Taylor Westbrook of Vanderhoof with her canine friends Willow (left), Hazel and Sage. (Photo submitted)

Taylor Westbrook of Vanderhoof with her canine friends Willow (left), Hazel and Sage. (Photo submitted)

Not enough seats available for aspiring B.C. veterinarians: WCVM student

Vet shortages becoming more pronounced due to aging demographic

A Vanderhoof student believes the shortage of veterinarians can be primarily blamed on the number of seats available at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM).

Taylor Westbrook, 23, has started her first year of studies at the highly competitive veterinary school in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

While costs for Westbrook to attend the four-year program will set her back approximately $350,000, she believes that is just one part of the problem.

Just 20 seats are available each year for B.C. students to attend WCVM.

A report by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association-Society of B.C. Veterinarians Chapter (CVMA-SBCV) has indicated the need for vets is outstripping the demand by a gap of approximately 100 vets per year, with shortages anticipated to become even more pronounced in the future due to an aging demographic.

READ MORE: Animals at risk as B.C. falls behind in educating veterinarians: society

“It’s based on how few seats we have, not so much the cost,” Westbrook said, noting the number of seats can also be blamed for how competitive it is to access the program.

“There are a lot of people always going about there’s such a shortage of vets, but I don’t think they realize that the province can fund for more seats in their province.”

To get into WCVM, Westbrook had to complete a number of undergraduate courses in biology, chemistry and more.

She had just one year left to complete her Bachelor of Biology before finding out she was accepted to WCVM.

Despite the challenges, limited scholarship opportunities and getting student loans from banks that she described as a nightmarish process, Westbrook said she has wanted to be a veterinarian for as long as she can remember. She recalled how she grew up on her family’s ranch and would even help her grandfather with work on his ranch.

“I love animals, especially large animals—horses and cows in particular, cats and dogs as well,” she said.

“I also want to contribute back to my community in Vanderhoof as well.”

READ MORE: B.C. veterinarians facing intense pressure from pandemic pet boom

The Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako recently agreed to write letters to the BC Government at the request of the CVMA-SBCV in support of increasing the number of available seats for B.C. students at WCVM from 20 to 40. It currently costs the Ministry of Education $8.3 million to hold the 20 seats.

(With files from Eddie Huband)