Office of the Dean: Dean's Dialogue

OVC 150 - 10 Predictions for the Future: #1

Posted: June 25, 2012

We are half-way through the celebrations of our 150th year anniversary.  Convocation week and alumni weekend were great fun, with more than 170 people attending the Friday evening dinner in Creelman.  I’ve thought about what the future may hold and have come up with 10 predictions - this is number 1 - let me know what you think!

Prediction 1. Fierce disagreements about the use and value of animals will continue unabated and will cause further divisions within the veterinary medical profession. Whether it be feral cats vs. wildlife, indoor vs. outdoor cats, declaw vs. no declaw, raw food vs. processed food – and this is only a partial list for cats – the controversies and issues around animals will continue to be discussed and disputed in the courts, on the streets, at the ballot box, and in the media.

Elizabeth A. Stone, OVC Dean


Sadly, our friend Dr. Blake Graham died on March 6, 2012.  Blake was committed to supporting graduate students and research in diseases transmitted between people and animals.  He was proud of his alma mater and his profession.  I will miss his wise counsel as will many others.



OVC 150th! Let the celebrations begin!

Posted: January 9, 2012

After several years of planning, OVC is now officially in its 150th year.  Over the year we will be looking back and forward.  Check it out - http://ovc150.ca/en/

So what does the future hold?  Any prediction we make is rooted in today’s realities.   Thus, we are more likely to predict modifications and advances in what we are currently doing rather than dramatic changes in direction.  Looking back to 1862, who could have predicted that motorized carriages would replace the horse-based economy that justified the founding of OVC.  In 1920, the decision was made for OVC to move from Toronto to far away Guelph to provide for the health of farm animals and the safety of food.  No one could have dreamed that the dogs and cats of Toronto would become a major patient base for veterinarians.  Likewise, classrooms built in the 1980’s made no allowance for computer technology  –   why spend money on a technology that couldn’t be made available to the ordinary student?

A prediction made in 1949 clearly demonstrates the difficulty of seeing into the future.  A McGill University scientist writing in the Canadian Journal of Comparative Medicine, stated “I doubt very much if any domestic animal is subjected to the multiplicity and intensity of tests and examinations that is common practice in a well found hospital, except as a research programme. I also doubt very much if such elaboration will ever come to veterinary medicine, because the cost would often be more than the individual animal is worth, even though the disease processes in man and other animals do not differ.”  (Professor E.D.G. Murray, Canadian Journal of Comparative Medicine, October, 1949)

As we all know in today’s North American society, people often pay more ‘out of pocket’ for animal healthcare than for their own healthcare, which is largely paid from government collected taxes and/or insurance. 

But of course we can’t help ourselves - we all need to speculate on what the future may bring!



While in Seoul, Korea last week, I participated in a memorial ceremony for Dr. Frank Schofield, OVC alumnus class of 1910 and faculty member from 1912-1916 and 1920-1955.    As a teacher and missionary in Korea from 1916 to 1920, Dr. Schofield supported Korean independence, documenting in photographs and words the March First Movement and the brutal repression that followed.   Because of his courage and dedication to the Korean people, Dr. Schofield was buried in the Patriot Section of the Korean National Cemetery – the only non-Korean to receive that tribute.  
For the memorial ceremony, former Prime Minister Dr. Chun Un-Chan authorized a military honour guard at Dr. Schofield’s gravesite.  Dr. Chun was an adopted grandson of Dr. Schofield and has great respect for and gratitude to Dr. Schofield.  After donning white gloves, we each laid a long-stemmed rose on Dr. Schofield’s grave as attributes were read.  The picture depicts Dr. Chun paying his respects (middle of photo).
That evening, I gave a presentation, “Dr. Schofield: A Man of Dedication and Distinction” to the Tiger Schofield Memorial Foundation at the Canadian Embassy.  Several of the people in the audience had been in Dr. Schofield’s Bible study classes in Seoul after he retired from OVC.  They had fond memories of Dr. Schofield and what he had done for them.  The Korean students learned English and life lessons during their time with Dr. Schofield.  One of his former students mentioned that Dr. Schofield had never said anything to them about his previous work as a pathologist or veterinarian at OVC.  (Likewise some of his former OVC students have told us that he never said anything to them about his work in Korea.)  One of his students is now a mechanical engineer at Seoul National University; he commented that Dr. Schofield’s training as a scientist and pathologist probably enabled him to be an acute observer and transcriber of what was happening to the Koreans during the Japanese occupation.

While in Seoul, Korea last week, I participated in a memorial ceremony for Dr. Frank Schofield, OVC alumnus class of 1910 and faculty member from 1912-1916 and 1920-1955.    As a teacher and missionary in Korea from 1916 to 1920, Dr. Schofield supported Korean independence, documenting in photographs and words the March First Movement and the brutal repression that followed.   Because of his courage and dedication to the Korean people, Dr. Schofield was buried in the Patriot Section of the Korean National Cemetery – the only non-Korean to receive that tribute. 

For the memorial ceremony, former Prime Minister Dr. Chun Un-Chan authorized a military honour guard at Dr. Schofield’s gravesite.  Dr. Chun was an adopted grandson of Dr. Schofield and has great respect for and gratitude to Dr. Schofield.  After donning white gloves, we each laid a long-stemmed rose on Dr. Schofield’s grave as attributes were read.  The picture depicts Dr. Chun paying his respects (middle of photo).

That evening, I gave a presentation, “Dr. Schofield: A Man of Dedication and Distinction” to the Tiger Schofield Memorial Foundation at the Canadian Embassy.  Several of the people in the audience had been in Dr. Schofield’s Bible study classes in Seoul after he retired from OVC.  They had fond memories of Dr. Schofield and what he had done for them.  The Korean students learned English and life lessons during their time with Dr. Schofield.  One of his former students mentioned that Dr. Schofield had never said anything to them about his previous work as a pathologist or veterinarian at OVC.  (Likewise some of his former OVC students have told us that he never said anything to them about his work in Korea.)  One of his students is now a mechanical engineer at Seoul National University; he commented that Dr. Schofield’s training as a scientist and pathologist probably enabled him to be an acute observer and transcriber of what was happening to the Koreans during the Japanese occupation.


Primary Healthcare Education and the Health of the Public – What’s the Connection?

Posted: October 3, 2011

Judging by the level of enthusiasm and the sharing of ideas and methods, this weekend’s Primary Care Educators Symposium was a huge success.  Educators from at least 25 schools participated, each bringing their challenges and solutions to the table. 

I think some members of the general public would be surprised that veterinary medicine is anything beyond primary care!  Even with the current level of sophistication and specialization in veterinary medicine, we constantly struggle to let people know that ‘yes, we do blood transfusions’ – and have been for 40 years or more.  And yes, cats are treated for diabetes and we consider cataract surgery in dogs as fairly routine.  In reality, our specialist training  programs within the profession are thriving, but primary care education may be somewhat marginalized. 

Veterinary medical academic leaders all recognize the need for primary care education – the majority of our students do become private practitioners.  In addition, the skills, knowledge and aptitudes that students gain through experiential learning in the primary care programs serve them well no matter what area of veterinary medicine they go into.

But there are legitimate concerns that if we as a profession are defined only as ‘pet doctors’, we will not be taken seriously by public funders, biomedical institutions and agri-food industries.  Thus, we need to ensure that our graduates going into private practices are recognized as healthcare professionals for their communities – and that our primary healthcare programs are acknowledged as a ‘public good’ by governments and health agencies.  Given the number of people who own pets, the magnitude of interactions between veterinarians and community members is enormous.   To maximize our ability as a veterinary profession to integrate the health of humans, animals and the environment, we need to find more ways to incorporate the concept and practice of One Health into the primary healthcare learning process.  Whether it is zoonotic diseases, obesity, cancer or nutrition, many of the topics that a veterinarian discusses with a client could influence the health of people and the community.  Experienced veterinarians understand this concept instinctively.  Now we are helping our student veterinarians comprehend its importance as they prepare for their careers.

Elizabeth A. Stone, Dean, OVC


Primary Care Educators Symposium at OVC

Posted: September 30, 2011

Educators from veterinary colleges across Canada and the United States are at OVC today and this weekend for the Primary Care Educators’ Symposium

The Symposium focuses on the theme, “Teaching Communication and Assessing Students in the Clinical Setting,” and is designed for primary care educators to network, generate ideas and develop new skills.

We recognize that veterinary primary healthcare is essential for the health and wellness of our animals.  In veterinary colleges across North America, there is renewed interest in providing our students with the skills and aptitudes they need to be effective practitioners.  The relationship between veterinarians, clients and their animals is complex and significantly influences our ability to prevent disease and maintain health.  Bringing experts together will help us all learn how to do this better.

We are grateful to Jason Coe for bringing this annual Symposium to OVC this year and giving us a chance to highlight our own primary healthcare program during a dinner and tour of the Hill’s Pet Nutrition Primary Healthcare Centre at OVC.

Elizabeth Stone, Dean, OVC


Welcome to the OVC Class of 2015!

Posted: September 23, 2011

On Saturday, we welcomed the Class of OVC 2015.  Proud families, friends and mentors saw them be transformed into student veterinarians, complete with lab coats and stethoscopes.  There are 177 students in the class and they come from hometowns are as far away as Hong Kong, Hawaii and Vancouver and as close as Toronto and Guelph.  77% are women and 23% are men.  When did they decide to become a veterinarian?  Interestingly, 68% of the men and 38% of the women made the decision after the age of 20. For some, it is a second career; for others it is the only thing they have wanted to do since they were very young.  14% of the class is older than 25; 71% have a BSc - and not surprisingly, 98% have their own laptop computers.

One of the best reasons for being in academic veterinary medicine is the opportunity each fall to meet such talented, enthusiastic and dedicated individuals.  We look forward to helping them reach their goal of becoming a veterinarian 4 short years from now!

Elizabeth Stone, Dean, OVC


One Health - Different Patients, Shared Diseases

Posted: May 11, 2011

Lyme disease, raccoon roundworm, H1N1, rabies – the list of zoonotic diseases goes on and on. We know the statistics - 60% of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic; 70% of zoonotic infectious diseases originate in wildlife. Yet veterinarians and physicians don’t routinely share their knowledge much less information about what they are seeing in their patients.

To encourage this conversation in Canada, veterinary medical deans and medical deans met yesterday at a workshop at the Canadian Conference on Medical Education. We also had expert participation from the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion. The focus of the discussion was “People and Animals Sharing Disease – Medicine and Veterinary Medicine Perspectives”. Dr. Jan Sargeant, Director of the UofG Centre for Public Health and Zoonoses and Dr. David Fisman from the U of Toronto Dalla Lana School of Public Health addressed the challenges in prioritization of zoonotic diseases – should it be based on percentage of case fatalities? In humans and/or animals? the number of cases in Canada? The likelihood of introduction from another country? This, of course, is not just an academic exercise because decisions on distribution of resources are based on prioritizations and competing risks – health, economic, human, animal. Decisions can also be influenced by public perceptions of risk. Thus, they are surveying the general public in addition to health professionals to find out what zoonotic diseases are considered most important and why.

Dr. Kate Hodgson, who is a veterinarian and a certified continuing medical education professional with the U of Toronto Faculty of Medicine, readily explained how animals are a health determinant, with both positive and negative influences on the health of a family. Using her experience with family medicine residents, nurse practitioners and primary care veterinarians, she gave concrete examples of how these professionals can protect and improve their patients’ health through better communication and sharing of expertise.

Dr. Cathleen Hanlon, Director of the Rabies Laboratory at Kansas State University, used her lifetime of work with rabies as a model for best practices for zoonotic disease prevention. She emphasized that wildlife, such as bats, can easily cross borders and that people are constantly moving animals both legally and illegally from one spot to another. Thus, no country should be complacent about being ‘rabies free’ and even the meaning of the term, ‘rabies free’, varies from country to country because of different policies and procedures for surveillance, diagnosis and management of rabies by both the veterinary and the medical communities.

Going forward, we want to find ways for medical and veterinary students to work together on real life problems affecting people and animals, and of course, the environment must be included as a critical determinant of health. This is not a new idea - Drs. David Waltner-Toews, Bruce Hunter and others have advocated an ecosystem approach to health for many years both within Canada and globally. Using the perspective of medical and veterinary schools, we need to review what has worked and not worked and to determine how to overcome the usual limitations of time in the curriculum, funding and personnel.

We all realize that getting people in the same room is only a start - but we are committed to developing a sustainable model for the practice of One Health.


A Pet by Any Other Name…

Posted: May 4, 2011

Yesterday I was interviewed for a newspaper article about what we call animals – and whether or not it matters.

http://www.thestar.com/living/article/985249—pet-or-animal-companion-how-to-respectfully-refer-to-the-family-dog?bn=1

The journalist was interested in my take on a recent editorial published in the Journal of Animal Ethics that advocated changing the way we speak about animals. According to the guidelines for this new journal, we must “discipline ourselves to use more impartial nouns and adjectives in our exploration of animals and our moral relations with them”. The editors are asking authors who submit papers to avoid use of the words ‘pet’ because it is “surely derogatory” and ‘owner’ because it implies animals are merely property and ‘wild’ because it is synonymous with an ‘uncivilized, unrestrained, barbarous existence’.

Ironically, a conspicuous example of potential misuse of words comes from the editorial itself, where the authors state “Let us call a spade a spade…..”. I would not use this idiom because the word ‘spade’ can be an ethnic slur against African-Americans. And even though the original idiom dates from the 1500’s and refers to a digging tool, if the current use is disrespectful to someone, then why not find another way to express my meaning?

In contrast, animals probably don’t care what they are called – they are much more attuned to how something is said. I do agree with the authors that when a name changes the way a person regards or treats an animal, the name does become important. However, in my experience, calling a dog a ‘pet’ in no way endangers my relationship with the dog.

Words, words, everywhere words – and yes, they do matter.

Posted by Elizabeth A. Stone, OVC Dean.


For the health of all species, including our own.

The Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) is a world leader in veterinary health care, learning and research. We work at the intersection of animal, human and ecosystem health: training future veterinarians and scientists, improving the health of our animal companions, ensuring the safety of the food we eat and protecting the environment that we all share. It's been that way since 1862.

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