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Health Sciences Centre

August 22, 2023

Dr. Luis Gaitero brings passion and leadership to the Ontario Veterinary College’s Health Sciences Centre

From a young age, Dr. Luis Gaitero knew he wanted to be a veterinarian; he has always been inspired to help animals.

“I want to provide veterinary care and I'm very passionate about that,” says Gaitero, “For me, this goes beyond my own clinical practice to include the aspect of training other veterinarians and veterinary specialists who can provide excellent patient care, as well as completing research that can improve patient care.”

As Associate Dean of the Clinical Program at the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC), Gaitero oversees the OVC Health Sciences Centre (HSC) and the clinical training program for student veterinarians, interns and residents, as well as providing leadership on clinical research.

“A key element of this position is to ensure that we have a teaching hospital that can deliver what is needed to fulfill our educational mandate and advance innovative clinical research while we are providing service to the community,” says Gaitero.

As with every aspect of the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine curriculum, continuous improvement is a key element in the clinical program. Gaitero notes there is regular collaboration between his position and the Associate Dean of Students and Academic, Dr. Joanne Hewson, on the clinical training component of the curriculum.

Clinical training for Phase 4 or final year student veterinarians centres on clinical rotations, with students ‘rotating’ through various services in the companion, large animal and primary care hospitals and with the Ruminant Field Services.

During their time at OVC, we want to expose student veterinarians to the skills and experience we believe will benefit them from day one as a graduate so they will feel confident in their abilities as effective veterinary professionals who can participate, deliver and support veterinary care.”

Gaitero believes an important part of this training includes learning how to work with and take care of veterinary teams as well as the animals in their care.

“We need to recognize that our graduates need to enter their careers equipped with the skills to lead. I believe the way to do that is to set up a system here that allows them to develop those competencies as part of their training,” says Gaitero.

For Gaitero, an important component of this work is enhancing collaboration across the hospital and fostering a team approach to veterinary care and teaching.

In particular, Gaitero would like to create more structured opportunities for students to work closely with Registered Veterinary Technicians (RVTs), and other veterinary paraprofessionals.

“A big part of the job that they are going to be doing when they graduate includes collaborating with and benefiting from the skills these professionals can provide,” notes Gaitero.

Being a medical professional is always going to be a challenging profession, Gaitero notes. “Some days there may be two critical cases that come through the door and some days there may be 20. Sometimes cases will be much more complex than expected or things may not go as well as expected. It isn’t a 100 per cent predictable job.”

He believes a team approach not only enhances the care provided to patients, it also enhances individual relationships and well-being, as well as collaboration across the entire team.

Recent renovations and additions to the HSC’s emergency and critical care service areas, neurology and ophthalmology specialties, and the surgery and anesthesia facilities will further enhance the clinical teaching environment.

With the renovated spaces, staff and students have ample room to move around and to participate in and observe procedures in a more comfortable space.

There are dedicated areas to review medical records and spaces for faculty and students to meet to discuss cases they have seen.

“An integral part of training is reflecting on what has happened with cases during the day and what is going to happen next,” notes Gaitero.

Advancing Clinical Research

Clinical research - and clinical trials in particular - are another important component of OVC’s commitment to innovation, and Gaitero oversees and supports this work within the HSC.

The goal with this type of research is to investigate if a treatment or intervention for an illness or disease is effective, safe and more advantageous than other options.

“There are different ways researchers can answer those questions, but we know (because it is something that has been very well documented for many years in human medicine) that the best way to study those questions is to try to answer them in patients that have developed these diseases spontaneously,” says Gaitero.

OVC and the HSC offer an ideal place to further this innovative work with a patient caseload that provides a high variety of different cases and is home to experts in different fields, including clinicians, clinical pathologists, epidemiologists and bench-top researchers who collaborate in this type of research.

The road to OVC

Gaitero remembers his parents taking the family’s first dog to the veterinarian when he was only five years old. The rest is history.

Originally from Barcelona, Gaitero completed his veterinary, specialist training and board certification in neurology there, working in veterinary teaching and referral hospitals until joining OVC in November 2008.

He served as the HSC Neurology Service Chief beginning in 2010 and as Companion Animal Clinic Head for a few years before being appointed the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer in 2019. He became Interim Associate Dean Clinical Program in early 2022 and was officially appointed to the role in October 2022.

“I wanted to be a veterinarian because I wanted to help animals and that progressively led me through small steps into leadership roles with the same concept; I wanted to help at a broader level. I want to thank Dr. Stephanie Nykamp, (previous Associate Dean Clinical Program) because she's the one who initially offered me leadership roles that gradually took me in this direction,” says Gaitero.

He sees each step as the ideal precursor to his current role where he can help lead the hospital and bring together all he has learned.

I think you start learning about yourself as a leader when you get into a profession like medicine and as you take on additional roles. Not everyone likes that role, because obviously it presents many challenges, but I saw that it was something that I would really enjoy.”

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