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THIS WEEK: Join us virtually to celebrate DVM student award achievements

Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph Join us to celebrate Ontario Veterinary College Doctor of Veterinary Medicine student achievements during the first-ever DVM Digital In-Course Awards Ceremony. 

The virtual event provides an opportunity to acknowledge our student veterinarian award winners and to learn more about the awards our many donors have made possible.

The awards will be presented in four categories over two evenings.

On Tuesday, March 16, 2021, at 7 p.m., awards will be presented in the Leadership and Community Building categories.

On Wednesday, March 17, 2021, at 7 p.m., awards will be presented in the Veterinary Care and Scholarship categories.

The event will be run on Microsoft Teams Live. Join the Teams Live Event on either or both evenings at the links below.

Please use the link below to access the virtual ceremony on Tuesday, March 16, 2021 – 7:00 PM

Please use the link below to access the virtual ceremony on Wednesday, March 17, 2021 – 7:00 PM

If you plan to watch the ceremony on your mobile device, you must install Microsoft Teams. You can download the Microsoft Teams app through Google Play or the App Store.

The Bill Mactaggart Memorial Scholarship in Small Ruminant Health Management will be awarded during the awards ceremony on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. This is the second year that the Mactaggart scholarship has been awarded. 

Learn more about the award here and the important role of community in student learning.

It Takes a Village - The Immeasurable Role of Community in Student Learning

Guelph-area farmer and University of Guelph alumni Bill Mactaggart was a longtime client of the OVC Ruminant Field Service. It takes a village to raise a child; the same can be said about educating the next generation of veterinary practitioners.

Lectures, labs and hands-on experience are a vital part of training for student veterinarians. Opportunities to work one-on-one with clients and their animals are also a critical piece.

For student veterinarians focusing on food animal medicine at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College (OVC), on-farm calls not only provide experience with animals, but also an understanding of the important relationships between farmers and their veterinarians.

“It’s a privilege for us to go out on farms, work with the animals, interact with clients and learn from all their experiences,” says Dr. Jeff Rau, with OVC’s Ruminant Field Service. “Not everyone is aware of how invested our clients are in our students’ education. All our clients fill that profile; they love sharing their passion in farming.”

Guelph-area farmer Bill Mactaggart, who raised champion purebred Suffolk sheep, was a prime example of that investment and pride in the student journey. A graduate of the University of Guelph, with a Master of Science in Physics, and longtime client of the OVC Ruminant Field Service for close to 30 years, Bill passed away in December 2018.

“To be a good large animal or mixed animal veterinarian, you need to understand farming and how to communicate with farmers,” adds Rau. “Bill was a great teacher and always took time to make sure the students learned something about sheep breeding and farming.”

The community’s role in experiential learning is immeasurable and students are grateful for the opportunity.

Sheep on the Mactaggart farm. “It is an unbelievably useful first taste of real life as a veterinarian,” says Kristyne Smith, an OVC 2019 graduate, who now practices veterinary medicine at Linwood Veterinary Services. “Students in fourth year are extremely grateful to all farmers allowing us to learn hands-on and to practice our skills. On the Mactaggart farm we had a chance to diagnose pregnancies and to learn how to recognize common conditions.”

The Mactaggart farm was one of the first where the Ruminant Field Service started teaching reproductive ultrasound on sheep. “Reproductive ultrasound isn’t just about technical skills, you have to learn how to handle sheep, where to position yourself in the pen and how to move groups of sheep,” says Rau. “I knew students were going to learn that working with Bill. It was a great teaching environment.”

When Mactaggart was injured in a car accident the week before Christmas 2018, his wife Leslie reached out to Rau for assistance.

Rau sent an email to the OVC student Food Animal Club and received many replies, the first being Kristyne, a fourth-year student veterinarian at the time.

While he received many empathetic responses, many students had already left Guelph for the holidays.

He asked Smith to take the reins coordinating the available students.

“She said, yes, 100 per cent. I let her run with it and had full confidence in her abilities,” adds Rau.

Smith set up schedules for the nine students who helped out, chatted with feed suppliers and videotaped the farm to orient new students, including an introduction to Bill’s wife, Leslie, and Moe the dog. She also connected with the eventual buyer of the sheep and helped him move the animals.

“Jeff and the students came to my rescue because I really had no knowledge how to look after the sheep. It was the students who put that roster together and came to the farm,” says Leslie. “I’m talking about Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, they were right with me until the second week of January looking after the sheep. There wasn’t a shift missed.”

Mactaggart’s first career was as a high school teacher, before eventually going into the investment business. But his passion lay in farming and particularly in raising sheep.

A U of G graduate, he was passionate about improving the health and genetics of his show flock. This formed a lot of his relationship with the university because of the work they were doing in animal husbandry and sheep health, says Leslie.

“Bill was always very encouraging of people who wanted to get involved with sheep because it was his passion. Sharing his knowledge was really important to him,” she adds.

He also was interested in investing in community. When the family discussed ways to honor his legacy, a scholarship in his name seemed the natural choice.

“His relationship with the university and with OVC was such an important part of his life and the fact that the people at the university recognize that is very heartwarming for the family,” adds Leslie.

The first Bill Mactaggart Memorial Scholarship in Small Ruminant Health Management was awarded in 2020.

Adds Rau: “Bill was one of those special individuals who clearly touched a lot of people in a significant way. A big piece of that was veterinary students and the teaching program.”

Originally published in the Summer 2020 issue of OVC Crest, the research, teaching and health care magazine of the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College.