Vet Schools

University of Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine



For all the talk of the sky-high cost of veterinary school, check this out:

Tuition at the University of Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine is just $6,750 a year.

But of course, there’s a catch. Western is a regional veterinary school and gives priority to applicants from the provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and British Columbia. Foreign students need not apply for the highly subsidized education.

“Each of the four provinces has a quota, so we’re limited by the number of students,” says the college’s dean, Charles Rhodes, DVM, Msc. “They don’t come from anyplace else other than Western Canada.”

This past fall brought the largest incoming class ever: 77 students. They made up about one-fifth of the college’s 400 undergraduate and graduate students.

“We’ve been encouraging a couple of the provinces that their quotas are really quite low considering the population and their need for veterinarians, so they have responded by increasing their quotas gradually but steadily,” Dr. Rhodes said.

The dean has overseen a six-year, $71 million expansion of the main veterinary building. The project will be completed this year, coinciding with Rhodes’ retirement after eight years as the college’s top leader.

“One of the nice things about the college is the facilities are housed in one building, so that facilitates students being able to move about easily,” Rhodes says.

The project included a new research wing, expansion of the diagnostic laboratory, lecture rooms and small-animal clinic, larger areas for radiology, surgery and emergency and critical care, and renovation of the large-animal clinic.

All the work makes for what Rhodes calls a “comprehensive and sound foundational education” at Western College of Veterinary Medicine.

No wonder that admission is extremely competitive.

“The first cutoff is always grades,” Rhodes says. “And in a general sense we want students who are going to be successful in our program. In other words, we know it’s a rigorous program, so we want students who have the academic capacity and the commitment to be successful and finish the program.

“Beyond that we want students who are going to be successful veterinarians and credits to their communities, both professionally and socially. We’re looking for students with a true interest in veterinary medicine and a commitment in that area.”

First-year students focus on the basic sciences. “Anatomy and histology play a big role,” the dean says.

“The second year builds on that with more of the sciences--introduction into areas like biochemistry and pathology,” Rhodes says. “The third year is a preclinical year, so they have surgery, medicine, toxicology, more advanced pathology. Then our final year is strictly a clinical year. There are no scheduled formal lectures or laboratories. It’s all clinical rotations.”

The college boasts more than 2,500 graduates since the first class exited in 1969.

“I believe we have graduates on the faculty at just about every veterinary school in North America,” Rhodes says. “So I think that is quite a tribute to the college.”

Western’s faculty includes the likes of anatomy professor Baljit Singh, BVSc, MVSc, Ph.D. Last year he was among 10 Canadian professors selected as 3M National Teaching Fellows, the nation’s top award for university-level teaching.

Dr. Singh’s achievement, Rhodes says, “exemplifies that we put a lot of emphasis on teaching.”

The college offers master’s and Ph.D. programs in all five departments: Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Small Animal Clinical Sciences, Veterinary Biomedical Sciences, Veterinary Microbiology and Veterinary Pathology.

Given the college’s location on the Canadian Plains, beef cattle are a popular research subject.

One major research project that wrapped up recently and is still being published looked at more than 200 beef cow herds.

“A number of veterinarians were involved and three provinces: Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia,” Rhodes says. “It involved the study of the oil industry and the impact the oil industry may or may not have on beef cattle. It looked at a number of diseases and production parameters.

“It probably is the most comprehensive study of beef cattle health and production done for a number of years and probably one that won’t be replicated because of the extreme scale of the project.”

At a Glance

Location: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Accreditation: American Veterinary Medical Association, American Animal Hospital Association
First Class: fall 1965
Graduates: More than 2,500

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