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A Reflection on Saskatoon’s Students of the CVMA (SCVMA) Symposium

This past January 17 and 18, over 230 veterinary medical students from the 5 Canadian veterinary colleges congregated in 240°C weather in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) for the 33rd edition of the SCVMA Symposium. This annual conference rotates yearly between the colleges and is organized for students, by the students. The theme for this conference was “The Progressive Future of Veterinary Medicine: Wellness, Welfare, and Well-being”; encompassing currently relevant themes of the industry and featured 3 keynote presentations, 19 clinical presentations, 14 wet labs, 6 tours, and a variety of social events.

This 2-day conference welcomed students Thursday night at Outlaws, a local bar where they could mingle. Students were up early Friday morning when Symposium officially began. The main hall was bustling with activity as students ate breakfast and checked out the exhibitor area featuring Symposium sponsors: Hills, SunLife, True North Financial Services Inc., Purina, and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA). Shortly after breakfast, students made their way to lectures. Lectures addressed topics of animal welfare and were facilitated by nationally renowned researchers and presenters. Topics included a discussion of clinician welfare presented by a social worker, animal welfare from a legal perspective, and even a lecture on client welfare in relation to euthanasia.

Following lunch, students attended their selected wet lab. Topics ranged from bees to fish to small animal dental health; from bovine reproduction to CPR training to equine acupuncture. Students were able to practice hands-on, in small ratios of students to educators and working in groups. The most popular wet lab was “Advanced Feline Soft Tissue Surgery” with over 60 students. To close the day, students were invited to a “Prairie Dinner” that featured a presentation by keynote speaker Albertan Dr. Cody Creelman. The veterinarian, practice owner, and self-proclaimed “digital storyteller” spoke about managing social media presences as veterinarians through a policy of both honesty and transparency. This keynote was well received.

Students were up again early Saturday morning and braved the Saskatoon cold to enjoy cultural experiences at a variety of local businesses. Excursions included teepee building and snowshoeing, trips to the zoo and the Remai Museum, and meeting with working dogs and falcons. Everyone reconvened at lunch before heading off to attend the remaining 2 keynote presentations. The first keynote speaker was Dr. Terry Whiting, manager of Animal Health and Welfare for Manitoba Agriculture and Food (Veterinary Services Branch), who shared his experiences working in animal welfare management and its effects on his mental wellness and health. Dr. Whiting further shared advice with students on how to best take care of themselves and their mental health through a policy of openness, support of each other, and seeking help when needed. Dr. Whiting’s presentation was followed by Dr. Keri Hudson-Reykdal of “Dr. Keri: Prairie Vet,” a television show on Animal Planet. Dr. Hudson-Reykdal spoke about wellness and welfare in the modern-day veterinary field and the influence and ramifications of social media on practicing veterinarians, especially those who express their political views publicly.

The conference concluded with a formal banquet and gala at the Remai Museum. Closing remarks were delivered by CVMA president Dr. Melanie Hicks and Vanessa Fussell, Symposium organizer, WCVM 3rd-year student and SCVMA senior representative.

Attending Symposium is an amazing opportunity for veterinary students to engage with one another and learn about different sectors of the field. Next year, the 2021 Symposium will be held in Guelph, Ontario at the Ontario Veterinary College, January 15 and 16. If you are interested in learning more, contact the CVMA at symposium@cvma-acvm.org.