Advocacy by two northern B.C. regional districts may result in the creation of a veterinary medicine program at the University of Northern B.C. in Prince George.
In a letter to the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George and Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako boards, B.C. Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training Anne Kang said she’s instructed senior ministry officials to explore the concept of a veterinary medicine program at UNBC.
District chairpersons Art Kaehn and Gerry Thiessen met with Kang at the Union of B.C. Municipalities annual convention in September, to advocate for a veterinarian program in northern B.C.
“Since I became Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training, I have truly appreciated the opportunities to meet with community representatives across BC to hear about matters that are of importance to their regions. I am grateful to hear about your dedication to bringing high quality and responsive veterinary care to your region,” Kang wrote. “Deputy Minister Shannon Baskerville… will follow-up with University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) President Geoffrey Payne on how the Ministry can support UNBC to explore a Veterinary Medicine Program under a distributed training model. Assistant Deputy Minister Nicola Lemmer… will connect with the district leads Mark Parker and Lara Beckett and the Society of BC Veterinarians to set up a joint meeting to discuss this further.”
Regional District of Fraser-Fort George director and Prince George city councillor Kyle Sampson said he plans to bring the issue to the City of Prince George’s attention, so the city can add its voice to support the concept.
“I think this is a great response from the ministry…” Sampson said. “It looks like we’re going to see some action there.”
Regional district director and Prince George city councillor Cori Ramsay is past president of North Central Local Government Association. She said an NCLGA resolution sponsored by the regional districts calls for the province to double the number of spaces it funds for B.C. students at the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan. That resolution was endorsed by the NCLGA membership at the association’s annual convention in May.
The district needs to “hit them from all sides,” to address the critical veterinarian shortage in the region, Ramsay said.
In an Aug. 3 letter to the regional district, B.C. Cattlemen’s Association general manager Kevin Boon said a veterinarian program at UNBC could be a possible solution to a provincial shortage of large-animal veterinarians.
“In seeking solutions, there are several options that the group have been exploring and one solution for our northern producers may be to follow the lead of the medical doctor’s partnership and program at the University of Northern BC, where recruiting and training in the north can lead to staying in the north. Northern students will benefit from this opportunity and most likely come home to the region they grew up in,” Boon wrote. “Having competent and capable large animal veterinarians throughout B.C is of utmost importance to not only those in the ranching and farming industries, but also for the general public.”
The Citizen reached out to UNBC and the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training for comment on Friday afternoon. This story will be updated when more information is available.