The recently elected president of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) was thrilled to return to his hometown this week to help initiate the newest generation of vets.
Dr. Chris Bell, who practices equine medicine in Manitoba, grew up on a horse farm near Airdrie and attended local middle schools and high schools. According to Bell, his upbringing played a big role in his eventual career choice.
“My parents have always been involved in horses; so I grew up around them,” Bell told the Airdrie City View earlier this week. “Veterinary medicine is a really neat combination of the pure sciences and being able to actually see the results of what you do with those sciences.
“Growing up working around horses, I would see the veterinarians coming out to treat them. I would just be amazed by the results of what they would be able to do, whether it was stitching a leg or treating a joint in order for a horse to be able to get back to comfort and do their jobs again. It inspired me to want to do that.”
After graduation from high school, Bell received a scholarship from the Airdrie and District Agricultural Society and went on to attend the University of Saskatchewan and the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, where he received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) and graduated with distinction.
One of his greatest memories from his student years, said Bell, was the day he received his white lab coat, which is given out at the beginning of the doctor program to new student vets. He said it was a ritual that crystallized his determination to become a veterinarian.
With that memory in mind, Bell was thrilled when he was asked to give out those same white coats to new veterinary students at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at a special ceremony on Monday night.
“To be able to come back and come full circle from receiving that white coat,” he stated, “and knowing that feeling of pride and honour – to be able to come back and provide those white coats to these new, young veterinarians brings back that sense of pride, honour and excitement I have for the profession.”
Bell said it also highlights one of the greatest challenges facing veterinary medicine in Canada today, which is the need to bring more young people into the profession.
“The CVMA is dealing with a number of important issues,” he said. “Probably our most pressing issue is revolving around the workforce, and some of the challenges we are having around the workforce.”
He added there is a shortage right now of both veterinarians and veterinary technologists.
“It’s an issue that has been coming for many years, and most recently with the pandemic and the explosion of animal ownership it has put additional pressures onto the veterinary community,” he said. “We’ve had to look for new ways to respond to that.”
According to Bell, inspiring young people to enter veterinary medicine will be his most important mission in the coming years, after being elected the president of the CVMA in late July.
“Veterinary medicine is an extremely rewarding and diverse, fun career,” Bell stated. “Becoming a veterinarian allows you to treat all different species. You could be working on a lizard, you could be working on a horse, a cow, a parrot – it is just amazing the variety you have in your daily career. It is truly a career that you are able to love.”
Bell said being entrusted with the CVMA presidency affirms everything he has achieved in veterinary medicine to date.
“To become the CVMA president is certainly a pinnacle of my career so far,” he said. “It has been a long journey to become a veterinarian. In addition to my veterinary degree, I also own a couple of practices. And this is definitely the highlight of my career.”