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As I embark on my year as president, I can’t help but think of the many mentors in the veterinary community who, over the past 26 years, have helped me grow as a veterinarian and as a person. The Oxford dictionary defines a mentor as “an experienced and trusted adviser or an experienced person in an organization or institution who trains and counsels new employees or students.”
My first veterinary mentorship began much earlier as a young child observing my dad and mom working in their veterinary clinic in Dresden, Ontario. My father taught me the importance of compassion toward both my patients and their owners, while my mother demonstrated to me a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility.
Through my years at the Ontario Veterinary College, I received guidance and gained knowledge and skills from my professors. People like Drs. Vicki de Kleer, Jim Patterson, Don McKeown, Dana Allen and Bob Curtis, to name just a few.
The Charlottetown Veterinary Clinic provided me with key practical experiences in both small and large animal medicine as a summer intern between my 3rd and final year of veterinary school. I still use techniques in my own practice as a small animal veterinarian that I learned at the hands of Drs. Wayne Cameron and Bob Johnston. Unfortunately, the experiences and lessons I learned from their very capable equine and dairy cattle veterinarians were somewhat lost on me and did not follow me into my veterinary career.
After graduation, I started working locums in the Maritimes and my first locum was at Cornwallis Veterinarians Ltd in Kentville, Nova Scotia. The support and advice I received during this 4-month locum position was integral in my early career development and helped me gain the confidence that I needed to pursue more locum positions before I settled down into a regular job. In fact, I joined the partnership of Cornwallis Veterinarians a few years later and am still enjoying my job at this practice.
Early in my veterinary career, I became involved in veterinary politics and leadership. I found the advice and experiences of the Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association (NSVMA) registrars, Dr. Janet McKinlay, and later, Dr. Frank Richardson to be invaluable while I served on the NSVMA Council and committees. Since 2001, when I became the Nova Scotia representative on the CVMA Council, I have benefited from the support of many other individuals on this council. Key among my CVMA mentors would be Drs. Michael Baar, Jeanne Lofstedt, Paul Boutet and Mr. Jost am Rhyn.
My mentors have, and still provide me with “trusted advice and experience.” Mentorship is an ongoing lifelong experience with many mentors entering and exiting your career life at different phases. It is the mentor’s responsibility to provide counsel based on their own training and career experiences. The mentee listens to this advice and decides what is important and relevant to his/her situation. Often mentees will become mentors to others as the result of a positive mentorship experience of their own.
The Western Canadian Association of Bovine Practitioners has recently partnered with Intervet/Schering Plough Animal Health to provide a mentorship program for its members. One of the reasons cited by Dr. Murray Jelinski, secretary of the WCABP, for developing this program was to increase the retention of recent graduates in mixed and food animal practice. In this program, prospective mentors will attend a workshop where they will be taught how to be effective mentors.
The CVMA also noted in a recent survey of new graduates that effective mentorship is much desired by many veterinary students and graduates. Expanding such a mentorship training program to the entire country could provide many benefits to our members, new graduate veterinarians and to our patients and clients. The CVMA Council, at a recent meeting, made a commitment to provide such a program to its members. The need for support and sage advice for the veterinary student and recent graduate is greater now than ever with some of the changes in the past decade to the veterinary curricula. Many students do not have the opportunity to “see” practice in the final years of their veterinary program because they have to complete electives or courses throughout the summer before their final year in veterinary school. Thus, they don’t have the time to spend a few consecutive months working in a veterinary hospital or other veterinary workplace before they graduate.
In closing, I would like to thank all Canadian veterinarians who have acted as mentors in the past or who are actively mentoring veterinary students or recent graduates in their practices and workplaces. You are providing an invaluable duty to your profession, its patients and its clients.
Use of this article is limited to a single copy for personal study. Anyone interested in obtaining reprints should contact the CVMA office (gro.vmca-amvc@nothguorbh) for additional copies or permission to use this material elsewhere.