The Ontario Veterinary College of the University of Guelph recently hosted more than 250 veterinary students at the annual Students of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (SCVMA) Symposium. This year’s theme, chosen by the students, was mental health.
“We chose the theme ‘The Elephant in the Room – Stomping out Stigma in Veterinary Medicine’ because it gives students an opportunity to explore some of the subjects in veterinary medicine that most people do not like to discuss,” said Jamie Freeman-Braganca, SCVMA Symposium Chair and second-year student at the Ontario Veterinary College. “We want to face this topic head-on and open up the floor for discussion of these difficult topics.”
In addition to wet labs, lectures and demonstrations to broaden student’s exposure to the many facets of veterinary medicine, the SCVMA Symposium has added lectures on stress management and how to cope with compassion fatigue. The two-day January event closed with its keynote speaker, Terry Whiting, DVM, who is an OVC graduate and now Manager of Health and Welfare for the Province of Manitoba. He spoke freely about his own battle with mental illness.
“Mental health should not be a taboo topic,” said Dr. Whiting. “I wanted to share my own struggles with mental illness throughout my career as an animal welfare officer, so our future veterinarians understand that it’s OK to reach out for help. It’s OK to talk about the elephant in the room.”
Jeff Wichtel, BVSc, Ph.D., dean of OVC, said the college is very proud to host this year’s symposium for student veterinarians from all across Canada. “We are honored to share the learning opportunities that have been carefully crafted by our faculty and special guests. The choice of theme this year is particularly timely; breaking down the barriers around discussing mental health and wellness within our profession has become of critical importance.”