The Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) is the premier centre of veterinary education, research and clinical expertise in Western Canada. Established in 1963 as a western, interprovincial partnership, the WCVM serves as the regional veterinary college for Canada’s four western provinces and the northern territories. As one of Canada’s five veterinary colleges, the WCVM is a key member of Canada’s veterinary, public health and food safety networks.
In 2015, it will be 50 years since the WCVM’s first class began their studies; the first 27 veterinary students graduated from the college’s four-year DVM program in 1969. Today, more than 450 DVM and graduate students are enrolled at the internationally recognized veterinary college that will celebrate its 50th anniversary in June 2015 with a continuing education conference and homecoming.
The WCVM has always focused on educating skilled graduates who are well prepared for rural mixed veterinary practice. Over the past five decades, the college’s DVM curriculum has changed with the times. The college now offers a variety of elective third-year courses and senior rotations that provide students with more opportunities to explore different career options and to hone their practice skills before graduating. What hasn’t changed is the quality of education: WCVM graduates continue to be ranked among the top veterinary students from Canada and the United States. While a significant percentage of graduates still begin their careers in rural mixed practice, more than 2,700 WCVM alumni work across Canada and around the world in private practice, industry, public service, academia and research.
In 2011, the WCVM completed a seven-year, $77 million expansion and renovation project that included the construction of a new research wing, an expanded Veterinary Medical Centre and the completion of a veterinary diagnostic laboratory complex. The multi-phase project also included enhancements to existing clinical, teaching and research areas and renovations to more than a third of the original veterinary college.
Cooperation and partnerships are integral to the WCVM’s past, present and future. With strong ties to the agricultural industry and to post-secondary agricultural institutions in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, the WCVM continues to serve as a source of applied research, clinical expertise and knowledge for livestock producers across the West.
The WCVM has also developed important partnerships in human health, environmental health and wildlife health. Through teaching and research, the college has established close links with the U of S health science colleges. In fact, the college’s location is integral to its One Health focus since the U of S is the only Canadian university with all health science colleges on one campus. The veterinary college is leading an international program that trains graduate students who are interested in an interdisciplinary approach to health and food safety, and the WCVM leads the organization of an annual, three-day conference that introduces first- and second-year health science students to the concept of One Health and the benefits of inter-professional co-operation.
• In 1975, WCVM researchers led the development of the Veterinary Infectious Disease Organization. Now known as the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO), this facility is one of the world’s foremost vaccine research organizations for animal health and human health. VIDO now operates the International Vaccine Centre (InterVac), a $140-million vaccine research and development centre. InterVac is the first Containment Level 3 facility in Western Canada that is equipped to deal with highly infectious human and large animal diseases. It is also one of the few CL3 facilities in the world that can handle large animals such as cattle.
- The WCVM and a number of its faculty members assisted in developing the university’s Toxicology Centre that opened in 1996. The centre is now the foremost university-based centre in Canada for education, graduate training and diagnostic service in biomedical and environmental toxicology.
- The WCVM has been a leader and key partner in establishing the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC) — a national partnership that includes all five of Canada’s veterinary colleges along with key partners in government and non-government organizations. The CWHC applies veterinary medical sciences to wildlife conservation and management as well as to health issues shared among wildlife, domestic animals and people.
- Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan and the WCVM are pioneering the use of synchrotron technology in biomedical research. The research team is using the biomedical imaging and therapy beamline (BMIT) at the Canadian Light Source, which is located just steps away from the veterinary college, to create high energy X-rays that can image prostate and other tissues down to the micron level with very high resolution. By developing a better technique for imaging canine prostates, the researchers ultimately hope to establish an earlier detection process that allows for more timely and effective treatment of prostate cancer in dogs and men.
- As the WCVM engages the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century, we still build upon our core foundation of strong partnerships. The college’s location is integral to its One Health focus and its ongoing engagement with agriculture and food systems. The college participates in multiple, campus-wide initiatives and centres including the Global Institute in Food Security, the Global Institute for Water Security, the Sylvia Fedoruk Centre for Nuclear Innovation, the Canadian Light Source (CLS, Canada’s only synchrotron) and two Canada Excellence Research Chairs — the first in One Health Infectious Disease Mitigation and the second in Food Safety and Security. These valuable resources have helped to make the WCVM a vibrant centre for animal, human and environmental health.