University of Calgary

Rural lifestyle calls to graduate of veterinary medicine

UToday HomeMay 6, 2013

Megan Beal is among the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine graduating students whose achievements will be recognized during convocation ceremonies on Thursday, May 9, at the Jack Simpson Gymnasium.Megan Beal is among the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine graduating students whose achievements will be recognized during convocation ceremonies on Thursday, May 9, at the Jack Simpson Gymnasium. Photo by Riley BrandtMegan Beal always new she wanted to work in the field of medicine. She just never expected it to involve cows.

“When I was younger I wanted to be a pediatric endocrinologist,” she says, explaining that as a juvenile diabetic, it was the only kind of doctor she knew. “As I got older I realized I loved animals and seemed to have a way with them.”

As she started her educational journey with the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Beal’s imagination saw her working in far-off places or with exotic animals at renowned zoos. Then her class was sent on a field trip to a cow-calf operation.

“I ended up seeing a whole bunch of baby calves being born and I kind of fell in love with it,” she says, recalling the excitement of the day. Four years later, Beal is one of several graduating students about to launch their careers as rural veterinary practitioners.

And Beal isn’t going just a couple of hours outside the city for her first job. She’s headed for Fairview, Alta., a town of about 3,000 people located more than 500 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.

“It’s a smaller place, for sure,” she says, “but it’s got a good vibe.”

There, she’ll be working under the mentorship of Dr. Lloyd Keddie, who has more than three decades of rural veterinary medicine under his belt. Keddie’s been searching for an extra set of hands for years, so Beal’s decision to join him and his colleague was welcome news.

“We large animal practitioners have been great at telling the horror stories about late nights, prolapsed uteruses and working outside at 30 below,” he says. “We haven’t done enough to tell the wonderful side of it: the client relationships, the beautiful fall afternoons, the challenges and variety. There’s never a boring moment.”

It’s not for everyone, but Keddie says Beal seems like the perfect fit. He’s even taken to calling her Meggie.

“She came up and spent some time with us. There was a bond right away. We liked her and I’m hoping it was mutual.”

Beal’s decision speaks to the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine’s goal of educating more veterinarians who want to practice in rural Alberta. Dean Alastair Cribb says that starts with selecting the right students, then giving them the right skills to feel successful and fulfilled. Rural veterinarians need the expertise to deal with just about anything that comes in their door. They also need to be good with people.

“In a small town, you run into the people whose animals you’re dealing with on a regular basis,” says Cribb. “So we’ve built the program around giving students the professional skills to practice in a rural setting and the life skills to do well in that environment.”

For Beal, the chance to join the community was part of the allure. “Having a strong relationship with your clients is an important part of practice, especially on the large animal side,” she says. “I want to get to know these people so I can help them as best I can.”

 

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