animals, but the chance to break down and fine tune skills allows them to build confidence as they move through their training.

Research in human medicine has shown that these types of virtual learning environments are an effective way for students to learn, and WCVM faculty and staff were eager to implement these new methods of veterinary teaching into the curriculum. While planning for the centre began more than five years ago, Hughes’ donation moved things forward in the past 18 months.

“Without this donation, we wouldn’t have the space,” said Clark, adding that the new technologies required a room with specific requirements.

Clark says students will have 24-hour access to the facility so that they can practise skills on their own, outside of class time.

“We are incredibly grateful,” said Clark of Hughes’ gift. “It was her vision that really drove this along.”





For more information, contact:


Jeanette Neufeld

Communications Co-ordinator

Western College of Veterinary Medicine

University of Saskatchewan


C: 306-290-4572



Jennifer Thoma

Media Relations Specialist

University of Saskatchewan



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