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Meet some of Canada’s Future Veterinary Leaders!

November 29, 2018

The CVMA Student Leadership Award, instituted in 1966, consists of a plaque and a monetary award presented annually to a third-year veterinary student at each of the Canadian veterinary colleges. The recipient is selected by their classmates on the basis of leadership and achievement in student affairs. One International CVMA Student Leadership Award recipient is also presented annually to a student studying at one of the CVMA’s international student affiliate schools and is chosen by the CVMA Awards Selection Committee and the Students of the CVMA (SCVMA) Committee senior representatives.

Below are the 2018 CVMA Student Leadership Award recipients:

Katya Melnick, now a fourth-year student at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM), grew up on the water with cats and a few backyard laying hens in Pinawa, Manitoba. Katya has a passion for water and downhill skiing, as well as recently becoming excited about mountain biking. After completing her degree in Animal Agriculture at the University of Manitoba, Katya was accepted into WCVM. She is currently serving as the Class of 2019 President and enjoys being a student liaison between her class and the college administration. After Katya graduates, she hopes to practice small animal general medicine and is very excited to be one of the recipients of the CVMA Student Leadership Award! 

Rae-Leigh Pederzolli, a third-year student at the University of Calgary – Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM), was born and raised on a commercial cow calf operation in Medicine Hat, Alberta. She spent her childhood helping at her home operation and in the rodeo arena barrel racing, steer riding, and trick riding. Rae-Leigh completed a Bachelor of Science degree with honors majoring in Animal Science in 2014 as well as a Master of Science degree in 2016 with Dr. Gregory Penner, an Associate Professor and Centennial Enhancement Chair in Nutritional Physiology, both at the University of Saskatchewan. Her project evaluated the barrier function of the gastrointestinal tract in Holstein steers when exposed to low feed intake and acute ruminal acidosis. Rae-Leigh was selected for the Cattlemen’s Young Leaders Program in 2014 and was mentored by Kajal Devani, Member Service Team Leader at the Canadian Angus Association and she was a Member at Large for the Young Cattlemen’s Council under the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association for the 2015-2016 year. Rae-Leigh was also fortunate to be selected as a student delegate in both the Canadian and American International Livestock Congress, as well as the International Livestock Forum. For the first two years at UCVM, Rae-Leigh served as UCVM’s Class of 2020 President and she is the currently the Production Animal Health Club President, which includes being the UCVM Junior Delegate for the American Association of Bovine Practitioners. Outside of academics, she enjoys travelling, scuba diving, crossfit, and horseback riding. After graduation, Rae-Leigh’s main focus is to practice large animal medicine in her rural community while still being actively involved at her home operation. 

Jolene Vermeulen, now a fourth-year student at the Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC), grew up on Nova Scotia’s southern shore. Jolene completed her Bachelor of Science degree at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Truro, Nova Scotia, majoring in Animal Science and her Master of Science degree in Animal Behavior and Welfare at the University of Guelph. During all her post-secondary education, Jolene’s passion for large animals continued to grow. In 2014, Jolene bought a dairy farm with her husband in Princeport, Nova Scotia where they milk 60 Holsteins. The year after purchasing the farm, Jolene was accepted to AVC where she has continued to develop her large animal knowledge. Jolene’s hope is that after graduation she will be able to practice large animal medicine in the Maritimes and have the opportunity to educate other young farmers. 

Rachel Gauvin, now a 4th year veterinary student at la Faculté de médecine vétérinaire (FMV), has always been very  involved in her college. During her first two years pursuing her doctorate in veterinary medicine, Rachel was her Class of 2020 student representative and for the last two years, she served as the External Affairs Coordinator for the Association des étudiants en médecine vétérinaire du Québec (AEMVQ). Rachel was also one of the coordinators in charge of FMV’s small animal shelter for a year, and has taken an active part in many of her college’s projects and committees including the Politics Committee, the Student Well-Being Committee, the Committee for the Reform of FMV’s DVM Program and the Young Women's Veterinary Association. Rachel is also proud of how she pushed for and initiated a change in the way the integrational activities for new students were done at FMV. Rachel helped make the activities more inclusive and respectful and she also encouraged the entire student body to adopt a healthier mindset when organizing them.

Eastman Welsford, now a fourth-year student at the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC), took every opportunity to get involved at OVC from the moment he walked through the doors. Eastman served as co-president of his class and feels fortunate for the opportunity to work alongside faculty and motivated students. Born in Montreal, Quebec and raised in Oakville, Ontario, animals were always in the picture for Eastman. The family dog was his first best friend and the house was almost never without pets. It was clear Eastman was destined for a career with animals after growing up with pet fish, lizards, dogs, birds and a ferret and spending weekends at riding stables. Before being accepted to OVC, Eastman completed a Bachelor of Arts and Science at McGill University majoring in Biology and Anthropology. It’s during this time, Eastman developed a keen interest in agriculture, having worked on the Macdonald Campus dairy farm. He believes the combination of arts and science is important in veterinary medicine, bringing together applied sciences in biology and medicine with the importance of communicating effectively with clients and working as part of a healthcare team. Eastman is looking forward to working in large animal practice after graduation and hopes to complete a one-year internship.

Born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Matthew Barnes is now a fourth-year Canadian veterinary student studying abroad at the University of GlasgowSchool of Veterinary Medicine in Scotland. While pursuing his undergraduate degree, Matthew volunteered in many organizations, including being a Queen’s University Blood Team Committee member; organizing campus blood donation clinics, a Helen Tufts Child Outreach Program volunteer; mentoring disadvantaged children in Kingston, Ontario, a teaching assistant and a human anatomy course laboratory instructor.

In Matthew’s first year of veterinary school, he continued his involvement in school clubs and societies.

With approachability and strong communications skills, Matthew delivered a speech to his new peers, and was elected as the Class of 2020 student representative, representing class members’ interests and concerns at staff and student government meetings, and selected as the “Big Vet Wee Vet” student mentorship program coordinator, matching first-years with senior students who help them transition to life in Glasgow and foster friendships.

Matthew is also the VetPrep student representative, a North American Veterinary Licensing Exam (NAVLE) test preparation company. Matthew was selected, in part, because for four summers he worked for Prep101, a test preparation company teaching prospective medical students university level organic chemistry in preparation to write their Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).

Matthew is also a member of the Glasgow University Mountaineering Club; completing greater than 50 Munros (282 Scottish hills more than 3,000 feet high) and leading the “Munro Challenge,” a climbing Munros in costume fundraiser for United Kingdom charities. Matthew is also a member of the Zoological Society, the Pathology Club, the Clinical Club, the university boxing club and, of course, the University of Glasgow CVMA Chapter (affectionately dubbed the “Canada Club”).

On the road to becoming a veterinarian, Matthew received invaluable support from family, professors and mentors which helped form Matthew’s professional goals; teaching others, continuously learning, pushing the profession forward and promoting animal welfare. After graduation, Matthew intends to achieve his goals by pursuing board certification in Internal Medicine so he can teach and transfer his knowledge to future veterinarians in Canada, while practicing compassionate veterinary medicine.