Lab Canada

New veterinary faculty for Calgary

Calgary, AB – The University of Calgary is establishing a new faculty of veterinary medicine in the fall of 2006.

"The cornerstone of this program is its integration of animal health and human medicine," says Harvey Weingarten, PhD, the university’s president. "That synergy, between animal health education and biomedical human research, will enable our graduates to get ahead of zoonotic diseases such as BSE, West Nile and SARS, and help advise governments on preventative measures."

The university will welcome its first class of veterinary students in September of 2006. More than 80 veterinarians are collaborating with the University of Calgary faculties of veterinary medicine, medicine, science, kinesiology and engineering to develop the initial program curriculum.

"Alberta veterinarians welcome the opportunity to create this exceptional degree program, offering students hands-on learning on ranches, veterinary clinics, food animal production sites, and scientific research labs," says Dr Daniel Joffe, president, Alberta Veterinary Medical Association. "We are extremely fortunate to have recruited Dr Peter Eyre from the United States to take the lead on establishing our new Faculty of Veterinary Medicine."

A former dean of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr Eyre has been published internationally on veterinary medicine’s role in biodefence and public health, as well as new models of veterinary education. Dr. Eyre has also served as President of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges.

The new degree program is focusing on fundamental scientific questions that cross the boundaries of animal and human health. The Faculty of Veterinary Medicine will capitalize on the already-established biomedical research enterprise of the Faculty of Medicine. In one new initiative, students and veterinary faculty members specializing in investigative medicine will be collaborating with members of the Mouse Prion Initiative at the university. This initiative will be investigating how the prion gene works as well as the genetic factors that control the development of prion disease.

"This program is very novel in that it will allow veterinary and human biomedical scientists to work shoulder-to-shoulder, thus putting us in an excellent position to make key discoveries about prions, and how they lead to disease," says Dr Frank Jirik, principal investigator, Mouse Prion Initiative, and the university’s Faculty of Medicine.

Start-up funding support for the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine has been provided by the provincial government. Partners from across Alberta who are contributing expertise and support to develop the veterinary program include: veterinarians from large and small animal practices; veterinarians and other experts from the Calgary Zoo, Spruce Meadows, the Calgary Stampede, and Parks Canada; scientists from the Lethbridge Research Centre, the Animal Diseases Research Institute in Lethbridge, and the universities of Lethbridge and Alberta; producers from farms, ranches, and their affiliated organizations; educators and veterinarians from the three colleges at Olds, Fairview and Vermillion.