U of C set to get new vets

By Ben Li

The University of Calgary will become home to Alberta’s newest veterinary school in 2006, Alberta Learning Minister Dr. yle Oberg announced at the Calgary Zoo on Fri., Aug. 27. In conjunction with the Zoo, the University of Alberta and the Western College of Veterinary Medicine of Saskatchewan, U of C’s vet school will graduate 30 veterinarians a year.

Dr. Oberg hopes that in addition to training veterinarians vital to Alberta’s beef and agricultural industries, the new vet school will also advance research into animal diseases.

"Eighty per cent of diseases originate in animals, as a medical professional, that concerns me," said Dr. Oberg. "It is very likely that the next diseases will originate in an animal."

Dr. Oberg was also concerned that many of the 100 veterinarians currently practicing in Alberta are under increasing financial incentive to seek practices in other provinces. Currently, thirty spaces are reserved each year in the WCVM in Saskatchewan for Alberta students, at an annual cost of $4.5 million–not enough according to Dr. Oberg. He hopes that research opportunities afforded by the new program, as well as Alberta’s continued partnership with WCVM will help retain veterinarians in Alberta and be responsive to the agricultural industry’s needs.

U of C President Dr. Harvey Weingarten appreciates the opportunity for the university to support the agricultural community.

"It is comforting to know we can do what we are supposed to do: marshal our abilities to address the real needs in our community," he said. "For us to mount the kind of program that Alberta expects of us depends on cooperation of a large group of people."

According to Dr. Grant Gall, Dean of the U of C’s Faculty of Medicine, the decision to establish a veterinary school in Calgary was made about six months ago with cooperation from about 65 members of the agricultural community.

Dr. Gall said the school will be able to get underway in a short time because it will incorporate the current medical school’s practice of using existing medical facilities for teaching. Unlike other veterinary programs, the U of C will avoid duplicating existing veterinary facilities and will partner with existing facilities instead.

At a cost of between $8.4-12.4 million annually to operate, the U of C program will offer three areas of specialization: production animal and equine health; public, eco-health and epidemiology; and investigative medicine.

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