Main investments within the Saint-Hyacinthe campus

A $101 million grant was awarded by the Quebec government to develop a veterinary simulation center, a clinical skills center and an animal shelter on the Saint-Hyacinthe campus of the Université de Montréal.

The Veterinary Simulation Center will allow students to learn to master certain techniques in models, simulators and the use of virtual reality before putting them into practice on live animals.

Christine Theoret, Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, gives the example of a bandage to be applied to a horse’s leg. “It’s not a difficult procedure, but you still need to learn by applying the right technique and getting feedback to correct your mistakes,” she says. Bandaging a horse for the first time that moves because it is nervous is not ideal for either the student or the animal. It is best to learn the technique safely first in a simulation environment to gain confidence and then apply it to a live animal, which brings other challenges.”

In the eyes of the dean, this is a big step for the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine when other courses, for example, nursing and medicine, already use simulation.

UdeM was able to acquire specialized equipment for the Center thanks to a $1 million donation made last year by the Molson Foundation. “It remains now to install this equipment in a functional and welcoming place”, he adds.

The Veterinary Simulation Center, which will have an area of ​​approximately 600 mtwo, will also meet the needs of other programs, particularly at the university level. There, continuing education activities can also be carried out.

Clinical Competence Center

A new animal center – clinical skills center will also be installed in a building that will be built on the Saint-Hyacinthe campus. This building of almost 7000 mtwo will bring together teaching laboratories and facilities for animals, including those used by the Cégep de Saint-Hyacinthe for its animal health techniques program and currently located at the Centro Hospitalar Veterinario Universitario (CHUV).

“Transporting animals from one place to another on campus to allow students to learn basic skills is not the most efficient or ethical thing to do because movement stresses dogs and cats,” explains Christine Theoret.

In addition, this multipurpose location will modernize teaching and meet the accrediting body’s facility requirements for the veterinary medicine training program.

It should also be noted that unoccupied facilities in the CHUV will not remain unoccupied. “We need this space because the student groups will increase by 26% counting the people accepted in the decentralized program in Rimouski, indicates the dean. However, for the fourth year, starting in 2027, they will be hosted at the Saint-Hyacinthe campus and at the CHUV. Therefore, more space is needed to allow clinical training of our future and future veterinarians.”

The shelter

The Refuge of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine will also benefit from a new location, next to the Animal Pole – Clinical Competence Center. “The Refuge is currently located in a very tight spot and we want to expand and modernize it,” says Christine Theoret.

The Refúgio, in addition to welcoming animals awaiting adoption, allows veterinary medicine students to enjoy different types of clinical experiences. “It is true that it is an extraordinary place for internships because there can be carried out various interventions, namely sterilizations”, illustrates the dean.

But the Refúgio also welcomes volunteers from different years of the program who want to learn more. “By being there, they can gradually learn to master various techniques,” she adds. And learn about common illnesses, how to make a diagnosis, how to make a treatment plan and how to manage it.”

In addition, the presence of several animals makes it possible to acquire the basics in terms of sanitation to prevent the transmission of diseases within the Refuge. “It really is a place that offers a very rich learning opportunity right at the beginning of the training course”, highlights Christine Theoret.

Due to the limited space available, the Refuge is obliged at this time to refuse animals and limit the number of people around it. “However, the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at UdeM is the only one in Quebec that offers students a very high level of training,” said the dean. We must ensure that our training reaches the level of quality required by the American accreditation body and that we are always in the process of improvement. The new Refuge will be a beautiful example of this.”

respond to the need

Improving its facilities to better train, and in greater numbers, Quebec’s future veterinarians is also one way the UdeM Faculty of Veterinary Medicine is trying to respond to the shortage of veterinarians in the province.

“Scarcity became more evident to the general public during the pandemic due to the needs of companion animals, but it existed long before, which is why we implemented different strategies to alleviate it,” says Christine Theoret.

This is how the idea of ​​offering a decentralized program in Rimouski was born, with the shortage being particularly glaring in the region and in the bio-food sector, therefore for farm animals. “We bet that, by training students in the regions, they will stay there to establish their practice”, continues the dean.

But while a study by the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food predicts that a third of farm animal veterinarians will retire by 2027, more needs to be done. That is why, since 2020, the veterinary medicine program has reserved 15 places per year for those who will enter this practice. Brandon O’Farrell is one of them. Originally from Saint-Malachie, at RMC de Bellechasse, he will graduate in 2024-2025.

“I always wanted to work with large animals”, he says. I come from beef cattle production: my uncle took over my grandfather’s farm and I started working with him at a very young age with the animals. I always liked to take care, to make sure that everything was going well in the production.

For him, becoming a large animal veterinarian is therefore a dream come true. “On the farm, we work a lot outside, it’s always on the move, we do all sorts of different things,” he says. We also work in collaboration with producers, mainly on prevention. It’s a lifestyle.”

And where does he plan to practice when he finishes his studies? “It is true that I have my region tattooed on my heart and that I think about going back there, but you never know”, he says. I might as well go to another region. I will certainly work with farm animals.”

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