As our class of OVC ’84 prepares for its 30th reunion, my thoughts have turned to the evolution of veterinary practice from my perspective as a small animal practitioner. From the start, we were ground breakers. I was a member of the Ontario Veterinary College graduating class of 1984. We were one of the first groups to graduate more females than males, a trend that has continued every year since. Ours was the inaugural class participating in a summer large animal externship program designed to expose third year students to the rigours and life of farm practice. On the small animal side, OVC was starting up its first ICU and critical unit when we were in fourth year rotations.
As a new graduate, I entered the workforce at the time of the canine parvovirus outbreak. It was a devastating disease, killing over half of the affected puppies and adult dogs. The advent of an effective vaccine was a godsend. I can also remember the production of the first feline leukemia vaccines, and the impact it had on that disease. I saw major changes in the ways we approach disease and illness, the focus shifting more towards early detection and prevention. Laboratory testing became accessible and affordable, an important tool for helping us diagnose disease. Anaesthesia became safer and new medications have revolutionized the way we deal with pain management for our pets.
During the past 30 years, veterinary technology has made incredible strides. Computers and internet are now an integral part of my clinic. With the Veterinary Information Network, I have access to other veterinarians around the world to discuss cases or research topics. As a sole practitioner, this resource is invaluable. Veterinary specialists are now easily accessible, and referral centres are equipped with ultrasound, MRI and CAT scan modalities. My role has changed from being the sole care provider to being able to work in concert with specialists who are experts in their field. The most life changing event for me was the arrival of a local emergency clinic that offers a fully staffed and equipped hospital. I did 18 years of on call work, often with just the owner assisting me in everything from surgeries to setting up intravenous fluids. It was the best we could do at the time, but far from ideal.
After 30 years, I can still say I love my job and am grateful to have such a rewarding career. I’m looking forward to seeing what the future has in store for veterinary medicine. Whatever it is, I will be glad to be a part of it.