Many questions have come up about COVID-19 and how the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) is responding to coronavirus-related issues on the University of Saskatchewan (USask) campus.

At this time, the public health risk associated with COVID-19 is low for the general population in Canada but this could change rapidly. There is an increased risk of more severe outcomes for Canadians:

  • aged 65 and over
  • with compromised immune systems
  • with underlying medical conditions

The WCVM is planning for certain scenarios involving people and animals associated with the veterinary college. Because this is a rapidly changing situation, please continue to check the USask website, along with the provincial and federal government websites.  

WCVM updates

LEARNING AS WE GO: Years 1 to 3 have just completed their third week of classes and their first week of in-person labs. As well, fourth-year students are working on their clinical rotations in the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre. College staff members are working to address some logistical challenges in students’ routes and to add more signage for students — but overall, everyone is doing their best to help make this “new normal” work for students and staff. It’s not easy, but by working together, we can meet our college’s core needs. Thanks to everyone for making this work!  

GRADUATE DEFENCE: Congratulations to Dr. Leila Bedos Senon, who successfully defended her Master of Science (MSc) thesis on Aug. 27. Dr. Bedos’ defence was titled “The significance of pre-iridal monocellular membranes in dogs and those with ASD-associated glaucoma, secondary glaucoma and primary glaucoma." Dr. Bedos is completing her MSc program under the supervision of Dr. Lynne Sandmeyer, a professor in the WCVM Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences. 

IN THE NEWS: Based on the results of a USask community survey, the online PAWS Your Stress Therapy Dog program is a virtual hit with its followers.

“Nearly 400 people responded to the survey and we learned that people wanted to visit the therapy dogs primarily to reduce stress, because they missed them, and because they wanted to learn about therapy dogs,” said Dr. Linzi Williamson, a postdoctoral fellow who is working with Dr. Colleen Dell, a sociology professor in USask’s College of Arts and Science and the university’s Centennial Enhancement Chair in One Health and Wellness. Click here to read more.

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

Click here to view the latest USask COVID-19 weekly update (Sept. 3). 

 

COVID-19 building rules

Updated July 23, 2020

The following rules apply to all University of Saskatchewan (USask) employees or students who work or study in the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) building.

It is everyone’s responsibility to support and enforce these rules, and everyone should feel comfortable to remind others of the rules.

If you witness situations where these rules are repeatedly broken, please send a message to wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca. Your message will be kept confidential by the WCVM’s human resources team.


You must be approved to work or study in the WCVM building

  • USask now allows individual colleges and units to manage people’s access to their own buildings. If you believe you have a legitimate reason for coming to the WCVM building and have not yet applied for access to the USask campus, contact Dr. Chris Clark (chris.clark@usask.ca) with your specific request.
  • If you must be in the building for different reasons (such as clinical duties and teaching preparation), you must have approval for each task.
  • All faculty, staff and students who are working on campus must keep a work location journal. Please record the rooms, offices, laboratories and buildings that you have visited each day. If a COVID-19 case or outbreak occurs on campus, these journals will assist in health surveillance and contact tracing. Click here to download a work location journal PDF.
  • If you wish to book a room or lecture theatre in the WCVM building, you must also submit documents that support your presence on campus for the specific reason that you require the room. For example, if you are only approved to conduct research in the WCVM building, you cannot book a lecture theatre for teaching preparation without requesting on-campus access for teaching preparation.

Do not work in the WCVM building unless it's necessary

  • The best way to prevent transmission of COVID-19 is to reduce contact with others.   
  • Students, staff and faculty are expected to work remotely. Do not conduct tasks in the WCVM building that could be done at home. 
  • If you must perform lab work or use non-portable equipment or infrastructure, perform your work as efficiently as possible. Minimize the time you spend in the WCVM building and leave the college as soon as your tasks are done.  

Follow these rules while you are in the WCVM building: 

Face masks are required

  • You must wear a face mask any time you are in a public or shared space of the college.
  • You do not need to wear a face mask in private office spaces.
  • Cloth (non-medical) or paper (medical) masks are acceptable. Your mask must completely cover your mouth and nose at all times.

Wash your hands often

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
  • If you can’t wash your hands, use hand sanitizer.

Do not work in shared spaces

  • Avoid sharing your work space with coworkers or classmates.*
  • As alternatives, find another work space or schedule individual time slots in labs or other shared spaces using an online or posted calendar system.

*Exceptions: Employees/students in Veterinary Medical Centre and Prairie Diagnostic Services

Avoid public spaces in the WCVM

  • Whenever possible, go outdoors for breaks. If you must stay indoors, take breaks in a safe space and please clean up after yourself. If disinfectant is available, please spray down and wipe your table surface after use.
  • The WCVM buffeteria and the building’s other public spaces are being cleaned regularly, but as much as possible, please avoid these spaces where physical distancing and frequent disinfection is more difficult to maintain.

Follow travel guidelines

  • All USask staff and students must abide by provincial guidelines for travel. Click here for more information.
  • Monitor your health during your travel and for 14 days after your return. Use the Government of Saskatchewan’s personal health recording sheet.
  • If you develop a fever or flu-like symptoms after you return from travelling, do not come to work. Contact your supervisor.
  • Use the self-assessment tool to determine if you should be tested for COVID-19 or contact HealthLine 811.
  • USask has suspended all international travel for students, faculty and staff until further notice. Visit the USask COVID-19 website for more information.

These rules will be updated regularly as more information becomes available.

Veterinary Medical Centre

COVID-19 response

As of Monday, June 15, the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC) began increasing its clinical services beyond emergencies and urgent cases to about 25 per cent of its regular capacity.

Over the past few months, the VMC has had to limit its clinical services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A phased reopening of the veterinary teaching hospital allows us to protect the health and safety of staff, students and clients while maintaining high-quality care for our patients. We thank you for your patience as we begin to resume our regular services. 

The VMC continues to follow a stringent admission/discharge protocol to minimize contact between clients and members of the clinical team members and to prevent the spread of infection.

For more information, click the buttons below. 

VMC case management

To help keep everyone safe, the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre is limiting interaction between clinical staff and animal owners. 

The risk of contracting COVID-19 from our animal patients is extremely low. Based on information from the World Health Organization and other sources, human-to-human contact is the main risk. The following recommendations will help to minimize that risk:

  • WASH your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently.
  • WIPE objects after passing them between you and others.
  • WIPE objects, counters, surfaces and any touch point after each use.
  • WIPE counters and surfaces frequently, especially in areas used by more than one person.
  • DON’T ALLOW clients to enter the hospital. Use the phone to talk to the animals’ owners.

Click here to review the procedures for managing cases at the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre. You're also welcome to download the PDF documents. 

Student support

Help for students in financial crisis

We understand that the current situation may have created additional financial strain for our students. The University of Saskatchewan, as well as the WCVM, each has a fund that may be able to support students in need by providing emergency funding.

The Nasser Emergency Fund (USask)

This fund is managed centrally by the University of Saskatchewan’s Student Services. Students in considerable crisis can write to askus@usask.ca

With their email, students will need to provide the following:

  • student number
  • date of birth
  • copy of your direct deposit/voided cheque
  • brief description of your needs for the next two months
  • phone number for verification purposes

The Smart Emergency Loan (WCVM)

This fund was created through the generous support of Drs. Jim and Meg Smart.

The WCVM has limited funds available for current WCVM undergraduate and graduate students who find themselves in circumstances that require temporary, emergency funding.

Guidelines

  • Application for funds is made to Paige Links, Manager of Student Services, WCVM
  • Availability of funds may vary
  • The Smart Emergency Loan is designed to help students through a temporary financial crisis
  • Repayment terms are flexible and determined by the Manager of Student Services
  • There is no interest charged on emergency loans as long as the repayment terms are adhered to
  • Loans are for, but not limited to, the following expenses:
    • living expenses
    • unexpected medical expenses

COVID-19 resources

For animal health care workers

Veterinary medicine during a time of restriction of elective services and social distancing
Dr. Scott Weese, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph

COVID-19: owner contact guidelines (management tree)
Dr. Scott Weese, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph

Worms and Germs blog
Dr. Scott Weese, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph

Protecting your veterinary team during the pandemic (COVID-19)
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)

Minimizing COVID-19 exposure and social distancing in veterinary medicine (flowchart)
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)

AAHA Infection Control, Prevention and Biosecurity Guidelines
American Animal Hospitals Association (AAHA)

AVMA COVID-19 information for veterinarians
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)

WSAVA COVID-19 advice and resources
World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA)

OIE Q & A on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
World Organisation for Animal Health

Infection control: CDC guidelines
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

WCVM updates (July-August 2020)

ACADEMIC UPDATE: After two weeks of online classes, the next phase in the WCVM’s academic year will begin next week. In-person labs for small, stable groups of students in Years 1 to 3 will start in the WCVM building on Monday, Aug. 31. To minimize contact between these groups and WCVM staff, the students will use specific entries and washrooms during their limited time in the building. As well, students in Years 1 to 3 will not have access to lockers — they will bring only what they need for their labs and leave immediately afterward. For more information, please contact WCVM building manager Susan Cook (susan.cook@usask.ca) or Dr. Chris Clark (chris.clark@usask.ca).  

On Monday, Aug. 31, senior veterinary students will also begin their fourth-year externships and clinical rotations — including rotations in the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC). To minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 among the VMC’s clinical teams, all of the students are being asked to take their temperatures daily and to self-monitor for potential symptoms of COVID-19. While the majority of rotations begin on Aug. 31, one rotation is just wrapping up: nine fourth-year students will complete the two-week emergency and critical care rotation this weekend.

VMC UPDATE: A shortage of clinical staff in the small animal surgery and veterinary radiology is still causing challenges for the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre. The hospital’s leadership team members have been working hard to prepare clinical teams for the return of fourth-year veterinary students on Aug. 31. While there’s some anxiety associated with new people joining the clinical teams during the COVID-19 pandemic, having more “hands on deck” will be very helpful during such a busy time in the VMC.  

On Aug. 26, Dr. Steve Manning (associate dean, clinical programs) hosted a virtual Q and A session with a group of WCVM alumni and referring veterinarians. The online session sparked a good discussion among attendees, and within the next week, Dr. Manning will be providing participants with some follow-up information about referrals to the veterinary teaching hospital.

RESEARCH UPDATE: WCVM researchers who are seeking permission to resume activity can submit their research protocols to Dr. Liz Snead, associate dean, research and graduate studies. The USask form identifies the dean as the approver, but for the WCVM, Dr. Snead has been responsible for reviewing and approving the research teams’ research protocols. Click here to access the forms for requesting increased activity or amending/changing the scope of research. For more information, please contact Dr. Liz Snead.

Congratulations to veterinary student Jessica DeBruyne, who received an honourable mention for her research presentation in the USask Student Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) 2020 Summer Symposium (Aug. 24-26). DeBruyne, a second-year WCVM student, spent her summer conducting research as part of Dr. Elemir Simko’s honey bee health research team.

DeBruyne and other undergraduate student researchers will have a chance to showcase their research work during the WCVM’s annual Undergraduate Summer Student Research Poster competition. The event will take place remotely in early September, with judging to take place from Sept. 4-14. Stay tuned for further information.   

IN THE NEWS: With support from Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC) has launched a project aimed at increasing its capacity to identify and characterize plastic pollution found in wildlife across Canada. Targeted activities at the CWHC’s regional centres will help to grow the capacity for national monitoring and surveillance of plastics that entangle wildlife or are ingested by wild animals and birds. Visit the CWHC Facebook page to read the full news release.

An equine health study conducted by WCVM researchers was featured in a Western Producer livestock health column, written by Dr. Jamie Rothenburger (WCVM ’10). Results of the case study, which was published in the July 2020 issue of the Canadian Veterinary Journal, identified a possible link between forest tent caterpillars and deaths in several western Canadian horses. Click here to read the column.

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

Click here to view the latest USask COVID-19 weekly update (Aug. 20).   

ACADEMIC UPDATE: Other than a few technical challenges, the first week of online classes went relatively smoothly for veterinary students in Years 1 to 3. Nine fourth-year students began the term’s first VMC-based clinical rotation — emergency and critical care, supervised by Dr. Jennifer Loewen — on Monday, Aug. 17. The Small Animal Clinic’s rising number of incoming emergencies is providing the students with some valuable hands-on experience and exposure to a variety of cases. Other fourth-year clinical rotations and externships will begin on Monday, Aug. 31.

As part of our #WCVMWelcomeBackTips compilation, check out the following videos on our @WCVMToday Facebook page:  

  • Click here to view a video message to WCVM students from Dr. Gillian Muir, acting dean
  • Click here to view a video message from Alannah Friedlund, WCVSA president
  • Click here to view a video message from Andrew Crookes, Class of 2023 president

VMC UPDATE: The caseload in the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre’s (VMC) emergency and critical care service continued to rise this week, which has been challenging for the area’s clinical team. Other clinical services at the VMC continue to expand their caseload as part of the hospital’s phased reopening. Small animal surgery and radiology continue to deal with staffing challenges. The VMC’s leadership team is working to prepare clinical staff for the next phase, which will include the beginning of fourth-year clinical rotations.

RESEARCH UPDATE: The WCVM’s annual Undergraduate Summer Student Research Poster competition will take place remotely in early September, with judging to take place from Sept. 4 to 14. Poster submission deadline was Aug. 20, so all submitted posters will be categorized next week. Thanks to all of the staff, graduate students and faculty members who have volunteered as judges for the competition, and thank you to all of the students for their hard work over the summer!

On Aug. 26, Dr. Steve Manning (associate dean, clinical programs) will host a virtual Q and A session with WCVM alumni and referring veterinarians to talk about the challenges with the hospital’s small animal surgery service and to give an update on other news from the VMC.  

NEW RESEARCH FACILITATOR: Kevin Driscoll began his new role as the WCVM’s new research facilitator on Monday, Aug. 17. His primary responsibilities will consist of assisting researchers in identifying research grant opportunities, providing guidance on best practices for success in preparing applications, identifying collaborative opportunities and supporting the development of research proposals. He will also assist with administrative processes such as project budgeting, monitoring funding deadlines, and interacting with various research and funding agency application platforms. 

Kevin has previous experience as a research facilitator on the USask campus (with the College of Agriculture and Bioresources and the School of Environmental Sustainability) and at Cape Breton University. He also worked as a senior program officer in the Research Partnerships Directorate of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

Over the next few weeks, the college’s Research and Graduate Studies Office is setting up WebEx introduction meetings so Kevin can meet WCVM research teams virtually. Please contact Kevin (kevin.driscoll@usask.ca) if you would like to be part of an introductory meeting.

IN THE NEWS: As a follow up from last week, Global News Saskatoon reporter Mandy Vocke interviewed Dr. Behzad Toosi, the WCVM’s Allard Research Chair in Oncology, and his graduate student, Jessica Sharpe, about their comparative oncology research work. Click here to view the news story.

Led by WCVM reproductive science researcher Dr. Daniel MacPhee, scientists are experimenting with the use of readily available, clinical ultrasonography equipment to better understand the difference between Braxton Hicks and the contractions that signal the actual onset of labour in pregnant women. Click here to read more about MacPhee's work in a research story written by third-year veterinary student Jude Morton. 

Dr. Roy Lewis, a WCVM alumnus and animal health columnist with Grainews and other farm publications, highlighted the conclusions of a 2015 survey that questioned cattle producers’ use of internal parasite treatments. A group of WCVM researchers sent questionnaires to more than 100 producers across Western Canada. Click here to read the story.

USASK STUDENT RESOURCES: The university’s Teaching, Learning and Student Experience (TLSE) team has created online resources to help students with the adjustment to remote learning and to welcome new students to the USask campus. Here are links to the new web pages:

For more general information, visit the university’s Students web page.

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

Click here to view the latest USask COVID-19 weekly update (Aug. 20).   

COVID-19 RULES: Our fall academic term begins on Monday, Aug. 17, but please remember that it's not back to business as usual at the veterinary college. We are still in the midst of a viral pandemic, and we must keep the number of people in our building and on campus to a minimum. Please continue to work remotely whenever possible.

• The WCVM building and USask campus remain closed until further notice. You must have approval to conduct work or study in the WCVM building, and all exterior doors remain locked. Employees of the Veterinary Medical Centre, Prairie Diagnostic Services, the Animal Care Unit, approved researchers and approved faculty are the only individuals who are allowed to work in the WCVM building at this time.

• Contact WCVM administration to apply for building/campus access. USask now allows individual colleges and units to manage people’s access to their own buildings. If you have a legitimate reason for coming to the WCVM building and have not yet applied for access to the USask campus, contact Dr. Chris Clark (chris.clark@usask.ca). Please note: you must have approval to be in the building for different reasons (such as clinical duties and teaching preparation).

• Keep a work location journal. If you are working in the WCVM building, you must maintain a daily work location journal. As directed by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health, you must be able to produce your journal upon request in the event of a positive COVID-19 case so public health officers can conduct contact tracing.

• You must have approval before booking a room. If you wish to book a room or lecture theatre in the WCVM building, you must also submit documents that support your presence on campus for the specific reason that you require the room. Contact Karen White (karen.e.white@usask.ca) if you wish to book a room. 

• Respect the WCVM building’s rules. To prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to be public health role models for our students, please follow the WCVM’s building rules:

  • be in the building only when necessary
  • wear a face mask
  • wash your hands often
  • practise physical distancing

Click here to view the updated list of WCVM building rules (updated Aug. 13). Thank you for your co-operation — our collective behaviour will keep the WCVM and USask campus community safe and able to continue our essential activities. 

BUFFETERIA USE FOR FOURTH-YEAR STUDENTS: Throughout the academic year, our fourth-year students must have a designated area in the WCVM building where they can eat their meals and study while working at the college. After reviewing the options, we have determined that the buffeteria is the only area available that works for the senior students’ needs.

Beginning on Monday, Aug. 17, the buffeteria will only be available for the fourth-year students’ use. Thank you for your co-operation, and we apologize for any inconvenience that this decision causes for other members of the WCVM community. We appreciate your support of our senior students as they begin their clinical rotations.

CELL PHONE PROGRAMS: Members of the WCVM community have asked questions about the University of Saskatchewan’s new policies on cellular phones. Here’s a quick overview of the university’s new programs: 

• New USask employee mobile phone program. As of July 1, 2020, no new cellular contracts will be added to the university's corporate mobility plan. To support the needs of its employees, USask introduced the "Bring Your Own Phone" (BYOP) program as well as a stipend program. Click here for more information about both initiatives.

Eligibility in the stipend program is at the discretion of each college or administrative unit and is based on job-based eligibility criteria and budget. The WCVM leadership team is reviewing the university’s new stipend program and guidelines. As we determine the positions that qualify for this program, we will contact eligible individuals with further details. 

• Telus program: USask has established a partnership with Telus Mobility to provide all university staff with an “Employee Purchase Program" (EPP). Through this program, Telus provides USask staff with discounted rates on cellular plans as well as discounted hardware. Please log in to PAWS and visit the university’s “Employment Perks” section for more details. If you have any questions, please contact Ginger Appel (ginger.appel@usask.ca).

MANDATORY MASKS AT USASK: As of Monday, Aug. 24, USask is making face masks (non-medical mask or cloth face coverings) mandatory on all of the university campuses for all indoor common or shared spaces. Next week (Aug. 17-21) will be a transition week to allow staff, students, and faculty appropriate time to acquire any needed cloth or disposable face masks. Please note that all university buildings remain closed, with only limited access to faculty, staff and students who are required to be on campus or have approved access. Click here for more information. 

BACK-TO-SCHOOL PREPARATIONS: To help prepare veterinary students for the upcoming term, members of the academic team have been holding online evening Q and A sessions with WCVM class years. Besides answering students’ questions, the WCVM team has been introducing the students to Canvas, WebEx and other technological tools and services available for use on campus.

IN THE NEWS: Dr. Behzad Toosi, an assistant professor and the WCVM’s Allard Research Chair in Oncology, is featured in an On Campus News story titled “Cancer therapies connect dogs and humans” that highlights some of his team’s comparative oncology research. The story was written by third-year veterinary student Velina Milkova, who worked in Dr. Toosi’s lab during the summer of 2019. Click here to read the story.

The campus publication’s “Unique USask” back-cover feature series also highlights another veterinary-related story: “Cow tilt table a uniquely USask teaching tool” includes comments from Dr. Chris Clark, the WCVM’s associate dean (academic) about the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre’s bovine tilt table’s long history.  

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

Click here to view the latest USask COVID-19 weekly update (August 14).

VMC UPDATE: Nadine Schueller, the Veterinary Medical Centre’s director of clinical care, has been meeting with individual clinical services to check in on their progress and to learn more about their limitations. These discussions are also helpful for gathering feedback about the hospital’s reopening plans and what concerns people have about the phased-in process.

Small animal surgery is one clinical service that has been particularly challenged in the past few weeks. The short-staffed team has a large waiting list of referral cases that were postponed earlier in the spring, and there continues to be a large number of emergency surgeries to complete. Since some cases coming through the VMC’s emergency services are considered non-emergent, the VMC contacted referring veterinarians and asked for their assistance. If veterinarians have non-emergent small animal surgical cases, the VMC is asking practitioners to advise their clients about seeking referral care elsewhere until the hospital’s small animal surgical team can return to a full level of service. For more information, visit the VMC web site.

WRAP UP FOR GRAD STUDENTS: During the past couple of weeks, several of the WCVM’s graduate students successfully defended their research to their graduate committees. Congratulations to the following graduate students:

  • Lea Riddell, supervised by Dr. Steve Manning, WCVM Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences. Master of Science (MSc) project title: “The systemic and intrauterine effects of granulocyte-colony stimulating factor in mares.” Successfully defended on July 20. Click here to read more about this research topic.
  • Mariana Diel de Amorim, supervised by Dr. Claire Card, WCVM Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences. PhD thesis title: “Role of oxytocin and oxytocinase in the maternal recognition of pregnancy.” Successfully defended on July 28. Click here to read more about this research topic.
  • Narsimha Pujari, supervised by Dr. Adelaine Leung, WCVM Department of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences. MSc thesis title: “Crystallization of GSK3β with an inhibiting peptide of psychiatric risk factor, DISC1." Successfully defended on July 30. 

PACKAGE DELIVERIES: Please avoid using the WCVM’s shipping address for package deliveries that are not directly related to your job — a directive that’s especially important right now. As activities increase at the college and research labs re-open, the reduced number of staff managing the WCVM loading dock are receiving larger numbers of packages and do not have time to contact individuals about personal packages. Please use your home address for delivery of personal items.

NOMINATION DEADLINE FOR SAVT AWARDS: Tomorrow (Saturday, Aug. 1), is the final deadline for the Saskatchewan Association of Veterinary Technologists (SAVT) awards. If you work with registered veterinary technologists (RVT) or veterinarians who have gone above and beyond to contribute to the veterinary profession, show your appreciation by nominating them for an SAVT award. For more information, visit the SAVT awards page.

IN THE NEWS: The Summer 2020 issues of Horse Health Lines and Vet Topics are now available online on the Townsend Equine Health Research Fund (TEHRF) and Companion Animal Health Fund (CAHF) websites. Due to the university’s closure, print copies of the two research publications will not be distributed to departments or individuals on campus. In addition to the PDF versions of the newsletters, visit the WCVM Today news site to read some of the latest articles featured in the publications.

The latest episode of USask SCI-FI Camps’ “What’s new @ the U” series highlights Dr. Chris Clark, associate dean (academic), and the first part of his college-wide tour for prospective veterinary students. Click here to watch the video.  

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

Click here to view the latest USask COVID-19 weekly update (July 30).   

VMC UPDATE: The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre continues to work through the early phases of its reopening process, which began in mid-June. As individual clinical services increase their caseload, the hospital’s management team is exploring options for improving existing practices and to help streamline the VMC’s admitting and discharge processes.

As the VMC prepares for the next phase when clients will be gradually allowed in the building, the hospital’s team is also working on different configurations for its clinic reception areas that will help to support physical distancing and other safety protocols.

COVID-19 BUILDING RULES (UPDATED): The college’s building rules have been updated to include some additional input from the WCVM community. These important additions emphasize two key points: you must have approval to work in the WCVM building, and even when you do have approval, only work in the building when it’s necessary. Here are the additions to the building rules:

You must be approved to work or study in the WCVM building

  • Click here to learn how to request on-campus access. If you must be in the building for different reasons (such as clinical duties and teaching preparation), you must submit a separate application for each task.
  • All faculty, staff and students who are working on campus must keep a work location journal. Please record the rooms, offices, laboratories and buildings that you have visited each day. If a COVID-19 case or outbreak occurs on campus, these journals will assist in health surveillance and contact tracing.  Click here to download a work location journal PDF.
  • If you wish to book a room or lecture theatre in the WCVM building, you must also submit documents that support your presence on campus for the specific reason that you require the room. For example, if you are only approved to conduct research in the WCVM building, you cannot book a lecture theatre for teaching preparation without requesting on-campus access for teaching preparation.

Do not work in the WCVM building unless it's necessary

  • The best way to prevent transmission of COVID-19 is to reduce contact with others.   
  • Students, staff and faculty are expected to work remotely. Do not conduct tasks in the WCVM building that could be done at home. 
  • If you must perform lab work or use non-portable equipment or infrastructure, perform your work as efficiently as possible. Minimize the time you spend in the WCVM building and leave the college as soon as your tasks are done.  

Click here to read the entire list of rules that you must follow while working or studying in the building.

SAVT AWARD NOMINATIONS: Do you know or work with registered veterinary technologists (RVT) or veterinarians who have gone above and beyond to contribute to the veterinary profession? Show your appreciation by nominating them for an award offered by the Saskatchewan Association of Veterinary Technologists (SAVT). The provincial organization is seeking nominations for its annual awards program that includes the following awards (click on the following links for more details):

Award nominations close on Saturday, August 1, 2020. For more information, visit the SAVT awards page.

IN THE NEWS: A USask research news story highlights the important collaboration between infectious disease experts across Canada as they work together at the USask Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) to advance research and development against COVID-19. Click here to read the full story.

Dr. Jordan Woodsworth, wellness clinical associate, was interviewed for a Star Phoenix story on the dangers of leaving dogs and other pets locked in vehicles during hot weather — a topic that’s especially relevant as temperatures soar. Click here to read the full story.

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

Click here to view the latest USask COVID-19 weekly update (July 23).   

ON GUARD FOR COVID-19: The Province of Saskatchewan experienced its highest one-day increase in confirmed cases of COVID-19 with a total of 42 new cases on Thursday, July 16. While most of these new cases are in the province’s south region, additional cases are in the Saskatoon area, central region and northern Saskatchewan.

Since a sudden jump in cases indicates an increased risk of transmission in the community , the WCVM leadership team encourages everyone to be vigilant about protecting your health as well as the health of your family members. If you are working in the WCVM building, please ensure that you follow the COVID-19 building rules. Before heading out to public spaces or events this weekend, please check out the Province of Saskatchewan’s guidelines for protecting yourself against COVID-19. Stay safe!

ON-CAMPUS ACTIVITIES: As you know, the USask campus is still closed with only limited access to staff and faculty with approved access. If you have permission to return and work in the WCVM building for certain research- or academic-focused activities, please be aware that the intent is not to have people spending their entire work day at the college.

As much as possible, complete your tasks off site and limit your time spent in the college building. Please follow the guidelines outlined by the college and the university. If you need additional support to fulfil academic or research activities off site, email wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca for assistance.

COLLEGE UPDATE: The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre’s (VMC) clinical teams are working through patient waiting lists in different clinical services as the veterinary teaching hospital continues its reopening process. The VMC experienced a quieter-than-usual week in terms of emergencies and new urgent cases, so it was a welcome opportunity to focus on this backlog of cases.

Earlier this week, the WCVM’s academic team distributed its timetable for the 2020-21 academic year. The team is now addressing potential issues and questions from the college’s faculty.

The WCVM Research Office has secured 40 judges for the upcoming undergraduate student research poster competition in early September — thank you to everyone who has offered to assist with this virtual event that will take place on Sept. 3. The college’s three Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) veterinary scholars are preparing for the BI national student scholars symposium, which will take place online from Aug. 4 to 6. The WCVM Imaging Centre is now open and available to support the work of researchers. For more information about using these technologies, visit the centre’s web page or email wcvm.imagingcentre@usask.ca.

IN THE NEWS: Dr. Kristen Conn, assistant professor in the WCVM’s Department of Veterinary Microbiology, has received $120,000 from the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) in support of her work targeting a herpes virus protein for new antiviral drugs. Dr. Conn was one of six USask researchers who received funding through the SHRF’s Establishment Grant competition for 2020-21. Conn, who joined the WCVM in 2018, will examine how an essential protein of the herpes simplex virus (HSV) can disrupt a host cell’s natural ability to combat infection. Click here to read more about the announcement.

Dr. Yanyun Huang, a well-known face around the veterinary college, became the chief executive officer (CEO) of Prairie Diagnostic Services in February 2020. Click here to read a profile of Dr. Huang that’s posted on WCVM Today. Learn more about Dr. Huang, his background and his plans for the organization’s future.

TICK TALK: As one way to keep in touch with young campers who usually attend USask SCI-FI Camps, organizers have created a great YouTube interview series called "What's New @ the U" that highlights science and some of the research taking place on the USask campus. Earlier this month, young students submitted their tick-related questions for Dr. Maarten Voordouw, assistant professor in the WCVM's Department of Veterinary Microbiology. If you have a budding scientist in your home, make sure to check out this extremely informative interview. Thanks to Dr. Voordouw for participating in the SCI-FI Camps series! 

FOUNDING FACULTY MEMBER: Dr. Bill Cates, one of the WCVM’s founding professors, passed away on June 13, 2020, at the age of 93 years. Well known for his hands-on teaching style, Dr. Cates taught and conducted research in the area of bovine theriogenology at the WCVM. He was a WCVM faculty member from 1965 until his retirement in 1994. Click here to read the obituary that was published in The Saskatoon Star Phoenix last week. A more in-depth memorial is posted on the B.C. funeral home’s web site. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a date for Dr. Cates’ celebration of life may not occur until 2021. In the meantime, family and friends have shared stories and photos of him on the funeral home’s web site.

PAWS YOUR STRESS SURVEY: Organizers of the USask PAWS Your Stress Therapy Dog program are looking for feedback from the university community about how they can offer their program online. You can help by taking the group’s online survey and sharing your comments. Click here to take the five-minute survey.  

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

Click here to view the latest USask COVID-19 weekly update (July 16) that includes information about resumption of services on campus (rationale behind the university’s approach and submission requests), interprovincial travel, on campus signage, on demand transit, safety resources and training.

UPDATED SIGNAGE: Last week, the WCVM’s leadership team distributed updated COVID-19 rules for people working and studying in the college building. To help remind people of the building’s rules, the WCVM has worked with the University of Saskatchewan (USask) to modify the university’s general COVID-19 signage. The updated signage is now available on SharePoint (click on “Building Information”) or click here to access the files. General USask signage is available on the university’s COVID-19 Wiki page.

DEPARTMENT LEADERSHIP: In addition to the department leadership changes that were reported in last week’s update, Dr. Trent Bollinger is serving a one-year term as acting head for the WCVM’s Department of Veterinary Pathology. Dr. Bollinger is taking on the role while Dr. Susantha Gomis is on a one-year sabbatical leave (July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021).

SEND KUDOS TO VMC TEAM: Since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down much of Saskatchewan, members of the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre’s dedicated team have been working tirelessly to care for a wide range of animals from across the province. For three months, the VMC was only open to emergencies and urgent cases because of COVID-19. During this time, the hospital’s clinical teams worked incredibly hard to not only care for these patients, but to adapt to new policies and procedures.

Since the VMC began increasing clinical services to about 25 per cent capacity in mid-June, staff members have done an incredible job of managing a backlog of cases and caring for animals that have been waiting for specialized diagnostic tests and treatments. Our VMC team has been amazing during this challenging time — and you can show your appreciation online. Visit @WCVMToday on
Facebook or Instagram to see our latest post. 

IN THE NEWS: Dr. Chelsea Himsworth, adjunct professor in the WCVM’s Department of Veterinary Pathology, and her work in developing a new genomics technique for detecting avian influenza virus in wetland sediment is featured in the latest issue of On Campus News, publication for USask. Third-year veterinary student Delaney Schofer wrote the news article as part of her 2019 summer research experience in Dr. Himsworth’s lab at the B.C. Animal Health Centre in Abbotsford, B.C. Delaney returned to work alongside Dr. Himsworth this summer.

Earlier this week, another summer research student’s article was featured on WCVM Today. Alexandra Wentzell, who worked as an undergraduate summer research student with Dr. Elemir Simko’s research team during the summer of 2019, wrote a research news story about the team’s efforts to better understand the spread of American foulbrood disease among honey bees in Western Canada.

WCVM professor and beef cattle researcher Dr. John Campbell is a regular contributor to The Western Producer livestock column. This week, Dr. Campbell’s column focuses on copper deficiency — the most common trace mineral deficiency among western Canadian beef cattle herds. Dr. Campbell, who also heads up the college’s Disease Investigation Unit (DIU), gives some insight into the team’s busy spring that included a range of interesting cases.

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture’s latest issue of Agriview includes a feature article about Dr. Betty Althouse (WCVM ’82), who will retire from her role as Saskatchewan’s chief veterinary medical officer this summer. Dr. Althouse’s advice to her successor reflects why the WCVM alumna was always so effective as the province’s top veterinarian: “... scan for emerging issues, listen to stakeholders and continue to improve and adapt programs as needed. None of them are perfect; everything can be improved.”

CALL FOR JUDGES: The WCVM Research Office is searching for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty and staff to serve as volunteer judges for the college’s annual Undergraduate Students’ Summer Research Poster competition on Thursday, Sept. 3. Since each poster will be virtually judged by three judges, the research team is in need of a larger number of volunteers for the event. If you are willing to participate as a judge, please contact Dr. Liz Snead, Samantha Ekanayake and Jaime Provo for more details.

PAWS YOUR STRESS SURVEY: Organizers of the USask PAWS Your Stress Therapy Dog program are looking for feedback from the university community about how they can offer their program online. You can help by taking the group’s online survey and sharing your comments. Click here to take the five-minute survey.  

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

Click here to view the latest USask COVID-19 weekly update. 

LEADERSHIP CHANGE: Earlier this week, Dr. Doug Freeman officially stepped down from his role as WCVM dean on June 30 and went on administrative leave from the University of Saskatchewan (USask). The college’s new acting dean is Dr. Gillian Muir, who began her new role on July 1. For more information, click here to read the news announcement.

July 1 also marked changes in college department leadership at the WCVM:

  • Tasha Epp is acting head for the Department of Large Animal Clinical Services (July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021) while Dr. Dave Wilson is on sabbatical leave.
  • Cindy Shmon resumes her role as head of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences after a one-year sabbatical leave. The WCVM sincerely thanks Dr. Vikram Misra for serving as acting department head for the past 12 months.
  • Emily Jenkins is acting head for the Department of Veterinary Microbiology (July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021). Thank you to Dr. Janet Hill for completing her term as department head — your dedication was greatly appreciated!
  • Lynn Weber is acting head for the Department of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences (July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021). Dr. Weber takes over the role for Dr. Gillian Muir, who is serving as the college’s acting dean.

VMC update: The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre continues to be busy in both clinics and in its field service. The VMC is still operating at about 25 per cent of its regular capacity, but in some cases, that percentage is higher. For example, wellness and pet rehabilitation are both services that have ramped up more quickly and have been able to take on more cases since they are not as reliant on high-demand services (anesthesia and medical imaging).

The VMC welcomed three new people to its management team on July 2:

  • Business development and administration — Scott Kaminski. Scott recently served as a principal business analyst with a large multi-national corporation. He has a wealth of experience in corporate business administration, planning and project management.
  • Client experience — Andrea Gibson. Before coming to the VMC, Andrea was the operations manager for a local engineering firm where she was responsible for leading the client services group and for project development.
  • Health services — Karen Stene. Karen is a registered nurse with many years of experience in hospital and community nursing. Most recently, she was a faculty member at Saskatchewan Polytechnic in Saskatoon.

Earlier this spring, Derek Gran also joined the VMC management group as the veterinary teaching hospital’s new manager, pharmacy, inventory and procurement.

With these new team members in place, the VMC's leadership team looks forward to restarting the hospital's strategic planning and related projects as the VMC slowly returns to some sort of normal.  Welcome, everyone! 

ACADEMIC UPDATE: The WCVM academic team continues to work on plans for the upcoming school term — including timetables for all three class years, first-year orientation and strategies for student interaction with the college. On Thursday evening (July 2), Dr. Steve Manning, Paige Links and Amanda Doherty held a WebEx meeting with members of the Class of 2021 to give students an update and to answer their questions about upcoming clinical rotations and externships for the 2020-21 academic year.

RESEARCH UPDATE: As reported last week, USask has issued another call for applications (request for campus or field activity), beginning on July 2. The main criteria for this stage is outlined on the USask website. If you have questions about the process or related issues, please contact Dr. Liz Snead, associate dean (research and graduate studies).  

This week at the Livestock and Forage Centre of Excellence (LFCE), researchers and staff members have been working on forage breeding trials and livestock reproduction activities. The recent rains have boosted the growth of forage and grain crops, and the LFCE team members are gearing up for haying operations.

PRAIRIE DIAGNOSTIC SERVICES: The number of diagnostic submissions over the past couple of months has nearly risen to levels recorded during the same period in 2019, so operations are closer to “normal” for the provincial veterinary laboratory, remarks CEO Dr. Yanyun Huang.

As the province of Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 reopening plans expand to include activities such as rodeos and other horse-related competitions, PDS is hoping to see more submissions for equine infectious anemia (EIA) testing in the next couple of months (a number of equine events require competitors to show proof of a negative EIA test). The PDS team is also involved in testing or developing several initiatives that will potentially expand the lab’s diagnostic options in the future.     

WCVM BUILDING RULES: As more activities resume on campus, the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) college reopening committee have developed a set of rules for all University of Saskatchewan (USask) employees or students who work or study in the WCVM building.

It is everyone’s responsibility to support and enforce these rules, and everyone should feel comfortable to remind others of the rules. If you witness situations where these rules are repeatedly broken, please send a message to wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca. Your message will be kept confidential by the WCVM’s human resources team.

Face masks are required

  • You must wear a face mask any time you are in a public or shared space of the college.
  • You do not need to wear a face mask in private office spaces or in the building’s necropsy suite.
  • Cloth (non-medical) or paper (medical) masks are acceptable. Your mask must completely cover your mouth and nose at all times.

Wash your hands often

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
  • If you can’t wash your hands, use hand sanitizer.

Do not work in shared spaces

  • Avoid sharing your work space with coworkers or classmates.*
  • As alternatives, find another work space or schedule individual time slots in labs or other shared spaces using an online or posted calendar system.

*Exceptions: Employees/students in Veterinary Medical Centre and Prairie Diagnostic Services

Avoid public spaces in the WCVM

  • Whenever possible, go outdoors for breaks. If you must stay indoors, take breaks in a safe space and please clean up after yourself. If disinfectant is available, please spray down and wipe your table surface after use.
  • The WCVM buffeteria and the building’s other public spaces are being cleaned regularly, but as much as possible, please avoid these spaces where physical distancing and frequent disinfection is more difficult to maintain.

Follow travel guidelines

  • All USask staff and students must abide by provincial guidelines for travel. Click here for more information.
  • Monitor your health during your travel and for 14 days after your return. Use the Government of Saskatchewan’s personal health recording sheet.
  • If you develop a fever or flu-like symptoms after you return from travelling, do not come to work. Contact your supervisor.
  • Use the self-assessment tool to determine if you should be tested for COVID-19 or contact HealthLine 811.
  • USask has suspended all international travel for students, faculty and staff until further notice. Visit the USask COVID-19 website for more information.

To access these rules online or to download a PDF version, click here to visit the college’s COVID-19 page.

IN THE NEWS: Reporter Zak Vescera interviewed Dr. Volker Gerdts, director and CEO of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) for a story in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix this week. Dr. Gerdts, who is a professor in the WCVM’s Department of Veterinary Microbiology, gives an update about his organization’s progress on a vaccine for COVID-19. WCVM adjunct professor Dr. Darryl Falzarano, who is leading the COVID-19 vaccine research team, was also interviewed for the story.

EDUCATIONAL ROUNDS: Next week, the WCVM’s academic team will host one online “educational round” that’s open to all of the college's faculty and other teaching staff.

  • Friday, July 10: Kate Langrell will discuss “Copyright issues with remote teaching” during next week’s educational round. Kate is the copyright co-ordinator with the University Library. Meeting information will be distributed early next week.
  • If you can’t attend, please note that the sessions will be recorded and will be available online. For more information, contact Dr. Chris Clark.

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

VMC UPDATE: It’s busy throughout the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC) with a steady caseload and a growing number of scheduled surgeries. Members of the VMC’s reopening working group met earlier this week to discuss stage two of the veterinary teaching hospital’s reopening phase and to discuss current challenges.

For example, the VMC has increased its clinical services beyond emergencies and urgent cases to about 25 per cent of its regular capacity, but even so, the majority of those cases are coming in during the day. Some adjustments need to be made so clinical teams can manage the inflow of cases during the day. The VMC’s leadership team is working on plans to address this issue, along with a timeline for the next phase of the VMC’s reopening and increased clinical services. Those plans will be shared with USask representatives to ensure that the hospital’s operations are in line with the university’s staged approach for increasing activity on campus.

For more details about the hospital’s operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit vmc.usask.ca.

ACADEMIC UPDATE: All 85 members of the WCVM’s Class of 2024 are now ready to begin their first year in the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program on Monday, August 17 — the college’s first day of online classes. The WCVM academic team is making plans for first-year orientation activities, which will all take place online. Work is also continuing on timetable development for Years 1 to 3.

As reported to the university’s associate deans (academic), the USask pandemic recovery and response team is finalizing a document that provides response guidelines for colleges and units that they can use in the event that a student or employees tests positive for COVID-19. This information will be released in early July.

RESEARCH UPDATE: During Stage 2 of the University of Saskatchewan’s reopening process, the university received 280 applications from researchers and issued a total of 235 research permits. On July 2, USask will issue another call for applications as the university moves into Stage 3. The main criteria for this stage is outlined on the USask website.

If researchers have forgotten to list room numbers or the names of trainees who need lab access on their safety permits, please click here to request a safety permit amendment. Please note: this request form is only to make changes to approved, existing research (not to add new scope to the research). If there is any increase in the scope of the work or a significant increase in the number of individuals (for example, more than one person), that will require another application and review/approvals.

RESEARCH WING PROTOCOLS: The WCVM’s Research Office reminds research team members about the WCVM’s new protocols for working in laboratories located in the college's Research Wing. These protocols, which must be followed in both the Westgen research suite and the molecular microbiology lab, are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For more information, click here to review the list of regulations.

EDUCATIONAL ROUNDS: Next week, the WCVM’s academic team will host one online “educational round” that’s open to all of the college's faculty and other teaching staff.

  • Friday, July 3: Dr. Chris Clark, associate dean (academic), will give a presentation on open book examinations from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Click here to join Dr. Clark’s Webex room.
  • If you can’t attend, please note that the sessions will be recorded and will be available online. For more information, contact Dr. Chris Clark.

GOLD MEDAL PERFORMANCE: Dr. Gillian Davies of Calgary, Alta., is the 2020 recipient of the WCVM Faculty Gold Medal — the college’s most prestigious honour. Each year, it’s given to the WCVM graduate who has demonstrated general proficiency in the science and art of veterinary medicine throughout the program. To top it off, Davies has received the top academic award in all four years of her DVM program — a feat that’s only happened a few times in the college’s recent history. Click here to read the full story.

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

WCVM updates (March-June 2020)

VMC REOPENING: The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre began its phased reopening on Monday, June 15, increasing its clinical services beyond emergencies and urgent cases to about 25 per cent of its regular capacity. While there have been some challenges, the first week of increased services went relatively well, and the VMC team members have been working hard to address some of the “kinks” in the system.

Most of the veterinary teaching hospital’s clinical service areas have a significant backlog of cases and referrals over and above the VMC’s incoming emergencies and urgent cases. Preventive protocols are in place to protect the safety of clients and staff, but following these vital processes also requires more time per patient. Realistically, it will take some clinical teams a number of weeks to address their build-up of cases, and this message is being conveyed to animal owners. For more details about the hospital’s operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit vmc.usask.ca.

RESEARCH UPDATE: This week, some WCVM research teams received responses from the university’s pandemic response and recovery team (PRT) about resuming their research activities on campus. In anticipation of increased research activity at the college, staff in the WCVM’s Animal Care Unit have returned to regular operations and work schedules. The WCVM’s Research Office is also making plans to reactivate the microscopy imaging and histology centres in the veterinary college.

If any researcher has permission to conduct research in Stage 2 of the university’s reopening, please ensure that your team follows required protocols for social distancing and use of appropriate personal protective equipment. For now, conduct research activities remotely as much as you can when not in the lab. 

As a reminder, the process for requesting return to campus activities is outlined on the USask COVID-19 updates page

EDUCATIONAL ROUNDS: Next week, the WCVM’s academic team will host two online “educational rounds” that are open to all of the college's faculty and other teaching staff.

  • Thursday, June 25: David Greaves from the USask IT team will provide an “Introduction to Panopto” from 2 to 3 p.m. Click here to join the discussion.
  • Friday, June 26: USask IT team member David Greaves will be back on Friday to give an “Introduction to WebEx.” The online discussion takes place from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Click here to join the discussion.

If you can’t attend, please note that the sessions will be recorded and available online. For more information, contact Dr. Chris Clark.

COVID-19 SIGNAGE: The University of Saskatchewan's communications team has developed general COVID-19 signage that has been approved by the university's pandemic response and recovery team (PRT). Click here to access the files on the WCVM Sharepoint site.

WCVM employees are welcome to print and hang these approved signs in their respective areas. Please use sticky tack (Blu Tack) to post the signs and avoid using any sort of tape on painted surfaces (tape is acceptable for hanging signs to glass windows). Details of more permanent signage will be sent out in the coming weeks. The university-approved signage is to be used in the interim to support increased activity on campus. If you have specific COVID-19 signage requests, email safereturn@usask.ca with your contact information and requested due date.

ANIMAL HEALTH FUND SUPPORT: Les and Irene Dubé will have an enduring effect on the lives of many pets and people, thanks to their gift of $1 million to the Good Samaritan Fund at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM).

The Les and Irene Dubé Good Samaritan Fund, renamed in honour of the well-known Saskatoon philanthropists, helps to support medical treatment at the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC) for animals that are ownerless or owned by clients who cannot pay for care due to circumstances beyond their control. Visit WCVM Today to read more about the Saskatoon couple's generous gift to the WCVM. 

IN THE NEWS: Dr. Emily Jenkins spoke to CBC journalist Theresa Kliem about Saskatchewan’s new online tick surveillance program (eTick) and strategies for avoiding tick bites in pets and people. Dr. Jenkins’ interview was part of a story on CBC Radio Saskatchewan’s Afternoon Edition as well as a news story on the CBC Saskatchewan website. Dr. Maarten Voordouw, Dr. Jenkins’ colleague, was also interviewed about Saskatchewan’s tick season by CKOM 650 reporter Keenan Sorokan. By mid-June, the WCVM team has already received about 1,500 submissions through the new eTick platform. In comparison, the researchers received a total of 1,900 submissions for the entire year of 2019.  

Clinical associate Dr. Dayle Borchardt spoke to Alex Brown, host of CTV Saskatoon Morning Live, about the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre’s challenges of operating during the COVID-19 pandemic and the hospital’s new triage service. Click here to view the interview. As well, visit WCVM Today to read more about the triage service’s benefits in a story featuring more of Dr. Borchardt’s comments.

The Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) was featured in the "Uniquely USask" column of On Campus News (June 12 issue). With researchers currently serving on the front lines in the world’s battle against COVID-19, the unique research institution is garnering global attention.

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

VMC REOPENING: Clinical teams at the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre have been extremely busy preparing for the veterinary teaching hospital’s reopening on Monday, June 15. While the VMC will begin offering some regular clinical services next week, it will take time for clinical teams to work through a backlog of cases and referrals. The VMC’s emergency services continue to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

During this transition time, the safety of VMC staff and clients continues to be the college’s top priority. Preventive protocols such as mandatory face masks, physical distancing, frequent hand washing and regular cleaning and disinfection continue to be in place. The hospital’s doors will remain locked and clinical staff will continue to use curbside pickup and drop-off of animals to minimize traffic in the hospital. As well, the VMC will only accept credit or debit card payments for clinical services, prescriptions and pet food. For more details about the hospital’s preventive protocols, visit vmc.usask.ca.

USASK UPDATE: The university’s pandemic response and recovery team (PRT) has developed a draft Fall Implementation Plan that’s now available online. The plan outlines the process for determining the details of a primarily remote (hybrid) delivery of classes for the fall term, with limited on-campus activities and people.

USask is reviewing about 300 requests for research to resume on campus; responses to these requests will be sent out beginning next week. Another 700 one-time access requests to offices are also being reviewed. Information about accepting requests for on-campus teaching and learning activities will be available next week. A request for campus activity form is available online.

EDUCATIONAL ROUNDS: Next week, the WCVM’s academic team will host two online “educational rounds” that are open to all of the college's faculty and other teaching staff.

  • Monday, June 15: Susan Bens from the USask Gwenna Moss Teaching and Learning Centre will discuss “Synchronous versus asynchronous course delivery” at a special educational round from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.
  • Friday, June 19: Dr. Kimberly Tryon of the WCVM will discuss the use of Canvas, the university’s new learning management system. The online discussion begins at 12:30 p.m. 

Click here to join (room number: 928 401 622; phone: 1-306-808-2023). If you can’t attend, please note that the sessions will be recorded and will be available online. For more information, contact Dr. Chris Clark.

PARKING SERVICES: The University of Saskatchewan (USask) Parking Services plans to reactivate the gates for Lots V, Q and Y and resume normal operations by Friday, June 26. If you still wish to park in Lots V and Q for the months of July and August, Parking Services can provide parking at normal rates with access control. In addition, parking will be temporarily available in Lot Y for USask staff who don’t have normal parking access. The reduced summer rate for Lot Y will be $67.20 (including GST). Please email staff.facultyparking@usask.ca and specify the parking option, then Parking Services personnel will set up the payroll deduction and provide you with a parking pass.

HONOUR FOR WCVM RESEARCHER: The American College of Theriogenologists (ACT) has selected Dr. Claire Card as the 2020 Theriogenologist of the Year, an award which recognizes individuals for outstanding contributions to theriogenology (reproduction). A graduate of Cornell University, Card is a professor and clinical researcher in the WCVM’s Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences. She has an active equine research program and is also involved in teaching equine and companion animal reproduction, physiology and sustainable development.

Card has held numerous leadership positions in the veterinary profession and is a past-president of ACT. She’s a board member and volunteers for Veterinarians Without Borders-Vétérinaires sans frontières (VWB-VSF). For the past 12 years, she has been part of a project in rural Uganda that focuses on improving the livelihoods of impoverished women affected by HIV-AIDS.

SASKATCHEWAN ORDER OF MERIT: Among this year's 10 recipients of the Saskatchewan Order of Merit is Dr. Lorne Hepworth, a WCVM graduate. Hepworth grew up on a farm near Assiniboia, Sask., and after receiving his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree in 1971, he practised in Weyburn, Sask., for 10 years. In 1982, Hepworth became a member of the Saskatchewan legislature for the Progressive Conservative party. He spent nine years in provincial politics and held several portfolios — including the province's Minister of Agriculture. 

After leaving political office in 1991, Hepworth went on to serve in several leadership roles in plant science. He played a key role in creating CropLife Canada, the national plant science trade association, and served as its president and CEO for 17 years. He was also named chair of Genome Canada as well as a founding board member and chair of the USask Global Institute for Food Security. Hepworth, who is now retired and living in London, Ont., continues to serve on a number of boards and committees. 

Lieutenant Governor Russ Mirasty announced the 10 recipients on June 5. The new recipients will be invested at a ceremony held in their honour once public gatherings resume. 

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

KUDOS TO WCVM GRADUATES: While the University of Saskatchewan’s Spring Convocation and the WCVM’s annual graduation events had to be cancelled, that hasn’t stopped the university’s community from celebrating the graduates of the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program as well as students who completed their graduate degrees this spring.

On June 1, the University of Saskatchewan (USask) released a #USaskClassof2020 website that included a congratulatory message from Dr. Chris Clark, associate dean (academic). Later in the week, the WCVM’s Class of 2020 shared a graduation video with the college that includes comments and memories from veterinary graduates as well as best wishes from WCVM faculty and staff. The WCVM’s academic team also released an online presentation that showcases all recipients of awards and scholarships during the Spring 2020 Awards program. Congratulations, everyone!

VMC REOPENING PLANS: After consulting with clinical staff and the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association (SVMA), the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre’s leadership team submitted a hospital reopening plan to the University of Saskatchewan in late May. By June 5, both the university’s crisis operations team and the pandemic response and recovery team had approved the hospital’s plan, so the reopening process will begin next week. One of the first steps is to wind down the temporary shift schedule and return to regular work schedules — a necessary move since a number of the shift team members are part of specific clinical services that will soon resume operations.

Dr. Steve Manning, associate dean (clinical programs), was part of an online question and answer session with western Canadian veterinarians on June 4. During the online call, Dr. Manning gave referring veterinarians an update about the Veterinary Medical Centre’s reopening plans and more details about the VMC’s referral services, which have been on hold since mid-March (other than emergency referrals).

ADMISSIONS INTERVIEWS: During the past two weeks, WCVM admissions committee members conducted online interviews with 170 prospective students for fall 2020 entry in the college’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program. Despite a few challenges with internet access and online technologies, the process went relatively smoothly — thanks to the behind-the-scene efforts of the college’s admissions team and IT staff members at the university.

With the interviews now complete, the next step is to select students for the 58 seats supported by the Interprovincial Agreement (IPA) and the 25 open seats available for western Canadian applicants. The WCVM expects to complete its initial offers of admission for all DVM seats by mid-July 2020.

EDUCATIONAL ROUNDS: The WCVM’s academic team have set up an online “educational rounds” series that will take place during the lunch hour every Friday, beginning June 5. In addition to giving WCVM instructors a forum for sharing ideas, the online rounds will target topics such as best practices for remote teaching and the use of online teaching tools. The series will also include guests from the USask Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning who can provide support and flag potential issues that faculty need to consider before this fall. For more information, contact Dr. Chris Clark.

RESUMING RESEARCH: As announced last week, the USask pandemic response and recovery team (PRT) is piloting a process for the review and approval of requests for returning on campus to conduct critical USask research, teaching and learning activities. The university’s five-staged approach has been developed alongside the province's Saskatchewan Re-Open plan.

In the area of research, priority is being given to research projects that are more time sensitive or driven by specific deadlines that cannot be extended. Dr. Liz Snead, associate dean (research and graduate studies), is working to support WCVM researchers who have applied for campus access. Further updates are expected next week. Click here for more details about USask research activities.

SAFE PRACTICES IN THE WCVM: The WCVM leadership team reminds everyone to continue following safe practices while working in the college building. These practices include washing hands frequently, using hand sanitizer, disinfecting common surfaces and being vigilant about social distancing.

The Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC) requires that anyone working in the hospital must wear face masks. Social distancing is an important safety measure during the COVID-19 outbreak, but in the teaching hospital, it’s not always possible to be at least two metres apart from coworkers.

As well, the WCVM leadership team strongly advises that people wear face masks throughout the building — particularly when staff members are congregating in public areas, walking in hallways or working around others. As additional people prepare to return to work at the WCVM, the college’s leadership team will distribute further information next week — including more details about the designation of specific work zones in the WCVM building and standardized signage.

IN THE NEWS: Last week, a COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) cleared another hurdle in moving toward human clinical trials. The novel vaccine has proven highly effective in ferrets, one of the animal models used for COVID-19 vaccine testing. Click here to read the USask news article.

Research conducted by Dr. Diego Moya of the WCVM’s Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences was featured in a Canadian Cattlemen article this week. The story focused on research investigations of using lidocaine to control pain at castration.

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

Dear WCVM community:

I hope everyone had a chance to enjoy the long weekend. Saskatchewan residents have moved in to the second phase of the provincial government’s reopening plan. The WCVM team is looking forward to resuming more of the college’s operations, but realistically, the reopening process will take some time and hinges on approvals from the University of Saskatchewan (USask) as well as the provincial government. 

We are working hard to complete draft plans and strategies for clinical services, course delivery and research programs, but we also need to be patient as USask teams work through the process on behalf of the university’s community. We will keep you updated as we work through the process.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca. Your questions and comments will be kept confidential by our human resources team. We appreciate your questions and feedback. 

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


DAILY ALERTS

SECURITY WATCH: If you are a core/critical employee who is working in the WCVM building, please take extra precautions to ensure your safety — especially if you are working after hours on the University of Saskatchewan (USask) campus. While most campus buildings are not in use, one of the few exceptions is the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre that offers 24-hour emergency services for animal owners.

To ensure the safety of WCVM employees and students around the clock, members of the USask Protective Services team have increased their patrols in and outside the WCVM building. If you are approached by anyone who looks or acts suspicious or if your feel threatened at any time, please call USask Protective Services (306-966-5555). To ensure the safety and security of the USask campus and its employees and students, the Protective Services team is operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Please be aware that additional personnel through GardaWorld (private security company) are supplementing the university’s security services. GardaWorld security personnel are wearing different uniforms than regular security staff on campus, but if asked, they should be able to identify themselves.

Here are some helpful safety tips:

  • Please ensure that all doors are securely closed and locked after you enter or leave the WCVM building.
  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Avoid using headphones or texting on your phone while you’re alone or walking outside.
  • If you need to walk alone after hours, try to plan your departure with a co-worker or friend. Members of the USask Protective Services team are also available to accompany WCVM staff members while walking to and from their vehicles after hours.
  • Carry your smart phone with you at all times and have emergency numbers entered in your phone’s address book.
  • A great information resource is USafe, the official safety app of USask. This handy app features emergency contacts, safety tips, personal safety tools, maps and much more.  

CLASS OF 2020 UPDATES: Curious about the career plans of our newest graduates? Check out the WCVM’s Facebook and Instagram accounts (@WCVMToday) to find out where some members of the Class of 2020 are working (or will be heading) now that they have completed their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program.

CLASS OF 2024 UPDATE: Members of the WCVM admissions committee are taking technology training this week in preparation for applicant interviews that begin on May 25. At the same time, the university’s IT specialists are working with applicants to test the online conferencing system in advance. Meanwhile, the WCVM academic team is making orientation plans for the new first-year students. While USask continues to develop its framework for expanding teaching, research and other activities on campus, the WCVM is working to prepare for fall classes. Ultimately, the college’s plans will need to align with the campus framework.

NEW INTERNS AND RESIDENTS: This year, some of the WCVM’s clinical interns and residents who are finishing up their programs may stay on for a couple of months, depending on their circumstances. The WCVM is also working closely with USask immigration specialists to meet the requirements for interns and residents arriving internationally. Because of this year’s travel restrictions, the process is more complicated and includes a mandatory quarantine. New arrivals will have staggered start dates, depending on when they can arrive and complete their quarantines. The WCVM’s clinical team is preparing online orientation materials and lectures to ease the transition for incoming residents and interns.

VMC UPDATE: The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC) continues to be busy in all areas. Planning continues as clinical teams prepare for increasing services in the clinic. The VMC’s reopening phases will need to align with university policies as well as guidelines outlined by the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association (SVMA).

SERVICE LEARNING CANCELLED: Because of the critical need to prevent the spread of the virus among the province’s population as well as current travel restrictions to northern Saskatchewan, the WCVM has cancelled the three-day remote veterinary clinic in La Ronge, Sask., which was scheduled for June 12 to 14. WCVM clinical associate Dr. Jordan Woodsworth, who helps to organize the northern clinics, said it was a tough decision to make because of the incredible support that the clinical team and volunteers receive each time they work with the communities of La Ronge, Air Ronge and the Lac La Ronge Indian Band. However, protecting the health and safety of local community members as well as everyone involved in the clinics is essential. Woodsworth says the WCVM hopes to provide the northern communities some sort of veterinary support later in 2020.

COVID-19 UPDATE: Dr. Scott Weese of the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) is offering a follow-up online presentation for veterinary students and new graduates across Canada and around the world. “SARS-CoV-2 in animals and veterinary practice in an evolving pandemic” begins at 8 p.m. EST on Wed., May 27. Click here to join the presentation (Microsoft Teams meeting) and please email questions in advance to ovcinfo@uoguelph.ca. Weese, a professor of veterinary internal medicine and chief of infection control at OVC’s veterinary teaching hospital, gave an online talk for veterinary students and graduates on April 28. Click here to view his earlier presentation on YouTube.

CAREERS SUMMIT: Veterinary professionals and students will have the opportunity to explore the world of veterinary medicine online during the Global Veterinary Careers Summit from June 24 to 28. This event includes more than 20 sessions with over 15 speakers and career pioneers. The summit will provide attendees with tangible career growth tactics, networking opportunities and workshops. The event’s global organizers include The DVM Project (Canada and U.S.), VeterinaryCareers.com.au (Australia and New Zealand) and Vets Stay Go Diversify! (United Kingdom and Europe). Click here for more details.

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

Dear WCVM community:

College representatives continue to meet and plan for a phased reopening of the WCVM’s activities — planning work that is being done at other colleges and units across campus. While our various WCVM teams may need to adjust final processes to align with the university’s measures (which are still being laid out by various committees), it’s important for us to be proactive so we can quickly respond to change or adapt our plans.   

If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca. We appreciate your questions and feedback. 

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


DAILY ALERTS

USASK TEACHING PLANS: On May 12, the University of Saskatchewan (USask) announced that it will take a mainly remote approach to program delivery this fall. The planned September delivery model will combine primarily remote online learning, with limited classroom, laboratory, clinical and physical instruction only where warranted and where circumstances permit, in consultation with public health and Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer.

This direction reflects comprehensive analysis and planning work done at the university over the months since the emergence of COVID-19, and it’s based on current pandemic knowledge and projections. The planned direction also provides the programming flexibility needed to manage the potential risks while ensuring the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff. Click here to read the full story.

Dr. Chris Clark, the WCVM’s associate dean (academic), regularly meets with his counterparts from the university’s other health science — including medicine, nursing, dentistry, pharmacy and nutrition, kinesiology and physical therapy. All of these colleges are working on a hybrid approach to academic delivery that will rely on a blend of remote online learning and in-person training for labs and clinical rotations. Discussions on campus include consideration of possible standards for online teaching. Dr. Clark will lead the college’s effort to develop and share multiple ideas and examples for enhancing remote delivery of material and measuring learning.

IN THE NEWS: Dr. Doug Freeman, dean of WCVM, was interviewed by University Affairs reporter Laura Beaulne-Stuebing for a story about the veterinary college’s plans to offer 25 open seats to western Canadian students for fall 2020 entry. These seats are outside of the 58 provincially-subsidized seats allocated through the college’s Interprovincial Agreement (IPA). Tuition rates for students admitted through the non-IPA seats will be comparable to rates paid by Canadians who attend international veterinary schools (about $67,000 per year). Read full story.

In the May 2020 issue of Genome Prairie’s newsletter, WCVM professor Dr. Cheryl Waldner talks about the Genomic ASSETS (Antimicrobial Stewardship Systems from Evidence-based Treatment Strategies) for Livestock initiative. The project, which she co-leads with Dr. Simon Otto of the University of Alberta, aims to develop efficient new tools to help manage antimicrobial use. Read more.

WCVM Today features two new stories about the college’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Veterinary students learn from afar to finish year” reports on the last six weeks of the WCVM’s academic year and its numerous obstacles. Despite the challenges of having to suddenly move all courses online, the students, faculty and support staff showed innovative thinking, patience and creativity, reports Dr. Chris Clark, WCVM associate dean (academic). 

“Vets’ work with food animals vital during pandemic” chronicles the work of WCVM field service veterinarians in providing critical services to livestock producers. The story also covers the essential services offered by the WCVM’s Disease Investigation Unit. 

CLASS OF 2020 UPDATES: Curious about the career plans of our newest graduates? Check out the WCVM’s Facebook and Instagram accounts (@WCVMToday) to find out where some members of the Class of 2020 are working (or will be heading) now that they have completed their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program.

GOOD VIBES FOR TOUGH TIMESMembers of Canada’s animal health industry have banded together to organize a special online concert on Thursday, May 21, to celebrate the country’s veterinary frontline workers who provide essential animal health care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Hosted by Ron MacLean, the concert will feature musical performances by Jim Cuddy, Alan Doyle, Kathleen Edwards, Danny Michel and more Canadian artists. Click here to register.

For every registered participant, event sponsors will contribute one dollar (to a maximum of $10,000) to Veterinarians Without Borders-Vétérinaires sans frontières (VWB-VSF) and the organization’s Canadian programs.

TECHNOLOGY FEEDBACK: If you are having issues with WebEx or any other USask-supported technologies, please contact the IT team (wcvm_itsupport@usask.ca) with more details about the technical problems that you are experiencing. Your feedback can help to flag potential issues and improve systems. 

GLASSWARE AND MEDIA PREPARATION: Beginning next week, the WCVM’s glassware and media preparation (GMP) facility will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. When visiting the facility, please keep a distance of at least two metres from others and wear face masks and gloves. GMP staff will keep high-touch zones sanitized throughout the day.

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.
 

Dear WCVM community:

Thank you to everyone who attended the “State of the College” presentation on Thursday morning. If you weren’t able to make the online talk, the recorded version of my presentation will soon be available — we will send those details next week. If you didn’t get a chance to ask a question, please feel free to contact me (douglas.freeman@usask.ca) or other members of the dean’s group for more information.

Yesterday afternoon, Jennifer Molloy (our director of development) and I met online with about 30 of the college’s alumni. During this virtual town hall meeting, I gave an update about the college’s programs, our progress on the Interprovincial Agreement, and our college’s efforts during COVID-19. While we won’t be able to meet in person with our alumni, these types of online meetings may be a great alternative to connect with practitioners across Western Canada and get some vital feedback about the college’s programs and services as well as our graduates. It’s one more way the pandemic is creating ways to try new things.

The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre’s leadership team continues to meet with working groups whose members are helping to outline plans for a phased hospital reopening. Similar discussions are taking place for the resumption of research and academic activities that will continue in the upcoming weeks and months. While these plans must be reviewed at various levels and align with university and provincial mandates, our goal is to prepare as much as possible so we are ready to act as soon as approval is given.

These processes take time, but on the positive side, this is a good opportunity to create more awareness on campus and beyond about the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre’s operations and community involvement, as well as the college’s wide range of academic and research programs.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca. We appreciate your questions and feedback. 

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


DAILY ALERTS

TEACHING AWARD: Small animal surgeon and professor Dr. Cindy Shmon is the WCVM 2019-20 recipient of the Provost’s College Award for Outstanding Teaching. The University of Saskatchewan’s (USask) Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness presents this annual award to one professor from each college who demonstrates outstanding teaching in his or her field. The centre announced this academic year's award recipients on May 8. Click here to read more. Congratulations, Dr. Shmon!

LEARNING MANAGEMENT PLATFORM: USask has selected Canvas as the university’s new web-based learning management platform that will ultimately replace BlackBoard. The new system appears to have multiple advantages, especially as colleges move into more remote and online course delivery. Dr. Chris Clark, associate dean academic, has begun discussions with faculty groups to consider its application, and he is beginning to plan training opportunities with the new system for faculty and staff.

SAFE PRACTICES IN THE WCVM: The WCVM leadership team reminds everyone to continue following safe practices while working in the college building. These practices include washing hands frequently, using hand sanitizer, disinfecting common surfaces and being vigilant about social distancing.

The Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC) requires that anyone working in the hospital must wear face masks. Social distancing is an important safety measure during the COVID-19 outbreak, but in the teaching hospital, it’s not always possible to be at least two metres apart from coworkers.

As the college gradually resumes more activities, the WCVM leadership team is considering certain measures that will help to support a safe workplace for everyone. At this point, the WCVM strongly advises that people wear face masks throughout the building — particularly when staff members are congregating in public areas, walking in hallways or working around others. Cloth masks are available from various local sources. Beginning on Tuesday, May 12, the Glassware and Media Preparation (GMP) facility in the WCVM’s Department of Veterinary Microbiology will have packs of five masks available (access through an account number).

USASK TUITION: While USask is implementing a tuition freeze for 2020-21 for most of its programs due to the impact of COVID-19, previously-announced tuition increases in dentistry, law and veterinary medicine programs will go ahead as initially planned. Tuition for the WCVM’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program will increase by 15 per cent for the 2020-21 academic year. 

Multiple factors, including accessibility, must be considered for any increase. The college’s tuition does need to eventually be more closely aligned with tuition at other veterinary colleges, as directed by the WCVM’s provincial partners.

Tuition for all USask graduate programs — including programs at the WCVM — will remain the same. As well, the differential rate for international students (undergraduate and graduate programs) will not change in 2020-21. Click here for tuition information.

IN THE NEWS: Earlier today, microbiologist Dr. Vikram Misra eloquently described the significance of his research team’s latest discovery about bats’ immune systems with Stefani Langenegger, host of CBC Radio’s Morning Show. Click here to listen.

The May 8 issue of On Campus News includes a story about maternal recognition of pregnancy in mares and a WCVM research team’s efforts to learn more about what causes this communication between mother and embryo to frequently break down. WCVM student Ashlyn Ketterer, who was part of Dr. Claire Card’s team in summer 2019, wrote the story as part of her summer research experience. Click here to read more.

COVID-19 DISCUSSION ONLINE: On April 28, internal medicine specialist Dr. Scott Weese of the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) gave a live webinar for veterinary students and new DVM graduates about practising veterinary medicine during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you weren’t able to join the live event, the full recording is now available on YouTube.

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

Dear WCVM community:

Planning meetings continue to happen at the college and university levels for research, academic and clinical programs. I’ve been part of meetings at the university, provincial and international levels this week, and “reopening” is the common theme for all of these discussions. Time and again, we hear that we are all facing similar challenges.

Dr. Liz Snead, associate dean of research, was part of a USask graduate student/faculty meeting organized by the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. In the fall, graduate teaching will follow a hybrid model similar to the undergraduate programs; graduate courses will be delivered remotely as much as possible. Dr. Chris Clark, associate dean academic, attended a meeting of his colleagues in other health sciences colleges to discuss options for course offerings this fall. Dr. Steve Manning, associate dean of clinical programs, and the VMC’s leadership team held a meeting with a range of faculty and staff to discuss the first steps in the hospital’s reopening.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca. We appreciate your questions and feedback.  

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean

P.S. I hope you can join me for an online college update at 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 7. Please see below for more details.


DAILY ALERTS

COLLEGE UPDATE: Members of the WCVM community are invited to join Dr. Doug Freeman online for a WCVM update at 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 7. The dean’s presentation will take place as an online Webex presentation. You can use the following information to join the presentation:   

  • Click here for meeting link
  • Meeting number: 921 613 165
  • Password: VetMed2020
  • Join by phone
  • +1-306-808-2023 Canada Toll (Saskatoon)
  • 1-855-966-1197 North America Toll Free
  • Access code: 921 613 165
  • Click here if you need instructions on how to join a Webex meeting.

VMC REOPENING GROUNDWORK: About two dozen members of the WCVM community met online yesterday to discuss the initial steps involved in reopening clinical services at the college’s Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC). During the two-hour meeting, the working group talked about various topics including services and priorities, personal protective equipment (PPE), physical distancing, cleaning and reopening phases. While the WCVM must ensure that any reopening plans align with the university’s directives, the meeting was a very positive first step in structuring a phased-in reopening of the veterinary teaching hospital.

ONGOING EQUINE CARE: Members of the WCVM’s Equine Field Service are juggling the spring rush of equine cases with safety precautions that protect their clients as well as themselves. While the coronavirus pandemic changes the way they do some things, following strict biosecurity protocols is nothing new for equine veterinarians.“Our Field Service teams have always been cautious about being clean when going from farm to farm because there are a lot of communicable diseases in horses that you can carry as a veterinarian,” said Dr. Steve Manning, associate dean of WCVM clinical programs. Click here to read the full story in WCVM Today.

IN THE NEWS: Earlier this week, Dr. Emily Jenkins of the WCVM’s Department of Veterinary Microbiology was interviewed by Global TV Saskatoon’s Kyle Benning for a story about Canadian provinces’ reopening plans. Jenkins, who teaches an emergency management course for the USask School of Public Health, said that the best reopening plan she has seen is when provinces move to the next phase after seeing changes in data rather than marking a date on the calendar.

“If we can tailor our staged reopening to the data rather than coming up with dates that are somewhat arbitrary, that would be really transparent and a real win,” said Jenkins.

Dr. Vikram Misra of the WCVM's Department of Veterinary Microbiology was a corresponding author on a coronavirus-related research paper that was published in Nature Scientific Reports. The USask research team has uncovered how bats can carry the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus without getting sick — research that could shed light on how coronaviruses make the jump to humans and other animals. Click here to read full story.  

ONLINE SERVICE: Members of the WCVM community are invited to an online service for Thizbe Balzer that will take place at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 15. The service will be streamed live from the East Side Church of God in Swift Current, Sask.

First-year students and the Western Canadian Veterinary Students’ Association (WCVSA) have created the WCVM Class of 2023 Thizbe Balzer Memorial Award in her honour. If anyone wishes to contribute to this award, 
click here to visit the USask online giving site. Select the “Thizbe Balzer Memorial Award” under the “Support Student Scholarships and Bursaries” category.

As well, if anyone wishes to write a message of sympathy to the Balzer family, 
please click here. Your message will be included in the WCVM’s online Book of Condolence that will be shared with Thizbe’s family.

MENTAL HEALTH WEBINAR: The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) is hosting a one-hour mental health webinar at 12 p.m. EDT (10 a.m. CST) on Friday, May 8. Click here to register for the free webinar. The presenter is Coral Doherty, a registered veterinary technologist and a certified psychological health and safety advisor (through the Canadian Mental Health Association). The step-by-step presentation will discuss workplace mental health policies, why they’re important and how to implement them. The webinar is part of the educational events offered during Canadian Mental Health Association's Mental Health Week (May 4 to 10). 

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

Dear WCVM community:

The first phase of the “Re-open Saskatchewan” plan began today, allowing residents to access certain medical services such as dentistry, physical therapy and optometry that have been restricted since mid-March.

The province’s reopening plans will not change the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association’s approach to supporting public and animal health during the pandemic situation. As outlined in the SVMA’s news update, “the SVMA … has relied on the professional judgment of members to determine how best to revise services to support public and animal health during the pandemic situation. The re-opening of Saskatchewan will not change this approach; the SVMA will continue to advocate for high standards of safety in how members provide services but will not dictate what services to provide.” SVMA members are expected to continue following safety practices to keep their clinical teams and clients safe.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca. We appreciate your questions and feedback. 

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean

 

DAILY ALERTS

ONLINE INTERVIEW PREPARATIONS: The WCVM admissions team is preparing for the college’s annual selection of first-year veterinary students, which will take place over two weeks later this month. Since all of the candidates’ interviews will take place online, the WCVM team is working to ensure that interviewees, interviewers and admissions staff all have the necessary equipment and technical training they need to use WebEx­ — the web conferencing software used on campus.

WEARING MASKS: If any members of the WCVM community must enter the Veterinary Medical Centre to complete essential tasks, please remember that you must wear a mask at all times in the veterinary teaching hospital. If you are using a cloth mask, please ensure that you wash your mask daily or have spare masks on hand.

If you are part of the college’s core or critical staff on site, and as we transition to the next phase of activity on campus, the WCVM’s leadership team encourages you to wear a mask while working in the college as a means of protecting others around you. This recommendation is primarily relevant in situations where it’s challenging to maintain social distancing, such as in hallways, common areas or in areas where employees work in close proximity.

As outlined on the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website, “wearing a homemade facial covering/non-medical mask in the community has not been proven to protect the person wearing it and is not a substitute for physical distancing and hand washing.” However, wearing a cloth mask can help to protect others around you even if you are asymptomatic for COVID-19. Wearing a mask is useful for short time periods when physical distancing isn’t possible, such as on public transit or in grocery stores.

USASK UPDATE: The University of Saskatchewan (USask) posted a reminder on May 1, stating that the university campus remains closed to faculty, staff and students as well as the general public. Only staff who are deemed essential to the core operations of campus are allowed on campus. Everyone else who is able to work remotely should continue with their current work arrangements and remain off campus.

While USask isn’t planning a large-scale reopening, campus leaders are making plans for reopening limited operations — including some research activities. The university will use a central approval process to ensure any operations or activities that reopen are done so in a safe, systematic and orderly way. More details will be announced this week. 

Several WCVM groups — including a VMC working group and the college’s safety committee — are also discussing reopening plans on a limited scale. These meetings will help to ensure that the college is ready to safely expand its activities, in accordance with the university’s policies and recommendations.

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

Dear WCVM community:

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the WCVM leadership team has been holding a daily scrum meeting with unit representatives to share information and discuss operations across the college. On a recent call, I asked everyone to describe what they’re hearing in their areas and if there’s anything that we should be doing that we’re not.

The responses surprised me. Of course, the COVID-19 response has caused some major disruptions to activities throughout the college — and we continue to address these issues as we move into the next phase. But we also heard about how our “new normal” has resulted in some positive outcomes. 

In the WCVM’s Veterinary Medical Centre, people have been impressed with the response from clinicians and staff, amidst the concerns over hours and workload. The sense of teamwork came through loud and clear, and it was positive. Veterinarians and registered veterinary technologists (RVTs) from other services are helping out with the emergency service. People are meeting and working with new colleagues, and they are seeing firsthand how other parts of our large hospital operate. The whole experience has fostered a sense of working together and team-based practice — exactly what we need to instil in our DVM graduates.

We heard that folks are getting “itchy,” too. Faculty members and graduate students are anxious to return to their research. Residents are concerned about their research projects, and about missing cases that they need for specialty training. On the other hand, the shift system may help to balance their time spent in the clinics, and they see benefits from working alongside senior clinicians in the new system.

We heard about the difficulty of rapidly converting our entire DVM program to a remote, online format. We also heard about the amazing job our dedicated faculty and staff did to make it happen. We owe them all a big thank you.

We heard how connections are being built and even strengthened. The updates have helped keep people feeling like part of the college. People send in suggestions for topics and appreciate that the report spans college-wide topics. Events like the college webinar on the novel coronavirus from our colleagues at VIDO-InterVac create more opportunities to connect. 

We heard from broad areas that working remotely has reduced the time in meetings. People are spending more time talking with individuals, including donors and coworkers. We are building different kinds of relationships that are stronger and based on shared experiences. Staff are feeling connected to their departments and the people they work with. Overall, we heard that there are more personal connections, and people are going the extra mile to stay connected.  In fact, there’s a sense that our unexpected foray into working remotely may change some of what we do in the future.

One of my favourite quotes from Winston Churchill is “When you are going through hell, keep going!”  These messages from across the college are certainly not the entire story for everyone. We still see struggles and challenges, and we realize that these past six weeks have been anything but easy. But it turns out there may be some silver linings in all of this. As we “keep going,” we may also find that there are some things that we can keep doing, too

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean

 
 

DAILY ALERTS

PLANNING CONTINUES: Groups of WCVM faculty and staff have been meeting in the college or with representatives across campus to talk about plans for reopening the college's services and programs. WCVM researchers met earlier this week to talk about how research activities could safely resume in the college. In the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre, a cross-section of faculty and staff have volunteered to be part of a working group that will focus on how the hospital will reopen clinical services. In the academic area, associate deans from USask health science colleges across campus will meet early next week to discuss different scenarios for the 2020-21 academic year. 

SUMMER STUDENTS: Over the next few months, a group of WCVM veterinary students will gain some valuable hands-on experience working in the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC) during the COVID-19 response. After completing online orientation and COVID-19 safety training, the students are now joining their clinical teams at the veterinary teaching hospital this week. Three summer students (two in small animal and one in large animal) are designated to each of the VMC’s six clinical teams.

A number of undergraduate students from the WCVM and other USask colleges also began their summer research experiences today. While most of the students will work remotely on their summer research projects, some researchers have requested exemptions so a handful of summer research students can complete data collection at USask facilities.

IN THE NEWS: Over the past two days, Drs. Maarten Voordouw and Emily Jenkins of the WCVM’s Department of Veterinary Microbiology completed multiple interviews about eTick, the new online tick surveillance program that’s now available to Saskatchewan residents. Click here to read more on WCVM Today. On April 30, Dr. Voordouw was interviewed by Garth Materie on CBC’s Afternoon Edition and by Chinenye Anokwuru for a Global TV Saskatoon report, while Dr. Jenkins was part of a story on CTV Saskatoon. On May 1, Dr. Voordouw was also a guest on 650 CKOM’s John Gormley Show.

Another faculty member, Dr. Gregg Adams of the WCVM’s Department of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences, was interviewed by a journalist at The Guardian for a story about the first bison calf born at Wanuskewin Heritage Park near Saskatoon, Sask. Dr. Adams talked about the work being done by USask researchers in creating a bison genome biobank.   

WCVM FEATURED TONIGHT: WCVM graduate Dr. Keri Hudson Reykdal highlights her alma mater in tonight’s episode of Dr. Keri, Prairie Vet, the Canadian reality series that chronicles her busy life as a rural Manitoba veterinarian. In the episode called "Back to School," Dr. Hudson Reykdal returns to Saskatoon and gives the keynote speech at the 2019 White Coat Ceremony for the college's Class of 2023. During her visit, Dr. Hudson Reykdal spends time meeting WCVM students, faculty and staff and discovering how vet school has changed in the past two decades since her own graduation. For more information, visit the Discovery Channel's Animal Planet website.  

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

Dear WCVM community:

WCVM representatives continue to meet with people in and outside of the college to discuss plans for resuming clinical, research and academic programs.

For example, the discussion about when and how veterinary clinics will resume clinical services was the focus of today’s Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association council meeting. As we make these important plans for phased reopening, maintaining the safety of our staff and clients continues to be our primary goal.

Earlier today, USask President Peter Stoicheff also gave an update about the university’s plans to resume activities over the next few months — in line with the province’s “Re-Open Saskatchewan” plan.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca. We appreciate your questions and feedback. 

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean

 

DAILY ALERTS

2019-20 ACADEMIC YEAR DONE: First-year students completed their last final exam this morning, which officially brings the 2019-20 academic year to a close. This is one year — especially the past six weeks — that no one will soon forget. In less than a week, the college’s academic team managed to move all coursework for Years 1 to 3 online in time for the students’ return to classes. One week later, instructors developed online rotations for senior veterinary students so they could complete the final steps in their DVM program. Faced with a myriad of challenges, WCVM students took everything in stride and adapted to remote learning without any major issues. All of our students, faculty and staff achieved this incredible feat in such a brief span of time — congratulations to everyone.

COLLEGE UPDATE: Members of the WCVM community are invited to join Dr. Freeman online for a WCVM update at 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 7. The dean’s presentation will take place as an online Webex presentation. An invitation will be distributed through the WCVM group email, or you can use the following information to join next week’s presentation:  

  • Click here for meeting link
  • Meeting number: 921 613 165
  • Password: VetMed2020
  • Join by phone
    • +1-306-808-2023 Canada Toll (Saskatoon)
    • 1-855-966-1197 North America Toll Free
    • Access code: 921 613 165

Click here if you need instructions on how to join a Webex meeting.

ONLINE BOOK OF CONDOLENCE: The WCVM has created an online Book of Condolence that will be forwarded to the family of Thizbe Balzer at a later date. WCVM students, faculty and staff are welcome to submit a message of condolence through the online form. Click here to leave a message. If you have any questions or difficulties in submitting your form, please send an email to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca

ONLINE MEETING SOFTWARE: The University of Saskatchewan is reminding employees to only purchase software that’s been previously approved by the university’s Information Technology (IT) team. Specifically, Zoom is not a USask-approved tool for web conferences or meetings (please note that you do not need a Zoom account to join a Zoom-based meeting that has been organized on or off campus). For more information about USask-approved software, visit the following USask links: 

STATISTICS CANADA SURVEY: Students have until Friday, May 1, to complete a student-focused Statistics Canada survey to gauge the educational, employment and financial impacts of COVID-19. How has the pandemic affected your studies, financial situation and other aspects of your life? Information gathered through the survey will be used to evaluate and contribute to decisions about services and support for postsecondary students during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here to complete the five-minute survey.

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

Dear WCVM community:

As we continue to manage college operations through the coronavirus pandemic, everyone is anxious for some return to normal. Planning our academic year still depends largely on the University of Saskatchewan policies. Dr. Chris Clark, associate dean academic, is part of a task force with his USask counterparts to help inform those policies. Due to the current unknowns, we need to continue to be nimble and responsive as we plan for the next academic year — including the new first-year curriculum. 

Dr. Liz Snead, associate dean of research and graduate studies, and WCVM faculty members have begun discussions on options for reopening research labs. Dr. Steve Manning, associate dean of clinical programs, is consulting with faculty groups to review how things are going in the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre and to consider steps involved in reopening the clinics. The college will also be consulting with the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association (SVMA) to determine how the Government of Saskatchewan’s plan for reopening affects veterinary clinics as an essential service.

Of course, decisions made by the provincial government and the University of Saskatchewan will influence the planning for our academic, research and clinical programs. Those decisions will also influence what happens at the VMC over the next few weeks as well as the estimated time line for resuming additional clinical services beyond urgent and emergency care. In all cases, safety is still the primary consideration. We will keep you updated as we learn more from these discussions.  

If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca. We appreciate your questions and feedback. 

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


DAILY ALERTS

WCVM ADMISSIONS: Members of the WCVM admissions team continue to prepare for one of the college’s most important annual jobs: selecting the next class of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) students. The team will use a remote process for interviewing this year and all of the interviews will be completed within a two-week range at the end of May. We appreciate the tremendous effort by the admissions team, members of the admissions committee and everyone involved in this important function.

CLASS OF 2021 DRAFT: Last week, the WCVM’s academic team worked with members of the Class of 2021 to re-run the rotations draft for the upcoming 2020-21 year. The online selection process had to redone after restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic forced the college to cancel its normal list of spring and summer clinical rotations. As well, other rotations and international externships have either been cancelled or postponed until later in the academic year.

The second draft process went relatively smoothly despite significant changes to the upcoming year’s list of rotations and externships. While some regular rotations are not available, the students were able to select some additional equine and food animal rotations that will be offered next spring. Another heartening sign was that most students secured their first choice of elective rotation during the draft. Thank you to members of the academic team for their hard work — and thank you to the students for their patience during this challenging time.  

During the upcoming months, some fourth-year students will be able to complete externships at certain western Canadian veterinary clinics that were still able to take in students. As well, the WCVM’s academic team will continue to work with USask leaders to explore the option of the college offering some type of experiential learning on campus for its senior students.

VMC RECYCLES MASKS: The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC) is now capable of safely decontaminating used respiratory masks so they’re ready to be reused by the veterinary teaching hospital’s clinical team members. Last week, the VMC did some trials using vaporized hydrogen peroxide (VHP) sterilization — the decontamination procedure that the hospital already uses to sterilize some of its medical equipment. The VHP sterilization equipment uses hydrogen peroxide vapor as a broad-spectrum antimicrobial. It evenly distributes VHP throughout the enclosure and is effective in killing viruses, bacteria, yeasts and bacterial spores.

VMC team members tested the VHP sterilization process on N95 respiratory masks and samples of another type of particulate filtering mask typically used by construction workers and other tradespeople. After some minor adjustments, the process was successful and the VMC is now capable of decontaminating about three dozen masks per day. The VMC now plans to recycle the respiratory masks worn by its clinical teams and has set up depots for collecting used masks. VMC staff members are working with Prairie Diagnostic Services to decontaminate masks worn by staff at the veterinary diagnostic laboratory, and it may also be possible to offer the same service to Saskatchewan’s veterinary clinics.

IN THE NEWS: Dr. Volker Gerdts, director and CEO of Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac), was interviewed for a recent CBC story that covered Canada’s efforts to find a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The story, which ran on CBC’s The National, also featured the COVID-19 work done by McMaster University researchers — including postdoctoral fellow Dr. Arinjay Banerjee, who completed his graduate work in the WCVM’s Department of Veterinary Microbiology.

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

Dear WCVM community:

The 2019-20 academic year is now done for most of our students. While members of the Class of 2021 wrote their last final exam yesterday, students in second year (Class of 2022) completed exams today. As well, this was the final day for fourth-year students’ online rotations and externships. Congratulations.

As well, I send best wishes to our first-year students as they prepare for their last week of exams (three more to go). I know these past few weeks — and especially this week — have been incredibly challenging for all of you. Please know that we support you and are here for you.

Earlier today, I sent a message to our WCVM employees and graduate students about the University of Saskatchewan’s upcoming COVID-19 workplace strategy and support program with general details about the WCVM’s approach to employment and the college’s operations. As I mentioned in my message, the challenges we face during the pandemic continue to evolve, and we will work together to maintain our college and support each other.

We hope the information helped to answer your questions, but if you are still wondering about certain aspects or outcomes, please contact us at wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca. We appreciate your questions and feedback.

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


DAILY ALERTS 

COVID-19 WEBINAR FOR STUDENTS: Veterinary students across Canada and beyond are invited to join a live webinar called “Practising veterinary medicine in a COVID-19 era” with Dr. Scott Weese of the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) on April 28. Weese, who is a professor of veterinary internal medicine and chief of infection control at OVC’s veterinary teaching hospital, will address the needs and concerns of student veterinarians in this webinar that includes a Q and A session at the end of the presentation. The webinar begins at 8 p.m. EST (6 p.m. CST) on Tuesday, April 28. Click here to join the Teams-based webinar (no registration is required). Thank you to Dr. Weese and the OVC for organizing this free, informative event.

STUDENT ASSISTANCE: As announced on Apr. 22, the Government of Canada has proposed the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) that would provide support to students and new graduates who are not be eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit or Employment Insurance or unable to work due to COVID-19. This benefit would provide $1,250 per month for eligible students or $1,750 per month for eligible students with dependents or disabilities. This benefit would be available from May to August 2020. More details will be made available soon. Click here for more information about Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

Dear WCVM community:

I send my sympathy to the family, friends and classmates of Thizbe Balzer, who passed away earlier this week from a pre-existing health issue. If you need assistance, please reach out to the counselling resources on campus and in the community for support during this sad time.

Earlier today, Premier Scott Moe and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab announced the province’s five-phase plan to re-open Saskatchewan, beginning on May 4. What will the province’s plans affect the University of Saskatchewan and the WCVM? We need more information before further decisions can be made, but I assure you that the college’s leadership team will continue to keep you informed about potential changes to programs and activities as soon as we know more.   

During the weekly call with members of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), the conversation continues to highlight the issues we all face. Discussions included clinical interns, residents and managing the VIRMP (Veterinary Internship and Residency Matching Program), tuition, summer rotations and plans for eventual re-opening of campuses and programs. We are all in this together, and it’s helpful to share ideas and experiences across the profession.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca. We appreciate your questions and feedback. 

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


DAILY ALERTS

FAST-TRACK FUNDING: Earlier today, the Government of Canada awarded $23 million to the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) in support of the research organization’s efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. The additional funding will support pre-clinical testing and two phases of clinical trials — essential steps to ensuring that vaccines are effective and safe for human use. Manufacturing of the prototype vaccine and extensive safety assessment of the vaccine in animal models has been started and will be completed this summer. Clinical testing in humans is planned for the fall, with the vaccine potentially being available as early as next spring. Click here for more information.  

PLANNING FOR NEXT PHASE: As the Government of Saskatchewan lays out its plans for reopening the province’s services and businesses over the coming months, members of the WCVM leadership team are discussing the next steps and scenarios for the college’s clinical, academic and research programs. These discussions, which are still in the early stages, will involve broad input from across the college to determine what options could safely work under the current limitations. We will all need to be nimble, and these plans must be flexible and dynamic so the college can adjust and adapt as circumstances regarding COVID-19 change in the province and on campus. WCVM leaders will continue to update the college’s community about future developments as soon as more information is available.

TEAM APPRECIATION: This week includes special events that recognize two key groups of employees at the veterinary college. Thank you to the following teams for all of your efforts: 

  • Administrative Professionals Day (April 22) recognizes the work of administrative assistants, executive assistants, personal assistants, receptionists, client services representatives, and other administrative support professionals. These talented multi-taskers provide vital support for activities and programs throughout the college, and during this challenging time, their roles are more important than ever.
  • Veterinary Receptionist Week (Apr. 20-24). Veterinary receptionists are usually the first face (or voice) greeting clients at the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre. While their work is essential throughout the year, the daily efforts of veterinary receptionists have become especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout these past weeks, the WCVM’s veterinary receptionists have addressed clients’ questions and concerns, supported clinical team members and pitched in to help wherever needed.

GRADUATE DEFENDERS: Two more WCVM graduate students have successfully defended their theses using online tools. Congratulations to the following students: 

  • Dr. Adam Hering, PhD student, WCVM Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences (supervisor: Dr. Murray Woodbury). Thesis title: "Management of Psoroptes mites in free-ranging bighorn sheep." 
  • Dr. Masako Fujiyama, MSc student, WCVM Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (supervisor: Dr. Tanya Duke). Thesis title: “Comparison of dexmedetomidine infusion with or without opiods, and morphine-ketamine infusions on stress hormone release in isoflurane-anesthetized horses undergoing surgery.”

SAFETY TRAINING COURSE: For the safety of employees who continue to work on campus or access university buildings, USask Safety Resources has developed a new COVID-19 health and safety training course. It is mandatory for all employees who continue working on campus to complete this brief training program online. Please complete this training course, which is offered on Blackboard, as soon as possible. Click here to visit USask Safety Resources and register for a course session. Shortly after registering, you will receive a link by email. If you have questions, please call 306-966-4675 or send a message to safetyresources@usask.ca. Please provide your NSID with your request.

DR. KERI RETURNS TO WCVM: Dr. Keri Hudson Reykdal, who graduated from the WCVM in 2000, highlights her alma mater in the May 1 episode of "Dr. Keri, Prairie Vet," the Canadian reality series that chronicles her busy life as a rural Manitoba veterinarian. In the episode called "Back to School," Dr. Hudson Reykdal returns to Saskatoon and gives the keynote speech at the 2019 White Coat Ceremony for the college's Class of 2023. During her visit, Dr. Hudson Reykdal spends time meeting WCVM students, faculty and staff and discovering how vet school has changed in the past two decades since her own graduation. For more information, visit the Discovery Channel's Animal Planet website.  

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

Dear WCVM community:

I hope everyone had a nice weekend! It’s a relief to finally see more spring-like weather in the forecast.  

The college’s programs and general operations are running as well as they can under the circumstances. We’ve included brief updates below.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca. We appreciate your questions and feedback.

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean



DAILY ALERTS

CLINICAL UPDATE: Clinical teams managed busy caseloads in the Small Animal Clinic, Large Animal Clinic and Field Service (ruminant and equine) throughout the weekend. Based on feedback from staff, the VMC leadership team will move the hospital’s shift schedule to a continuous rotation of five days on, five days off (removing the four days on, four days off shift). The change, which is scheduled to begin in mid-May, ensures that all team members have a similar number of days off during weekends over the long term. 

ACADEMIC UPDATE: Final exams for Year 1 students began today, and the first-year class will continue with finals until next week. Second-year students will complete their final exams on Friday, Apr. 24, while members of the Class of 2021 will write their last final exam on Thursday, Apr. 23. Members of the Class of 2020 are in their final rotation/externship.

RESEARCH UPDATE: The WCVM Research and Graduate Studies Office has helped most researchers make alternative plans for their summer students who are participating in the WCVM’s Undergraduate Summer Research and Leadership program this year. While most mentors were able to develop online/remote options for their students’ research projects, a few researchers are applying to the USask Office of the Vice-President Research (OVPR) for exemptions since their work can’t be done remotely.

Operations at the Animal Care Unit (ACU) continue to run smoothly. At the Livestock and Forage Centre of Excellence (LFCE), this spring’s calving is over the halfway mark and is going well. Click here to read more on the LFCE website.

PRAIRIE DIAGNOSTIC SERVICES: The provincial veterinary laboratory continues to handle a steady stream of submissions. In comparison to last year’s data, small animal submissions have decreased, but the lab’s number of large animal submissions is similar for the same time period in 2019.   

PAWS YOUR STRESS, ONLINE VERSION: The University of Saskatchewan (USask) PAWS Your Stress Therapy Dog program is live online. Students and other members of the community can now connect and receive comfort and support from St. John Ambulance therapy dogs while learning pandemic-specific mental health self-care tips. Beginning April 20 and until the end of July 2020, PAWS Your Stress events will take place at least twice a week online for USask students and for the greater Saskatchewan community. The 10-minute Facebook Live events will feature a therapy dog doing an everyday healthy activity, such as going for a walk or grooming. Click here for the full story.

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

Dear WCVM community:

Here's an update for April 16-17. We're working with the USask Office of the Vice-Provost, Faculty Relations, to accommodate the WCVM's incoming clinical interns and residents this summer. Navigating the paperwork and logistics will be challenging, but the hope is that early planning will pay off. 

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a few of our graduate students have defended their graduate theses — congratulations! Several of our students were also among the winners of the University of Saskatchewan's annual "Images of Research" photo and images competition. You can view their beautiful photos using the links below. 

I hope you all have a chance to enjoy the warmer weather over the weekend! If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca. We appreciate your feedback.

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


DAILY ALERTS

GRADUATE STUDENT DEFENCES: As if defending your thesis isn’t nerve-racking enough, now WCVM graduate students are rising to the challenge of presenting their research work to graduate committees. Congratulations to the following graduate students: 

  • Shakya Kurukulasuriya, MSc defence, Department of Veterinary Microbiology (supervisor: Dr. Janet Hill). Thesis title: “Characterization of sialidase enzymes of Gardnerella spp.”
  • Dr. Tekeleselassie Woldemariam, PhD defence, Department of Veterinary Microbiology (supervisor: Dr. Suresh Tikoo). Thesis title: “Molecular characterization of bovine adenovirus-3 IVa2 protein.”
  • Dr. Mengying Liu, MSc defence, Department of Veterinary Pathology (supervisor: Dr. Susantha Gomis). Thesis title: “Development of an immune complex vaccine to control variant infectious bursal disease virus infection in the Canadian broiler chicken industry.”

IMAGES OF RESEARCH WINNERS: Organized by USask Research Profile and Impact, the sixth annual edition of the USask Images of Research Photo and Imaging Competition highlighted beautiful images — including several taken by members of the WCVM community. Congratulations to PhD students Miranda Zwiefelhofer and Hiruni Deeyagahage and veterinary student Robin Owsiacki for their photographic efforts. This year’s competition received 106 submissions, with more than 12,000 visitors to the website from 43 countries. In addition, more than 1,700 people cast a vote in the competition’s Viewer's Choice category. Click here to view the WCVM students’ photos and descriptions. Click here to view all of the USask competition winners.

REVERSING THE IRREVERSIBLE: The last issue of On Campus News highlighted a research study led by WCVM reproductive biologist Dr. Ali Honaramooz. He and his research team are developing novel approaches to induce testis maturation. They aim to produce sperm in vitro (outside of a living organism) using biopsies from neonatal piglet testis as a model for restoring the fertility potential of young cancer survivors. The WCVM scientists’ work recently led to a front cover image and article in the Feb. 2020 issue of Reproduction, Fertility and Development. Click here to read the story, written by WCVM veterinary student Tim Cloutier during his 2019 summer research program.  

IN THE NEWS: Dr. Volker Gerdts, director and chief executive officer of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac), was interviewed for a Western Producer article about whether the virus that causes COVID-19 could be transmitted from humans to animals — including pigs, poultry, cattle and other livestock. Click here to read the story. The VIDO-InterVac research team's work to develop a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 is featured in "The Bridge" podcast by former CBC journalist Peter Mansbridge. Click here for more details. 

Dr. Gerdts, who is a professor in the WCVM’s Department of Veterinary Microbiology, was also interviewed for a Western Producer story about VIDO-InterVac’s role in evaluating a new diagnostic tool to test for bovine tuberculosis in bison. Click here to read the story.

A couple of other news stories featured WCVM faculty members: 

  • Dr. Steve Manning spoke to Global TV Saskatoon reporter Anna McMillan about moving the college’s fourth-year clinical rotations to online options. “We are comfortable that our students — all of them — when they’re done, assuming they’re all successful in these rotations at the end, will be competent, entry-level veterinarians able to go out there and practice,” said Manning, the college’s associate dean of clinical programs. Click here to read/view the story.

  • In recognition of International Bat Appreciation Day on April 17, Garth Materie of CBC Radio's The Afternoon Edition spoke to WCVM microbiologist Dr. Vikram Misra about bats, their important role in nature and the flying mammals' link to zoonotic disease. Check here next week to listen to the interview.

IT SUPPORT: If you have a IT-related question or problem, the best (and preferred) way to contact the WCVM’s IT team is by sending an email to wcvm_itsupport@usask.ca. Your email will generate a ticket in an online queue that’s monitored by the team’s members. If you are unable to send an email, here’s more contact information for each team member:

  • Rory Owens and Jon Gudmundson (desktop support): Rory and Jon are working remotely but are available to come to the WCVM building if needed. Call 306-966-7162 and leave a voice mail message.  
  • Tom Beatty and Jonathan Nicklin (VetNet developers): Tom and Jonathan are working remotely. Call 306-966-7107 (calls will be forwarded).
  • Shawn Doll (AV support): Shawn is working remotely. You can contact him several ways:

USASK BADGES: If you have been designated as core or critical personnel and have not received an identification badge at the college or by mail, email wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca. If you are a WCVM employee or graduate student who is not on the list of core and critical staff, please follow the university’s policy for non-essential staff and do not come on campus or enter the WCVM building. USask has taken this measure to ensure the safety of people who need to be on campus to fulfil essential services. If you believe circumstances have changed and you should be on the WCVM’s list of core or critical staff, please email wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

Dear WCVM community:

While there’s not much new to report in the operations portfolios, people’s thoughts are turning to the future and planning for what comes next. We are considering options for some sort of graduation and awards recognition. Drs. Chris Clark and Steve Manning and the academic team are developing various options for the return of veterinary students and what that might look like. Faculty are working on options if the return of in-person classes needs to be staggered this fall. When students are allowed to return to the WCVM, we also need to consider how to prepare them for what they may find on the USask campus.

These discussions are still early, and before anything is decided, it’s important for WCVM representatives to consult with students, faculty and staff about these next steps. Our team members are also meeting with their counterparts on campus and in the veterinary world to explore different options and scenarios that may be available to the college.

In some areas, normal life peeks through just a little. The WCVM’s Development office is still engaging our donors and managing new gifts. Our finance group is working on the usual year-end accounting, and we are working on adjustments to the 2020-2021 budget to meet the USask Board of Governor’s mandate for a balanced, ongoing operating budget. Specific pandemic-related costs would be an exception, so we have some work to do in that area.

Some approved research projects, such as field research, are getting started. Staff members in the WCVM Animal Care Unit continue to provide great care for all animals housed in the unit. Prairie Diagnostic Services (PDS) continues to have a busy caseload as they respond to clients’ diagnostic requests in the region. And of course, our clinical teams in the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre continue to provide the best of care for cases coming in to the hospital and through field service calls.

Through it all, we’re appreciative of the teamwork and innovation that our WCVM people continue to demonstrate each day. Thank you to all of you. 

If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca. We appreciate your feedback.

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

Dear WCVM community:

Earlier today, I was part of a conference call with other members of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC). Our veterinary colleagues across North America are discussing similar topics and grappling with the same issues. The meeting’s agenda covered everything from working remotely and managing student tuition and fees to student deferments, clinical rotations and graduation celebrations. There’s a lot to cover during our weekly meetings!

Comparing notes with other veterinary colleges is extremely helpful. This resource sharing also extends to online webinars and talks that are available to students, faculty and staff members. We’ve included details about two of these upcoming seminars in the information below.  

If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca. We appreciate your feedback.

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean



 

Today's alerts

USASK MAIL DELIVERY: Beginning next week, all mail for the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM), Prairie Diagnostic Services and the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre will be delivered to the college’s loading dock twice a week (by end of the day on Tuesdays and Thursdays). Ginger Appel, WCVM’s chief operations and finance officer, will sort the mail every Wednesday afternoon and Friday afternoon. When the mail is available for pick up in the loading dock area, she will contact assigned representatives for PDS and the VMC. She will use the following practices for incoming mail to WCVM departments:

  • most mail items (including publications) will be stored in the WCVM General Office
  • invoices and cheques will be scanned and recipients will be notified
  • packages will be left in the loading dock area for pick up (but only if recipients are part of the WCVM’s core and critical staff)

The University of Saskatchewan (USask) has suspended all internal campus mail as well as the university’s outgoing mail service. If you have questions or concerns, please contact Ginger Appel (ginger.appel@usask.ca).

PARKING ON CAMPUS: USask is providing free, 24-hour access to Lots F, Q, S, V and Y as a temporary measure for accommodating essential staff and graduate students who must come on campus. The university’s Parking Services continues to evaluate its operations and adjust to the changing situation, but for now, USask is not planning to suspend monthly parking fees.

If you choose to cancel your parking, please visit the Parking Services website and complete a cancellation form. You can scan and email this form to parking@usask.ca. Once you cancel your parking, the space will go to the next person on the Parking Services’ waiting list. You will need to reapply for parking once USask resumes normal operations, but please note that parking is not guaranteed — it will depend on what’s available.

FREE COVID-19 WEBINAR: The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) is offering a free webinar titled “COVID-19 and companion animals — what we know today” at 10 a.m. EST on Friday, April 17. The webinar, which is supported by the Purina Institute and Zoetis, is open to anyone but is geared toward veterinary clinic staff. Speakers include Dr. Vanessa Barrs of the City University of Hong Kong, Dr. Michael Lappin, chair of the WSAVA One Health committee, and WSAVA President Dr. Shane Ryan. Click here to register for the event.

VETMED SURVIVAL SKILLS: Our veterinary colleagues at Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) are hosting a live talk at 12:30 p.m. EST on Wednesday, April 15 (tomorrow) on the school’s @OntVetCollege Instagram account. As part of the OVC’s “Lunchtime Talk” series, Dr. Leann Benedettti will talk about the “Top three vet med survival skills during COVID-19.” In addition to being a veterinarian, Benedetti is a certified professional coach, educator, mentor and advocate for veterinary wellness. Click here for more details.

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

Dear WCVM community:

I hope everyone had a chance to rest up over the long weekend and spend time with their loved ones. Things continue to be busy in the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre, and our veterinary students are gearing up for the final stages of the academic year.

While our academic team helps to support the students during final exams and rotations, they’re also working with other health science colleges on campus and the USask Office of Teaching, Learning and Student Experience to make alternative plans for the coming academic year. Like other USask health science schools, the WCVM is facing the challenge of how to deliver courses and labs if the university must continue to restrict access to campus because of COVID-19.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca. We appreciate your questions and feedback.

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


DAILY ALERTS

VMC CASELOAD: During the Easter weekend, clinical teams cared for a steady stream of emergency cases in the WCVM’s Small Animal and Large Animal Clinics. The WCVM’s Field Service team also experienced a busy weekend with calving-related calls in the Saskatoon area. To minimize the risk of spreading SARS-CoV-2 among hospital staff, the VMC continues to run six teams that rotate through eight-hour shifts around the clock.

FINAL PUSH BEGINS FOR STUDENTS: The WCVM’s first final examination took place this morning with minor issues but no reported complaints. While this first exam was mailed out, students in Years 1 to 3 will use Blackboard for most of the final exams that are scheduled to take place over the last few weeks of April. Year 4 students also began a new set of remote rotations today — the final set in their veterinary program. Everyone has worked hard and is doing everything possible to support WCVM students through these difficult new times. Thanks so very much to our faculty and staff for everything you do to put students first. We will help them get through!

USASK BADGES: If you have been designated as core or critical personnel and have not received an identification badge at the college or through the mail at your home, email wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca. If you are a WCVM employee or graduate student who is not on the list of core and critical staff, please follow the university’s policy for non-essential staff and do not come on campus or enter the WCVM building. USask has taken this measure to ensure the safety of people who need to be on campus to fulfil essential services. If you believe circumstances have changed and you should be on the WCVM’s list of core or critical staff, please email wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.  

VETERINARY SOCIAL WORK: Veterinary social worker Erin Wasson is busy providing service to help VMC clients adjust to the hospital’s new access rules and related issues, as well as supporting the VMC clinical teams where needed. She continues to schedule requests for teaching in several rotations.

PRAIRIE DIAGNOSTIC SERVICES: The veterinary diagnostic laboratory has been busy, despite the COVID-19 concerns. As calving season progresses on Saskatchewan farms, it’s also a time for more cases coming through PDS.

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

Dear WCVM community:

Based on everyone’s reports during this morning’s scrum meeting, teams throughout the college continue to do their jobs, on or off site. There are no major developments to report today.

I hope all of our veterinary students, who are now spread out across Western Canada, are managing the challenges of online learning. As our academic team prepares to deliver the first final exams next week, I wish everyone well with their studying. I also hope our fourth-year students are doing well as they continue with their online and external rotations.   

While many of us can take a break from work during this holiday weekend, I want to say thank you to those employees who will continue to provide essential services at the WCVM — whether you work in clinical services, animal care, diagnostics, research or support services. We hope you stay safe.  

If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca. We appreciate your questions and feedback.

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


DAILY ALERTS

COVID-19 TESTING FOR ANIMALS: Because SARS-CoV-2 is primarily transmitted from person to person and not through animal contact, testing of animals is not generally recommended at this point. While COVID-19 is not deemed a reportable disease in animals, any testing of animals will need to be approved by the Public Health Agency of Canada and Saskatchewan’s chief veterinary officer. However, in case there is a need for animals to be tested, Prairie Diagnostic Services is moving forward with the development of a diagnostic test that will not use human diagnostic reagents.

USASK BADGES: The University of Saskatchewan (USask) has produced identification badges for core and critical personnel who still need to come to campus and provide essential services. While most of the WCVM’s share of badges arrived on April 8, the WCVM operations team are still doing some troubleshooting to track down missing badges. If you have been designated as core or critical personnel and have not received a badge, please email wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca so we can help you.

Now that most of the university’s core and critical employees have received their identification badges, on-campus security staff may ask you to show your badge and verify your identity – beginning this weekend. Even if you haven’t received your badge, security personnel will use the university’s list of essential services to validate your identity. If you are a WCVM employee or graduate student who is not on the list of core and critical staff, please follow the university’s policy for non-essential staff and do not come on campus or enter the WCVM building. USask has taken this measure to ensure the safety of people who need to be on campus to fulfil essential services. If you believe circumstances have changed and you should be on the WCVM’s list of core or critical staff, please email wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

USASK SECURITY: If you have been designated as core or critical personnel at the WCVM, please be aware that you may see additional security personnel in the college building and on campus. During the COVID-19 response, USask has hired additional personnel through GardaWorld (private security company) to supplement security services provided by university staff and USask Protective Services. 

Please note that GardaWorld security personnel are wearing different uniforms than regular security staff on campus. Anyone who is providing security services should be able to identify themselves. However, if you see anyone who looks or acts suspicious (even if the person is wearing a uniform), please contact USask Protective Services at 306-966-5555. To ensure the safety and security of the USask campus and its employees, Protective Services is still operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  

ALTERNATIVE ROTATIONS: Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the WCVM to cancel all spring and summer clinical rotations on campus, the college is planning to add more fourth-year rotations to its spring 2021 lineup — especially in the large animal side of the curriculum. For example, clinicians will offer an equine theriogenology rotation for senior students. Proposals have been submitted for other equine-focused rotations. The academic team is also working to shift the timing of other clinical rotations to next spring so members of the Class of 2021 still have access to a wide range of rotations.

EASTER WEEKEND: To prevent the spread of COVID-19 among your loved ones and in your community, the WCVM leadership team urges everyone to follow the Government of Saskatchewan’s recommendations for celebrating Easter this weekend.

  • Restrict in-person Easter gatherings to only people living in the same home.
  • Purchase your Easter dinner groceries ahead of time and avoid busy periods in grocery stores. 
  • Only one person from a household should go shopping for groceries and essential items. Make a list so you can quickly purchase your goods.
  • Always practise preventive measures such as frequent hand washing and physical distancing.
  • Instead of inviting family and friends over for dinner, host a virtual gathering using Facetime, Zoom or other digital tools.

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

 
 
Dear WCVM community:

As I described in yesterday’s message, all areas in the college are moving forward as well as they can under the circumstances.

Thank you to clinical team members who have sent in questions or comments about the case management procedures for the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre. As mentioned yesterday, we do realize that these procedures may change as we learn more — but those updates will only help to make the protocols more effective for our clinical teams.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca. We appreciate your questions and feedback.

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


 

Today's alerts

USASK BADGES: The University of Saskatchewan (USask) has produced identification badges for core and critical personnel who still need to come to campus and provide essential services. The WCVM’s share of badges arrived earlier today and are being distributed to employees who are part of the college’s group of core and critical personnel. If you have questions or need changes, please contact Ginger Appel or Linda Sparks.

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca

Dear WCVM community:

It seems as though we are hitting our stride as we continue to work through the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the representatives who joined our daily operations scrum this morning reported that their areas were carrying on without many new issues in academics, student services, finance, animal care, research and graduate studies, wellness, human resources or college administration. The USask Deans Council focused largely on issues moving forward for fall and the 2020-2021 academic year.

In my weekly online meeting with the AAVMC deans, it’s clear that we are all dealing with many of the same issues. Today’s call included discussions on the Veterinary Internship and Residency Matching Program (VIRMP), summer scholars research, the status of externships and external rotations, international students, and implementing Council on Education guidance for hands-on training under COVID-19 conditions.

In fact, our college leaders in academics, research, finance, communications, development, wellness and social work are also connecting with counterparts from other schools to share ideas and best practices. While we are continually working to overcome challenges in this new environment, we have great colleagues to work with in the veterinary community. Perhaps a positive outcome of this pandemic will be the creativity and innovation that people use to solve today’s problems will also fuel new ideas in the future.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca. We appreciate your questions and feedback.

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean



DAILY ALERTS

VMC CASE MANAGEMENT PROCEDURES: Based on input from a working group representing clinicians, registered veterinary technologists and college leadership, the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre released its procedures for managing cases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the next few weeks, we do expect that these procedures will need to be modified as we learn more from trusted, science-based sources, as team members identify issues with certain supplies, or as people suggest more effective methods. We all agree that these documents are a “work in progress.” But what they do help to ensure is that all VMC team members are following the same protocols so we can help protect the health and safety of our employees as well as our clients. Human health is our primary concern, and following standardized procedures based on collective assessment of information from many sources is one key method to maintaining a safe environment.

These procedures focus on managing small animal cases, but team members in the Large Animal Clinic and in the Field Service unit can refer to the documents as guidelines for their own practices. The WCVM working group will work on adapting the case management procedures for large animals with the input of team members in the Large Animal Clinic and Field Service.

Printed copies of the VMC case management procedures will be available later this week. All of the information is now available online (click links below). 

Visit web page | Download fact sheet | Download poster

REPORTS DUE: While many things have dramatically changed in the past few weeks, some deadlines remain the same — including USask’s fiscal year-end on April 30, 2020. If you have any travel expense reports or other expense reports (such as reimbursements for membership dues or books) to complete for reimbursement of expenses incurred from May 1, 2019, to April 30, 2020, please submit your Concur expense report to the finance group for review by Monday, April 20 (or as soon as you can if your trip return date is after April 20). These reports need to be completed with all approvals in place by April 30, 2020. If you have questions or concerns, contact Ginger Appel as soon as possible.

CUSTODIAL UPDATE: The custodial teams working at the WCVM are part of the college’s overall efforts to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and ensure that vital operations continue in the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC) and in other parts of the building. Since the veterinary college is one of the few buildings on campus that’s still open, USask shifted employees from other colleges to help the WCVM’s existing custodial team. The custodial unit also began rotating staff so employees work no more than two to three shifts per week — minimizing their time on campus.

In partnership with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, custodial management at USask took additional health and safety training — including a webinar to learn more about the coronavirus, proper PPE (personal protective equipment), cleaning techniques and effective use of cleaning products. Assistant managers have been sharing information with staff members during daily huddles where the teams review the importance of cleaning common touch points and high-traffic areas. The custodial team is also working on signs for their staff to remind them about key practices such as social distancing and washing hands.

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.    

 

Dear WCVM community:

On April 3, a group representing clinical team members and college leadership met to discuss and finalize the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre’s procedures for managing cases during the COVID-19 pandemic. The group also discussed appropriate protocols for handling cats, ferrets and hamsters. Preliminary data suggests that these species can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and can possibly transmit the virus to other animals, and potentially, to people.

Based on Friday’s meeting, we believed we were close to finalizing the hospital’s standard procedures for case management during the pandemic. However, the discussion opened again on April 5 after the news broke about a four-year-old Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo testing positive for SARS-CoV-2.

This case is important for two reasons. First, this was not an experimental inoculation. Zoo officials presume that transmission was through direct or indirect contact with an animal handler who tested positive for COVID-19. Second, the handler was asymptomatic — reinforcing the important issue of asymptomatic carriers in the community. What’s also important to note is that there is still no indication that animals are transmitting the virus back to people. The known risk is still direct or indirect contact between people. 

Earlier today, our working group met to discuss the implications of this news on the VMC’s standardized procedures for case management. There has been significant information shared between North American veterinary teaching hospitals as well. As always, our goal is to use the most current scientific evidence to guide our decisions about safely managing cases in the veterinary teaching hospital.

We will report back to the WCVM community as soon as possible and we're finalizing our set of documents — including a fact sheet and posters — that will be used to help guide the practices of our clinical teams. What’s become clear is that these procedures may need to change as new information and findings come to light.

I want to thank everyone involved in this process — particularly Dr. Steve Manning for his leadership in the VMC throughout this ever-changing situation. Everyone is doing their best to protect the health of our staff and keep our hospital open so we can continue serving the profession and our community.   

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean

 

Today's alerts

VMC OPERATIONS: Clinical teams experienced a busy — but manageable — weekend at the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre. There were a number of small animal emergency cases along with a couple of emergencies in Large Animal Clinic.

VIRTUAL POSTER COMPETITION: In the middle of a global pandemic, the WCVM  found a virtual way to celebrate the research work of its graduate students. Organizers of the college’s annual graduate student poster day, which was originally scheduled for March 26, quickly switched the event to an online competition once it became clear that the University of Saskatchewan (USask) campus would close to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Our thanks to Dr. Liz Snead, her team and all of the judges for making the competition a success. Congratulations to all our winners!
Read full story 

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.  

Dear WCVM community:

Thanks to everyone who tuned in to watch the COVID-19 webinar with Dr. Darryl Falzarano of VIDO-InterVac this morning. We hope the presentation helped to answer some of your questions about SARS-CoV-2 and the role of companion animals in this complex issue. The webinar recording will be available online next week, and we’ll make sure to share the link as soon as it’s available.  

Finally, I want to thank Dr. Falzarano for taking the time to talk about COVID-19 and the latest research findings. We truly appreciate your willingness to help your colleagues at the WCVM.

If you can, please take some time to rest during the weekend. Thank you to everyone for all of your efforts!

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean

 

Today's alerts

WCVM IN THE NEWS: Dr. Steve Manning, associate dean of clinical programs at the WCVM, was interviewed by agriculture reporter Neil Billinger of CJWW Radio for a story about the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre’s (VMC) efforts to provide essential veterinary services during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to describing the WCVM Field Service teams’ work with food animals and horses, Dr. Manning gave an update on how animals — large and small — are being cared for inside the VMC and the protocols in place to protect employees and animal owners.

“Our staff and vets have stepped up and are working really hard under very hard conditions to provide services that we think are really important. And if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to do it,” said Dr. Manning. “We’re just really proud of the people that we have at the college who are providing that service."


Read story | Listen to full interview

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca   

Dear WCVM community:

Tomorrow morning, everyone is welcome to join a very timely webinar featuring two USask scientists — Drs. Volker Gerdts and Darryl Falzarano — who are conducting groundbreaking COVID-19 vaccine research at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac). We are extremely grateful for their help in providing the latest information about this coronavirus and answering questions about COVID-19 from the WCVM team.

Since I won’t have the chance to introduce our two speakers online, here’s some background in advance:

• Dr. Volker Gerdts received his DVM degree at Hanover Veterinary School and completed a German PhD equivalent from the Federal Research Institute for Animal Health and Hanover Veterinary School. After working as postdoctoral fellow at VIDO-InterVac for two years, Dr. Gerdts eventually joined the organization in 2002 as a research scientist. He was appointed VIDO-InterVac’s associate director of research in 2007 and then became director and CEO in 2019. Dr. Gerdts is also a professor in the WCVM’s Department of Veterinary Microbiology.

 • Dr. Darryl Falzarano received his PhD from the University of Manitoba in 2010. He then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Rocky Mountain Laboratories, part of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease in Montana. Dr. Falzarano joined VIDO-InterVac as a research scientist in 2014. He is also an adjunct professor in the WCVM’s Department of Veterinary Microbiology.

There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19 coronavirus. VIDO-InterVac is the first lab in the country to have a vaccine candidate in animal testing. The vaccine was made in February, and researchers expect to know in about four weeks whether the vaccine works in an animal model. Clinical testing of this vaccine in people could begin as early as this fall.

Tune in at 10 a.m. tomorrow — just click on the invitation link that Dr. Falzarano sent to everyone this morning. And if you can’t watch the webinar live, a recorded version will soon be available online.

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean

 


Special precautions in VMC

Research has shown that the risk of contracting COVID-19 from animals is extremely low. Current information indicates that the virus has a short life span on a pet’s fur, and the risk of transmission from most pets is minimal. The known risk is human-to-human transmission. However, preliminary data suggests that ferrets and cats can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and transmit the virus to other animals, and potentially, to people.

As a precaution, the VMC leadership team is recommending that clinical team members wear face shields in addition to other personal protective equipment (PPE) when handling cats and ferrets that are admitted for emergency care. This recommendation is included in a new fact sheet and posters outlining the procedures and key messages for managing cases at the VMC. These new resources will be distributed and posted as soon as possible.

Today's alerts

CLINICIANS UNITE: Earlier this week, many WCVM clinicians volunteered to assist the VMC’s new shift teams because of high caseloads in surgery, anesthesia and medicine services. Thanks to their willingness to help, these clinicians are now embedded in the shifts and doing a wonderful job of supporting their team members and the entire hospital.

STUDENT ASSISTANCE: The COVID-19 pandemic has created additional financial strain for many students. If you are a veterinary student or a graduate student who is in financial need, the University of Saskatchewan (USask) and the WCVM both offer funds that may be able to provide you with some emergency support. Please visit the WCVM’s coronavirus web page for more details.

PERSONAL MAIL: Please arrange for all personal mail and packages to be delivered to your home mailing address — not to the WCVM. The WCVM is receiving a mail delivery once a week, but the USask campus is closed to everyone other than core and critical staff. Only invoices and cheques are being delivered to departments and units; all non-essential mail is stored in the college’s General Office.  

LFCE CALVING: Team members at the USask Livestock and Forage Centre of Excellence (LFCE) are in the middle of round-the-clock calving season. As of April 2, over 100 of the 400-plus pregnant cows on site had calved. The recent snowfall and colder weather have helped to keep pens relatively clean at the LFCE’s Cow-Calf Research and Teaching Unit.  

Dear WCVM community:

I hope you are all doing well. As we’ve all come to realize, dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint. We all need to ensure that we’re taking care of our physical health as well as our mental wellness as we work through the daily pressures. 

We are also realizing that, thankfully, we are in smoother patch on our COVID rollercoaster. The work we have begun continues, and we don’t have much news to report tonight. 

I hope some of you were able to join tonight’s webinar with Dr. Marie Holowaychuk, a WCVM graduate who has become a strong voice advocating for mental wellness in the veterinary field. Another wonderful resource is Erin Wasson, our veterinary social worker. Erin recently created a fact sheet called Well-being during COVID-19 that has been an invaluable resource for all of us.  

We’ve set up an email address (wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca) for anyone who has questions or concerns about the college’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Emails go to WCVM human resources personnel and please be assured that all requests and concerns will be kept confidential.

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


 

COVID-19 preparations

The WCVM’s COVID-19 response team has been working on resources for clinical teams working in the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC). The first project is an informational poster that outlines the procedures and key messages for managing cases at the VMC.

While these preventive protocols are already in place and working well to protect employees from potential exposure, these posters will help to remind everyone of these important steps as they go about their daily work. They should also add more detail and clarify everyone’s role to ensure everyone understands and follows the same procedures. The team is working to have the posters finalized and produced as soon as possible.

Today's alerts

ROTATIONS: Online fourth-year rotations appear to be doing well since starting up on March 30. There have been no major technical glitches and both students and clinical faculty are busy with the online content. The fourth-year students have taken things in stride and are making the best of a challenging situation as they work to complete the year.

 

Dear WCVM community:

I hope everyone is doing well as we all settle into our new routines. While our main focus is within the WCVM, we are still engaged with campus leadership and our counterparts across North America on issues and recommendations related to our programs. We will continue to keep you appraised of information and updates, and please let us know if you have questions or suggestions.

Thanks to you all for your ongoing dedication and innovation. It's been fantastic.

Stay well, 
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


Managing caseloads in a pandemic

On March 30, the VMC leadership team held a video meeting with small animal clinicians representing most of the services in the hospital’s Small Animal Clinic. The meeting’s purpose was to review current operations and caseloads as well as to determine the team’s capabilities under the current circumstances. Although the VMC is only open to emergencies, urgent cases and cases already under treatment, the small animal surgery, anesthesia and medicine services have been extremely busy — to the point of being overwhelmed during the past weekend.

The meeting was very positive, and many clinicians in other services have offered to help the core teams in surgery and medicine. Those clinicians will become part of the VMC’s new shift teams that were developed as a safety measure to limit exposure in case an employee becomes COVID-positive. We would welcome more volunteers to help with any part of the process; please respond to this email if you can lend a hand. The meeting was also a good opportunity for team members to discuss the level of service that the VMC can continue offering during a pandemic situation — especially if the hospital continues to see surges in emergency cases during weekends.

Managing the risks of COVID-19 at work

As the number of COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan rises, our hospital team is facing the challenge of treating animals in medical distress whose owners are COVID-positive. While this is a stressful situation for everyone, we need to remember that the risk of contracting the virus from animals is extremely low. Contracting the virus from pets is considered a theoretical route of transmission at this point. Based on the most current information from various sources including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence that the virus causing COVID-19 can spread to people from the skin or fur of companion animals. The greatest risk is still person-to-person transmission. 

By following the VMC’s preventive protocols, which are based on recommendations from biosecurity experts in the animal health and human health fields, we can control the risk and continue doing our jobs safely. Those protocols and our client management are the same whether the client is known to be COVID-positive or not.

To help answer the VMC team’s questions and concerns about COVID-19, the WCVM is working with researchers from the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) to set up a live webinar that will be available to all employees at the VMC. Additional resource links are also posted on the WCVM coronavirus web page.

Today's alerts

GRADUATE STUDENT POSTER DAY: The WCVM’s annual graduate student poster competition wrapped up today, and once all of the judges’ scores and remarks have been reviewed, the Research Office will release this year’s list of award recipients. Thank you to all of the competition’s judges, who set up online meetings with individual students so they could ask questions about their research.  

SUMMER RESEARCH: The WCVM Research and Graduate Studies Office is still waiting for the University of Saskatchewan’s final decision on summer research programs since campus is closed to students until Sept. 1, 2020. The WCVM Research Office is planning to go forward with any current awards that can be managed by students remotely, and some WCVM faculty mentors have confirmed that this may be feasible with their proposed projects. Once more information is released from the USask Office of the Vice-President Research (OVPR), the college’s Research Office will alert research teams and students.

Dear WCVM community:

We have been operating in our COVID-19 response mode for a couple of weeks now. Our leadership and managers group continues to meet daily, but it's become clear that we are entering a phase where our activities are smoothing out. We don’t seem to have the major changes happening each day — or even hourly. 

In response to that adjustment, we're shifting the format of this communication so it focuses on important changes and messages. The units from across the college are still exchanging information daily, so feel free to contact us (wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca) with questions in any given area. 

Stay well, 
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


 

WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre

While many members of the WCVM community had the opportunity to recharge over the past couple of days, clinical teams at the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre worked through a hectic weekend. With most veterinary clinics in Saskatoon cancelling weekend hours, the VMC's emergency service — especially for small animals — was extremely busy. 

The VMC has now operated through an entire week using the new shift schedules that were developed to reduce contact among employees in the hospital and to prepare for the potential issue of clinical team members becoming ill. While the shifts still seem to be the best way to manage clinical services safely and effectively, VMC leadership and clinicians are meeting today to discuss ways to augment the teams with more clinical assistance in managing periods of high demand. Thank you to the VMC leadership team and everyone who is coming together to find solutions. 

Another message that comes through clearly and repeatedly is the way VMC staff throughout the hospital are stepping up and demonstrating leadership and teamwork. 


Year 4 rotations

After a one-week break, rotations began today with online delivery and new external sites for fourth-year students who were scheduled to be in the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre. During the one-week break, students' schedules were adjusted and all of the materials were set up online in anticipation of today's start. Thank you to the clinicians and the Student Services team for their quick response.


Today's alerts

MASTER PLAN ON HOLD: Over the past few months, many of you have participated in the Master Plan consultation process through organized focus groups, informal discussions and other means of feedback. All suggestions, ideas and feedback will be used to develop a report that will help to inform future design discussions and final recommendations. While COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the WCVM’s daily operations, it’s also put a hold on the veterinary college’s long-term planning for its building and use of space for now. 

CAMPUS CLOSURE AND SECURITY: For WCVM employees who are designated as providing essential services, the university has still not articulated how it will enforce security and campus closure. This may also affect owners who are bringing animals to the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre in medical distress for emergency care. We do understand that vehicles should not be stopped by USask campus security, and the university's security team will not be using barricades or checkpoints to monitor people's access to campus. Even so, anyone who is not deemed as core or critical staff to the WCVM's operations should not come to campus. If you have questions about core/critical staff assignments, please contact the WCVM Dean's Office

IMPORTANT REMINDERS: As we establish a routine for managing in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak, please remember to follow all policies and procedures for minimizing the potential for exposure to or the spread of COVID-19. We have seen groups trying to meet or individuals forgetting a step in preventive procedures — please be mindful for the safety of yourselves and everyone around you. 

  • For all employees entering the college, avoid using the VMC entrance. Please use other doors.
  • All non-VMC personnel must stay completely out of the hospital; do not use the breezeway as a thoroughfare. 
  • We can successfully navigate this outbreak together. Follow these key steps that will help to slow down the spread of infection and protect vulnerable members of our community. 

Dear WCVM community:

Here is the latest update of the veterinary college’s efforts in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.If you have questions or concerns, please contact wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca. As well, visit the USask COVID-19 page to read the university’s latest updates and listing of resources for students, staff and faculty.

We have made it through our second week since the Government of Saskatchewan ramped up its response to COVID-19, and although we still have many challenges to face, it’s astonishing to look back and see what we’ve managed to do in two weeks.

Things are far from normal, but the college’s education, clinical and research programs continue to operate (albeit on different scales). Despite the circumstances, we are still doing our best to teach, learn, diagnose, treat, support, collaborate — and work together. We appreciate all of your phenomenal efforts to make things work in so many different areas throughout the college.

Please take care of yourselves and your families.  

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


 

EDUCATION

DVM students (Years 1 to 4)

Online classes continue for all students in Years 1 to 3, along with the work in preparing the classes’ final examinations for delivery on Blackboard.

Clinical instructors are aware of the students’ schedules and ready to deliver online clinical rotations to the WCVM’s fourth-year veterinary students beginning on Monday, March 30. The academic team sincerely thanks all clinical instructors who took on the tremendous challenge of moving their clinical teaching from on site to online in less than a week. We are very grateful for your tenacity, ingenuity and ability to think outside the box. Amazing job!

 

CLINICAL SERVICES

Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC)

The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre continues to be only open to emergencies, urgent cases and cases already under treatment. Incoming cases have kept clinical teams busy; people are working together and managing the daily issues and problems as best they can. Events in the past two weeks have certainly pushed everyone out of their comfort zones, but it’s been inspiring to see the camaraderie that has grown among team members as they face challenges together.

If anyone has concerns or questions about work shifts, please contact members of the VMC leadership team who are available to help. Diane McDougall (diane.mcdougall@usask.ca) is available if anyone wishes to have a quick refresher on putting on and taking off personal protective equipment (PPE).

The Ruminant Field Service has been kept busy with calls as calving season ramps up in the Saskatoon area, and the Equine Field Service team members have been managing equine emergencies in the area. Both teams are trying to minimize the time spent in the WCVM building as much as possible and relying on their trucks as home bases.

The VMC pharmacy is upholding its policy of only filling or refilling prescriptions that are within seven days of the end of a current prescription and for only one month’s supply. As well, the VMC’s limit of one bag of pet food or one case of cans (per each type of food) per purchase is still in place (no exceptions for out-of-town clients or staff members).

College departments and units like the ACU are creating an inventory of supplies and PPE items so we have an idea of what may be available should these supplies become scarce in the VMC. We are also working with various units in the Saskatchewan Health Authority as they take steps to augment their diagnostic and therapeutic capabilities.

Prairie Diagnostic Services (PDS)

Prairie Diagnostic Services (PDS) is maintaining its operations and monitoring the number of diagnostic submissions. If needed, the PDS team will make further staffing adjustments to manage its demand.  

 

RESEARCH

Monitoring of essential infrastructure and equipment continues. The WCVM Research and Graduate Studies Office is working on set-up and arrangements for the college’s annual Graduate Student Poster competition, which is taking place on line. The WCVM’s Animal Care Unit (ACU) is operating normally using its shift schedules with no disruptions to animal care and maintenance.

Kris Ringwall, director of the Livestock and Forage Centre of Excellence (LFCE), reports that essential personnel continue to operate the facility, feeding and caring for the animals and assisting with calving. The LFCE’s units are closed to the public until further notice.

 

OPERATIONS

All university buildings remain closed, with only limited access to employees deemed as critical to core operations. Important exceptions are the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre, Prairie Diagnostic Services and the WCVM’s Animal Care Unit — all deemed as essential services for maintaining animal care, health and welfare in the province. People are also needed to check on things like freezers, liquid nitrogen tanks and valuable cells cultures, and they are also listed as essential to have access to the buildings. 

The WCVM has submitted the list of the college’s essential personnel to USask Human Resources. The university is maintaining security on the closed campus, including the identification of employees who have access to campus buildings, but the process is not yet defined. We will keep you posted as the requirements become available. For now, it is recommended that you carry a university ID or business card if your presence on campus is questioned. You could also call a supervisor if necessary. As well, please visit the USask updates website for the latest announcements from the university.  

The gates for parking lots Q and V are now open 24 hours a day for all of the college’s core and critical staff. 

Mail deliveries still come to the WCVM. The college’s General Office is receiving all college mail, and as time permits, members of the Dean’s Office team are distributing essential mail items (such as invoices and cheques) to the college’s departments and units. Other items, such as magazines and publications, will remain the General Office for now.

The WCVM’s loading dock remains open for deliveries of goods for the college’s critical operations, and with approval from USask, WCVM’s regular suppliers may come directly to the college without contacting the university’s Connection Point system in advance. Please follow these instructions for all deliveries, and if you have any questions, contact Ginger Appel (ginger.appel@usask.ca):

  • Only accept packages for the WCVM. If we accept packages for other units/colleges, it will be our responsibility to deliver these items to the appropriate place on campus.
  • If couriers/suppliers try to leave non-WCVM items at our loading dock or elsewhere in the college, instruct them to contact Connection Point (306-966-2000).
  • Contact your suppliers to ensure that they are aware of this WCVM-only process. If you don’t contact them, they will follow the university’s instructions that state all goods are directed by Connection Point.
  •  If a supplier typically mails in the invoice, have them email Connection Point (connectionpoint@usask.ca) to ensure that the invoice is received.

If anyone identifies specific areas that require additional cleaning in the WCVM building, please email wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca so arrangements can be made with the custodial staff.

If WCVM staff and faculty have human resources-related questions or concerns, they are welcome to contact Christine Holstein (christine.holstein@usask.ca) or Linda Sparks (linda.sparks@usask.ca) with questions. As well, please continuing checking the USask updates page for more information and updates.

The WCVM has set up a specific email address for students, staff, faculty who have questions or concerns about the college’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Please email wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca. All requests and concerns will be kept confidential.

 

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS

As we work through this stressful time, please feel free to contact Erin Wasson, the WCVM’s veterinary social worker, with your questions or concerns. USask has also posted links to resources online, along with the following sources that support good mental health as well as the physical health of our WCVM community. 

 

QUESTIONS AND RESOURCES

Questions

Resources

 

Dear WCVM community:

Here is the latest update of the veterinary college’s efforts in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. If you have questions or concerns, please contact wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca. As well, visit the USask COVID-19 page to read the university’s latest updates and listing of resources for students, staff and faculty.

As we work together to address daily issues and challenges, keep in mind that your coworkers may be struggling with other worries and fears that are affecting their actions — or reactions. Reach out to individuals who may need help, or encourage them to ask for help, whether it’s from their immediate supervisors or the college.

We’ve set up an email address (wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca) for anyone who has questions or concerns about the college’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Emails go to WCVM human resources personnel and please be assured that all requests and concerns will be kept confidential.

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean

 


EDUCATION

DVM students (Years 1 to 4)

Online classes continue for all students in Years 1 to 3, along with the work in preparing the classes’ final examinations for delivery on Blackboard. Student Services is checking in with clinical teams to ensure that all online rotations for fourth-year veterinary students are ready to go live on Monday, March 30.

 

CLINICAL SERVICES

Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC)

The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre continues to be only open to emergencies, urgent cases and cases already under treatment. VMC employees are following the new shift structure in the veterinary teaching hospital, with some adjustments to cover areas where additional help is needed. If anyone has concerns or questions about work shifts, please contact members of the VMC leadership team who are available to help.

Diane McDougall, VMC director of quality and operations, is offering on site training sessions for anyone in the VMC who wishes a quick refresher on the proper procedures for putting on and taking off personal protective equipment (PPE). Please contact Diane (diane.mcdougall@usask.ca) for more details, or if you have any questions or concerns about the use of PPE.

We encourage everyone to consider this refresher. While we are well trained and understand the prevention of exposure to infectious diseases, it's often very useful in situations like the one we find ourselves in now to refresh our skills in certain tasks. For example, physicians from Saskatoon's Royal University Hospital have been getting training in PPE at the USask Clinical Learning Resource Centre (CLRC).

The VMC pharmacy is upholding its policy of only filling or refilling prescriptions that are within seven days of the end of a current prescription and for only one month’s supply. As well, the VMC’s limit of one bag of pet food or one case of cans (per each type of food) per purchase is still in place (no exceptions for out-of-town clients or staff members).

 

RESEARCH

The WCVM Research and Graduate Studies Office has finished the list of critical, ongoing research projects as well as the list of research personnel who are considered critical or core to WCVM operations. Monitoring of essential infrastructure and equipment continues. 

The WCVM’s Animal Care Unit (ACU) is operating normally using its shift schedules with no disruptions to animal care and maintenance.

 

OPERATIONS

All university buildings remain closed, with only limited access to employees deemed as critical to core operations. Important exceptions are the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre, Prairie Diagnostic Services and the WCVM’s Animal Care Unit — all deemed as essential services for maintaining animal care, health and welfare in the province.

The university is still working on the plan for maintaining security on a closed campus, including the identification of employees that have access to campus buildings. We will keep you posted as the requirements become available. As well, please visit the USask updates website for the latest announcements from the university.

The gates for parking lots Q and V are now open 24 hours a day for all of the college’s core and critical staff.  

All ICT team members are working remotely; online support is available for all WCVM instructors and clinical teams. If onsite assistance is needed, please contact the ICT team (wcvm_itsupport@usask.ca).

If anyone identifies specific areas that require additional cleaning in the WCVM building, please email wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca so arrangements can be made with the custodial staff.

If WCVM staff and faculty have human resources-related questions or concerns, they are welcome to contact Christine Holstein (christine.holstein@usask.ca) or Linda Sparks (linda.sparks@usask.ca) with questions. As well, please continuing checking the USask updates page for more information and updates.

The WCVM has set up a specific email address for students, staff, faculty who have questions or concerns about the college’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Please email wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca. All requests and concerns will be kept confidential.

 

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS

As we work through this stressful time, please feel free to contact Erin Wasson, the WCVM’s veterinary social worker, with your questions or concerns. USask has also posted links to resources online, along with the following sources that support good mental health as well as the physical health of our WCVM community. 

 

QUESTIONS AND RESOURCES

Questions

Resources

Dear WCVM community:

I want to say thank you for all of your efforts these past couple weeks in figuring out our new normal. As an essential service, it’s important that we continue to meet our professional obligations and use our training and expertise to maintain a safe environment for ourselves and our clients.   

The steps you have already taken — working in shifts, maintaining personal space and hygiene, disinfecting areas regularly and avoiding face-to-face interactions with clients — are all important ways to prevent infection and slow the spread of COVID-19. Keep it up. You are an amazing and resilient team.

We should also be prepared for the potential scenario of having one of our team members on site test positive for COVID-19. This has already happened in U.S. veterinary schools, and the same scenario could happen here as well. In these cases, the colleges have responded quickly and effectively with complete trace outs so their teams can identify potential exposure to the positive case as well as extensive sanitation and disinfection processes. 

These strategies work. Each veterinary college that has faced a positive case of COVID-19 is back operating. We know what needs to be done, and we have the ability to follow through and take these important steps.

The last critical step is open and transparent communication. We all need to be aware and take appropriate steps together. We will continue to keep people informed of the current situation as we respond to whatever happens. As a team, we can manage it.

Despite all the changes in the past two weeks, we still see the gratitude from our clients who come to us in need. Your dedication and professionalism are so inspiring.

Thank you all.  
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


EDUCATION

DVM students (Years 1 to 4)

The Student Services team met with faculty on March 24 and had a productive debriefing about remote delivery methods for courses and examinations. In addition to the ongoing courses, the team is preparing for the class years’ final examinations. Preparations are going well, and we’re grateful for the assistance of our administrative team in the Dean’s Office. If anyone needs additional clerical or administrative assistance, please contact Dr. Chris Clark or the Student Services Office.  

Meanwhile, clinical teams are doing an amazing job of developing a range of online rotations for our fourth-year students. The response has been incredible, and we are in good shape as we prepare to go live on Monday, March 30. Student Services team members are working with fourth-year students to finalize their schedules.

 

CLINICAL SERVICES

Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC)

The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre is only open to emergencies, urgent cases and cases already under treatment. The hospital has had some busy periods, and it's clear that our expertise is needed in the community. So far, clinical teams have been able to handle the number of emergency and urgent cases with some staffing adjustments. As everyone adjusts to the hospital’s new shift structure during the next few days, please reach out if you have concerns or questions. Members of the VMC leadership team are available to help.

The VMC pharmacy continues following the policy of only filling or refilling prescriptions that are within seven days of the end of a current prescription and for only one month’s supply. As well, the VMC’s limit of one bag of pet food or one case of cans (per each type of food) per purchase is still in place (no exceptions for out-of-town clients or staff members).

Prairie Diagnostic Services (PDS)

Prairie Diagnostic Services (PDS) is maintaining its operations and monitoring the number of diagnostic submissions. If needed, the PDS team will make further staffing adjustments to manage its demand. 

 

RESEARCH

The WCVM Research and Graduate Studies Office has completed the process of identifying critical, ongoing research projects that involve animals. The research team has also finished identifying essential infrastructure that must be maintained and monitored during the university’s closure. The Research Office has set up a monitoring schedule with two people assigned in each of the college’s four “zones.” The team members will cover monitoring duties in their respective zones week by week. Thanks to everyone who has stepped up to participate.

The Research Office is keeping in touch with WCVM graduate students and the 2020 summer research students. So far, the Office of the Vice-President Research (OVPR) is still considering options for the university’s summer research programs. Boehringer Ingelheim has cancelled the international portion of its Veterinary Scholars program, but no decision has been made for the North American component and the annual Veterinary Scholars Symposium, scheduled to take place in San Diego, Calif., from July 31 to August 2, 2020.

The WCVM’s Animal Care Unit (ACU) is operating normally using its shift schedules with no disruptions to animal care and maintenance.

 

OPERATIONS

All university buildings remain closed, with only limited access to employees deemed as critical to core operations. Important exceptions are the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre, Prairie Diagnostic Services and the WCVM’s Animal Care Unit — all deemed as essential services for maintaining animal care, health and welfare in the province.

The university is still working on the plan for maintaining security on a closed campus, including the identification of employees that have access to campus buildings. We will keep you posted as the requirements become available. As well, please visit the USask updates website for the latest announcements from the university.

Mail deliveries are still coming to the WCVM. The college’s General Office is receiving all college mail, and as time permits, members of the Dean’s Office team are distributing the mail to the college’s departments and units.

The college has learned that rabies titre testing is temporarily suspended due to coronavirus testing.

The ICT team continues to offer online support for instructors and clinical teams at the college. Due to the closure of the USask campus, ICT has suspended Panopto lecture capture capabilities in all WCVM lecture theatres. Remote teaching options are listed on the USask Teaching and Learning website.

The finance team is working on year-end for WCVM research and will soon be shifting to work on the college’s year-end activities. An email will be distributed to all departments this week with more information. The university is discussing alternative plans for annual inventory since it’s not possible for employees to complete a physical count of items in stock.

We will likely see an increase in the number of custodians as they are redirected to the WCVM for essential services.  They are being alerted to address places in use such as the rooms used for the VMC shift changes.

If WCVM staff and faculty have human resources-related questions or concerns, they are welcome to contact Christine Holstein (christine.holstein@usask.ca) or Linda Sparks (linda.sparks@usask.ca) with questions. As well, please continuing checking the USask updates page for more information and updates.

The WCVM has also set up a specific email address for students, staff, faculty who have questions or concerns about the college’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Please email wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca. All requests and concerns will be reviewed by the college’s human resources personnel and kept confidential.

 

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS

As we work through this stressful time, please feel free to contact Erin Wasson, the WCVM’s veterinary social worker, with your questions or concerns. USask has also posted links to resources online, along with the following sources that support good mental health as well as the physical health of our WCVM community. 

 

QUESTIONS AND RESOURCES

Questions

Resources

Dear WCVM community:

Here is today’s update of the veterinary college’s efforts in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. If you have questions or concerns, please contact wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca. As well, visit the USask COVID-19 page to read the university’s latest updates and listing of resources for students, staff and faculty.

As part of the university’s efforts to “flatten the curve,” all buildings on the USask campus are now closed with only limited access to employees deemed as critical to core operations. Services at the WCVM — the Veterinary Medical Centre, Prairie Diagnostic Services and the Animal Care Unit — continue to operate in limited capacities as our teams work to provide animal care and welfare, animal health and veterinary diagnostic services to the community.

As we work to provide essential services for animals in our care and assist in protecting our communities, let’s remember one other essential during this stressful time. Let’s be kind to each other.

Take care,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean



WORKING SAFELY

Animal care and welfare, animal health and veterinary diagnostic services are considered essential services on the University of Saskatchewan (USask) campus as well as in the province of Saskatchewan. As members of an essential service, employees whose work requires them to be on site are expected to work and fulfil their responsibilities as animal health professionals.

The following information is an important reminder for everyone to work safely. To help protect the health and safety of our staff and their families during the COVID-19 situation, it is essential that we continue to follow the public health recommendations for social distancing, self-monitoring and self-isolation.

Based on the latest information provided by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health, here’s a brief review of how each state should be interpreted in our workplace. Because the province’s response may change as the situation evolves, please continue checking the Government of Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 website.

  • Social distancing means avoiding close contact with others around you to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Keep a minimum distance of two metres from others in your workplace/community, sneeze into your arm or a tissue, avoid touching your face and wash your hands frequently.
  • Self-monitoring is a good idea at all times, but especially if you have been in contact with someone who has developed symptoms of respiratory illness (unrelated to COVID-19). You do not need to self-isolate unless it is confirmed that you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus. But if you are uncertain, you should always seek advice from HealthLine 811.
  • Self-isolation means staying at home to prevent the spread of infection. You must self-isolate indoors and separate from others in the household if you have symptoms of fever and cough, even if they are mild. If you have recently returned from travel outside of Canada (including the U.S.), you must self-isolate for 14 days. If you are sick or have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, you must self-isolate. This will help stop the spread of the virus so others don't get sick. The Saskatchewan Ministry of Health recommends you self-isolate for 14 days. Check the link for more information about what constitutes close contact with someone who is ill with COVID-19.

Frequent hand washing is one of the most important ways we can prevent the spread of coronavirus at the workplace and in our homes. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, dry your hands with paper towel and throw away after use. If you can’t wash your hands, use an alcohol-based sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Clean and disinfect common areas regularly, including areas that are often touched such as counters, tabletops and doorknobs.

The province’s Ministry of Health has additional recommendations on how we can all work together to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the community. If you have any questions, please contact your supervisor or email wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.


EDUCATION

DVM students (Years 1 to 4)

Students in Years 1 to 3 continue taking their courses remotely, and members of the Student Services team are working to address any issues or questions from students and instructors as they arise.  

The process of developing online options for delivering clinical rotations to the fourth-year students is going well. The WCVM’s anesthesia team has developed a way for the anesthesia OSCEs (objective structured clinical examinations) to be delivered remotely, so that’s great news for the Class of 2020.

The American Veterinary Medical Association’s Council on Education (COE) met this week and has developed guidelines to help accredited colleges as we respond to the COVID-19. We expect to receive those guidelines shortly.

CLINICAL SERVICES

Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC)

The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre is only open to emergencies, urgent cases and cases already under treatment. The VMC’s leadership team is working to address employees’ concerns with a new shift structure that’s based on three separate shift teams for emergency operations.

The VMC pharmacy continues following the policy of only filling or refilling prescriptions that are within seven days of the end of a current prescription and for only one month’s supply. As well, the VMC’s limit of one bag of pet food or one case of cans (per each type of food) per purchase is still in place (no exceptions for out-of-town clients or staff members).

Prairie Diagnostic Services (PDS)

Prairie Diagnostic Services (PDS) continues to monitor diagnostic submissions this week and will use the information to adjust staffing levels.

 

RESEARCH

The WCVM Research and Graduate Studies Office is wrapping up the process of identifying critical, ongoing research projects that involve animals. The Research Office has reviewed all submitted forms from researchers who are requesting to finish essential, in-progress animal research. In addition, the WCVM has submitted “special circumstances” forms to the USask Office of the Vice-President Research. Some faculty members are requesting an exception due to special circumstances and asking permission to continue their research projects. An update about these requests will follow. 

The WCVM Research Office is also identifying essential infrastructure that must be maintained during the university’s closure and has developed the associated work schedule.

While the COVID-19 situation has cancelled the college’s in-person graduate student poster competition (a March tradition), the Research Office is making final preparations for a virtual competition. Members of the WCVM’s research community have been very supportive of this event, so we look forward to celebrating our graduate students’ hard work online.

The Animal Care Unit (ACU) is operating relatively normally with no disruptions to animal care and maintenance.

 

OPERATIONS

As of 4:30 p.m. today (March 24), all university buildings are now closed with only limited access to employees deemed as critical to core operations. Important exceptions are the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre, Prairie Diagnostic Services and the Animal Care Unit.

The university is developing processes to maintain security on a closed campus, including the identification of employees that should have access to campus buildings. We will keep you posted as the requirements become available.

The college has submitted a list of core and critical personnel to USask, and if you have not been contacted as such, you are not allowed on campus until further notice. If you are uncertain or believe you should be included on that list, please contact Linda Sparks (linda.sparks@usask.ca) or Christine Holstein (christine.holstein@usask.ca).

To help slow down the spread of coronavirus in our community, it is imperative that all members of the USask community follow the university’s policy. If you are requesting access to campus buildings after March 24, you will need to contact USask Protective Services. Please note the university doesn’t guarantee that access will be granted for all requests. For more information, visit the USask updates website.

As reported yesterday, the WCVM’s loading dock has been identified as one of the university’s key drop-off sites. Until further notice, the following measures will be in place for shipments to the loading dock:

  • Orders should only be items that are critical for daily operations on campus. All other items must be delivered to your home.
  • Please contact Monique Burmester (monique.burmester@usask.ca) or Karen Gesy (karen.gesy@usask.ca) with your order’s details.
  • Staff will only contact individuals who are receiving deliverables of perishable items (assuming contact information has been provided). You must be responsible for tracking all other deliveries (including delivery time) as the loading dock staff will not contact you. Please track your order’s progress closely.
  • Packages will be grouped as much as possible and placed within the loading dock area. However, please note that they may not be in the usual pick up spot for your department/unit.
  • When picking up your order, please sign the applicable item line in the tracking binder. 
  • If your delivery comes in on a pallet, it is your responsibility to move the pallet outside.
  • Packages remaining at the end of the day will remain in the open loading dock area. They will not be locked in the receiving area.
  • Loading dock staff members are not responsible for missing orders or packages. 
  • When you pick up a package, please maintain social distancing of at least two metres.

For any employees who are considered core and critical personnel, the university’s Y parking lot is temporarily free and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to accommodate essential staff.

If WCVM staff and faculty have human resources-related questions or concerns, they are welcome to contact Christine Holstein (christine.holstein@usask.ca) or Linda Sparks (linda.sparks@usask.ca) with questions. As well, please check the USask updates page for more information and updates.

 

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS

As we work through this stressful time, please feel free to contact Erin Wasson, the WCVM’s veterinary social worker, with your questions or concerns. USask has also posted links to resources online, along with the following sources that support good mental health as well as the physical health of our WCVM community. 

 

QUESTIONS AND RESOURCES

Questions

Resources

Dear WCVM community:

Here is today’s update of the veterinary college’s efforts in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. If you have questions or concerns, please contact wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca. As well, visit the USask COVID-19 page to read the university’s latest updates and listing of resources for students, staff and faculty.

As announced by the University of Saskatchewan (USask) on March 22, the university campus will be closed to students, faculty and staff at the end of the day on Tuesday, March 24. Only employees and students who have been identified in providing core and critical services to colleges and units will be allowed on campus.

So far, all of the WCVM’s plans to keep the college’s Veterinary Medical Centre open for emergencies, urgent care and cases already under treatment continue as planned. These updates serve to keep you in touch with the challenges and evolving issues addressed by the leadership team as we all work our way through the many obstacles and unexpected issues that arise because of the global pandemic.

Take care,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


EDUCATION

DVM students (Years 1 to 3)

The Student Services team addressed some issues in exam formats and online delivery earlier today. To avoid future anxiety for students and instructors, the team will discuss these problems and how to solve them during the faculty debriefing meeting on March 24. 

Now that USask has officially cancelled its Spring 2020 Convocation, the Student Services team is working with student representatives to come up with an alternative celebration plan for the Class of 2020.

DVM students (Year 4)

The Student Services team is evaluating the fourth-year students’ rotation records in relation to earlier core requirements used by the Class of 2015, and then determining what rotations each student must complete before graduation. The WCVM’s clinical team continue working on online options for delivering clinical rotations — a challenging process that will continue throughout this week while rotations are suspended.

Most fourth-year students are using the next few days to pack up and return to their home communities. As well, some of the senior students are moving on to their new job locations in anticipation of graduation.


CLINICAL SERVICES

Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC)

The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre is only open to emergencies, urgent cases and cases already under treatment. The VMC’s leadership team continues setting up three separate shift teams for emergency operations. This more flexible shift structure will allow clinical services in the teaching hospital to continue 24 hours a day even if one or more individuals become ill. The team is working to address safety concerns associated with after-hours work as well as a process for supporting employees with specific child care needs.

We realize that this shift structure dramatically changes the way people work at the VMC, but it is a necessary tactic so the veterinary teaching hospital can continue providing emergency care for animals in the community and the region. The VMC leadership team appreciates people’s support of this new development — we have a very strong group of people who are all willing to do their part to overcome this series of hurdles.

The VMC pharmacy continues following the policy of only filling or refilling prescriptions that are within seven days of the end of a current prescription and for only one month’s supply. As well, the VMC’s limit of one bag of pet food or one case of cans (per each type of food) per purchase is still in place (no exceptions for out-of-town clients or staff members).

Prairie Diagnostic Services (PDS)

Prairie Diagnostic Services (PDS), which serves as the province’s veterinary laboratory, is integrated in the WCVM building and plays an instrumental role in providing diagnostic services for the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre as well as diagnostic records and testing for researchers conducting animal health research. PDS also serves the veterinary community throughout Saskatchewan and Western Canada, and as an essential service for veterinarians/animal health, the diagnostic laboratory will continue to operate with a reduced staff.

Since the COVID-19 situation ramped up in Saskatchewan about 10 days ago, the PDS team has noticed a decrease in the number of diagnostic submissions and requests from small animal and mixed animal practices. The PDS leadership team has also contacted some of its larger clients in the large animal and livestock sector to gauge how their operations are affected by the pandemic. More information about the impact of the pandemic on diagnostic testing will be available later this week.



RESEARCH

Animal Care Unit (ACU)

Today, the Animal Care Unit (ACU) team began using their new shift structure that splits employees in two separate groups. This arrangement will allow the unit to continue operating even if illness among one group forces one shift to self-isolate. To help the team, the ACU director has asked a couple of researchers to assist with caring for animals (including animals involved in their own research) that are housed in the ACU.

The ACU team is also meeting with representatives of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) to see if they can assist in providing additional cages in support of the organization’s COVID-19 research efforts.

Research and Graduate Studies

As directed by the USask Office of the Vice-President Research (VPR) on March 19, 2020, the WCVM Research and Graduate Studies Office is helping the college’s research teams to suspend most on-campus and field research, scholarly work, and creative activities.

For research involving animals, the exceptions are COVID-19 research, field research in which the animals are not housed in on-campus animal facilities, or research involving animals that are also used for agricultural production purposes. The university’s Animal Care Unit continues to support ongoing animal research projects, but researchers are encouraged to conclude these projects sooner rather than later.

Earlier today, members of the WCVM’s executive committee raised a question about research team members’ access to the college building once the USask campus is closed at the end of the day on March 24. We have been gathering the names of faculty, staff and graduate students who will need to be in the building to finish projects that are deemed critical. This definition includes projects involving animals for which a sudden shutdown would cause a welfare concern or a loss of animals. Critical projects might also include studies with cell cultures that would die and be lost, or the loss of significant data that has been collected over a long period of time. 

While we understand that the term critical projects is challenging to define, the description does not include projects that will experience delays in their progress. Faculty should not encourage or simply allow graduate students to enter the building and work unless it is on a project that has been reviewed by the college and accepted as critical and exempt from the university’s closure. If you have not done so, please forward all research projects that require completion during the university closure to Dr. Liz Snead, the WCVM’s associate dean (research), for our review. 

We realize that this situation will have an impact on graduate students' progress in their programs, and it may affect some students more than others. The university and the college are aware of these issues, and we are working on ways to best support our graduate students and faculty. The situation is still evolving, but it is important that the college remains clear and consistent on applying the university policies. 

Some projects may not be critical but may require a short, finite time to shut down. This description aligns with the university’s policy, but we still need to review these projects and be aware of who is in the building.  

The WCVM Research and Graduate Studies team is also working with research teams to develop a list of core research infrastructure and equipment — such as liquid nitrogen tanks, freezers and coolers — that need to be monitored and maintained regularly. Once the inventory is finalized, individuals will be assigned to monitor all of this equipment across the college and its facilities.

The VMC materials management unit has requested that WCVM researchers refrain from making large orders of medical supplies and other items so the hospital can avoid shortages of essential items used in health care.

Holding virtual defences using meeting/presentation software systems will become the new norm for researchers on campus. The WCVM’s Research and Graduate Office is also investigating the immediate impacts of the COVID-19 situation on graduate students’ stipends if individuals’ programs must be delayed. So far, the WCVM Research and Graduate Studies Office is still waiting on the university’s final decision about summer research student programs.

 

OPERATIONS

The WCVM’s operations team continues to make final plans in anticipation of the USask’s closure, effective at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24. All finance and ICT teams are working remotely, and final steps are being done to finalize the college’s list of core and critical personnel.

As reported on March 20, veterinarians, registered veterinary technologists and other hospital staff required to provide service are considered members of an essential service (animal health care), along with technical staff members who are responsible for the care of animals. Other critical staff include technicians in Prairie Diagnostic Services as well as core technical staff in the college’s departments.

For any employees who are considered core and critical personnel, the university’s Y parking lot is temporarily free and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to accommodate essential staff.

Since the WCVM’s loading dock has been identified as one of the university’s key drop-off sites, the operations team is investigating whether certain schedules must be followed and whether other colleges/units will share in monitoring the area. 

As a follow up to the USask’s release of employee-focused information last week, WCVM staff and faculty are welcome to contact members of our human resources team (Christine Holstein, christine.holstein@usask.ca; and Linda Sparks, linda.sparks@usask.ca) with your questions. As well, please continuing checking the USask updates page for more information and updates.

 

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS

As we work through this stressful time, please feel free to contact Erin Wasson, the WCVM’s veterinary social worker, with your questions or concerns. USask has also posted links to resources online, along with the following sources that support good mental health as well as the physical health of our WCVM community. 

 

QUESTIONS AND RESOURCES

Questions

Resources

Dear WCVM community:

Here is the latest update of the veterinary college’s efforts in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
If you have questions or concerns, please contact 
wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca. As well, visit the USask COVID-19 page to read the university’s latest updates and listing of resources for students, staff and faculty.

So much has changed in a week’s time. The entire country’s efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve have completely altered our lives at home, at work and at school. With so much uncertainty swirling around us, it’s understandable why people are anxious, stressed and fearful of the future. I know this is a tough time for everyone.

Our situation is far from ideal, but what continues to amaze me are the stories about individuals and teams whose creative solutions have helped us overcome obstacles and fix hiccups along the way. The anecdotes about coworkers supporting coworkers as they deal with sick kids and family members. The reports of celebratory baked goods (distributed following biosecurity measures) in appreciation of coworkers’ hard work. Your “we got this” attitude has allowed us to continue doing our jobs, even when all sense of normalcy has temporarily disappeared.  

I don’t know what challenges we will face next week or the week after that, but I do know that we’re a resilient bunch, and we will get through this together.

Thanks, everyone. 

Take care,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean

 

EDUCATION

DVM students (Years 1 to 3)

Online classes continue for Years 1 to 3. WCVM Student Services is working with faculty members to make some technical adjustments based on students’ initial feedback, and the team continues to rely on regular communications with class presidents to keep abreast of potential issues and concerns.

This week’s experience with online exams will help the team prepare for the term’s final examinations, and the Student Services team plans to have a debriefing session with faculty on Monday, March 23.

DVM students (Year 4)

Because of the challenging circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the WCVM has decided to suspend all in-person clinical rotation teaching at the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre. This decision, which was relayed to members of the Class of 2020 earlier today, will take effect at
8 a.m. on Monday, March 23.

To help meet our goal of moving the remaining clinical rotations to online delivery, no clinical rotations will take place for one week (March 23 to 27) at the VMC. This one-week hiatus from clinical teaching will give our academic teams some time to form our plans and compile the materials we need for online learning. We realize that this will be a challenging process for everyone, but we are faced with a real crisis, and we are not alone within our profession. The crucial piece to consider is that we must ensure that our students demonstrate clinical competency in key areas — as outlined by the Council on Education (COE). 

Student Services encourages faculty to develop online rotations that are flexible regarding the number of students and completion. The team is also asking faculty to develop online methods for administering OSCEs (when necessary) and interacting with students so evaluations for all remaining internal clinical rotations can be completed. 

Because of the extraordinary situation, University Council has allowed the WCVM to adjust its syllabi and revert to the core requirements used for the Class of 2015. Students will be required to complete anesthesia, diagnostic pathology, medical imaging, one surgery (large or small animal) and one medicine (large or small animal). As the delivery of core rotations will be adjusted, the anesthesia and small animal medicine rotations will shift from four weeks to two weeks in length. Since all fourth-year OSCEs are requirements of the DVM program, they must be completed before graduation.

CLINICAL SERVICES

Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC)

As announced on March 19, the VMC is only open to emergencies, urgent cases and cases already under treatment. The VMC’s leadership team is working with clinical services to outline the types of cases that their teams can manage, and they’re also working to set up separate shift teams for emergency operations that would allow services to continue even if one or more individuals become ill.

The VMC also continues to follow a stringent admission/discharge protocol for minimizing contact between clients and members of the clinical team and cleaning/disinfection protocols to prevent the spread of infection. As an added measure, the VMC is no longer accepting cash; all payments must be done by credit or debit.

Throughout the week, all members of the VMC’s client services team pitched in and responded to a rapidly-changing situation for client reception as well as for patient admissions and discharges. Team members took things in stride, and we greatly appreciate all of their efforts.

The VMC pharmacy is extremely busy filling prescriptions for VMC patients as well as for patients/clients outside of the veterinary teaching hospital. To prevent potential shortages of medication, the VMC pharmacy has put new policies in place. As of March 20, the hospital’s pharmacy will only fill or refill prescriptions or supplies that are within seven days of the end of a current prescription or supply. As well, the pharmacy will only provide up to one month’s supply of prescription medications. 

In the VMC’s materials management unit, limited vendor supplies have compelled the VMC team to pass on the same quantity restrictions for clients, researchers and others. As reported yesterday, the VMC is limiting pet food purchases to one bag or one case of cans (per each type of food) per purchase, with no exceptions for out-of-town clients or staff members. The hospital is enforcing this policy to ensure that we continue to have a sufficient supply of pet food — particularly special diet food — for all animal owners. Based on information from our supplier, the limitations in supply aren't signifying a future shortage of pet food. Instead, a sudden change in demand has caused a lag in the supply chain across Western Canada.

 

RESEARCH

Animal Care Unit (ACU)

On their own initiative, the Animal Care Unit (ACU) team members have split up in two separate groups and organized four 10-hour shifts per group. This arrangement will allow the unit to continue operating even if illness among one group forces one shift to self-isolate. ACU director Monique Burmester remains working on site, but she is distancing herself from both groups so she can continue trouble shooting and assisting wherever needed.

Research and Graduate Studies

USask Vice-President Research Karen Chad released an update to all researchers on campus about research operations and research animals. In response to the COVID-19 situation, USask researchers must avoid starting new research projects and scale down current studies and other activities when possible. Non-critical labs will begin closing as soon as possible, and researchers must prepare contingency plans for securing materials and contacting all lab staff in case their lab access is restricted. 

Where there is time-sensitive research that must continue, USask is looking to unit leaders and researchers to make these determinations, while asking that contingency plans be in place in case research activity can not be continued.

No new research projects involving animals can begin, but this policy does not include COVID-19 research, field research in which the animals are not housed in on-campus animal facilities, or research involving animals that are also used for agricultural production purposes. Ongoing animal research projects will continue to be supported by the university’s animal care and facilities staff. However, where possible, researchers may wish to conclude those projects and rely on existing data, given the uncertainty of the pandemic situation.

The OVPR has been working to ensure that appropriate standards for animal care will be maintained throughout any disruption. If research staff responsible for animal care are no longer able to perform those duties, please contact facility staff or Dr. Kurtis Swekla, the acting university veterinarian, so alternative arrangements can be made to maintain animal welfare.

In terms of research funding, federal Tri-Council funding agencies (CIHRNSERC and SSHRC) recognize that the current situation may affect researchers’ work, their ability to conduct and review research, and their ability to prepare and submit publications or grant applications. Please consult the agencies’ websites for the latest updates and sign up for the relevant USask research listserv to receive timely updates.

As for summer student assistantships and internships, USask is working with funding agencies and other partners to develop options for students to participate in these opportunities.

 

OPERATIONS

As reported yesterday, USask is implementing a working remotely policy with the goal of having that transition completed for non-core USask employees by Monday, March 23 (visit the USask updates page for more details). To meet the requirements of that policy, the college’s departments and units are finalizing their lists of critical activities and personnel.

During this state of emergency in Saskatchewan, veterinarians and registered veterinary technologists are considered members of an essential service (animal health care), along with technical staff members who are responsible for the care of animals.

While all WCVM ICT team members are working remotely, they continue to support WCVM faculty and staff as well as the VMC’s VetNet system with all technical needs. The WCVM operations is working with the USask custodial management team to ensure that custodians’ efforts are focused on priority areas in the college and veterinary teaching hospital where there’s a heightened need for more frequent cleaning and sanitation during the current situation.

USask released more employee information about pay and benefits on March 19. As expected in such a complex scenario, there are still many questions to answer and individual situations to interpret. If you have any questions, please contact members of our human resources team (Christine Holstein, christine.holstein@usask.ca; and Linda Sparks, linda.sparks@usask.ca) with your questions. They’re here to help you, so please rely on their expertise and access to additional resources for informed support. As well, please continuing checking the USask updates page for more information that is relevant to staff and faculty.

 

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS

As we work through this stressful time, please feel free to contact Erin Wasson, the WCVM’s veterinary social worker, with your questions or concerns. USask has also posted links to resources online, along with the following sources that support good mental health as well as the physical health of our WCVM community. 

 

QUESTIONS AND RESOURCES

Questions

Resources

Dear WCVM community:

Here is the latest update of the veterinary college’s efforts in response to the COVID-19 situation. If you have questions or concerns, please contact wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca. As well, visit the USask COVID-19 page to read the university’s latest updates and listing of resources for students, staff and faculty.

The Government of Saskatchewan’s decision to declare a provincial state of emergency will have an impact on the level of activities that will be allowed on campus. Please read the latest USask update for more information about the university’s working remotely policy.

Thanks, everyone. Stay on top of things and stay well. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly with questions, concerns or suggestions. Remember, we are a team and we're all in this together.

Take care,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


 

EDUCATION

DVM students (Years 1 to 3)

Years 1 to 3 resumed their classes today using remote, online tools. The college’s first remote examination (medical imaging) was also completed this morning with minimal issues — thanks to some trouble shooting and “mock exam” testing done by Dr. Kim Tryon, who has become the WCVM’s Blackboard guru.

By deferring the OSCEs (objective structured clinical exams), cancelling the odd mid-term examination and merging some exams, the Student Services team has worked with faculty to reduce the total number of exams that must be given by the end of the academic year from 26 to 21 (final number may change). We sincerely thank everyone for their efforts as we work our way through the process.  

Dr. Chris Clark is working to modify the core business course with materials developed by veterinary business consultant John Tait, who has graciously allowed the WCVM online access to the resources.

DVM students (Year 4)

The Student Services team is working with clinicians to investigate modifications of clinical rotations — such as surgery — so one week of the rotation is done in the clinic while the second week is done remotely. That would allow the WCVM to have fewer fourth-year veterinary students working in the VMC and reduce the number of people on site.

CLINICAL SERVICES

Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC)

On its website and through WCVM’s social media channels, the VMC announced that it is only open to emergencies, urgent cases and cases already under treatment. These changes in the veterinary teaching hospital allow us to protect the health and safety of staff, students and clients while maintaining high-quality care for our patients.

The VMC also continues to follow a stringent admission/discharge protocol for minimizing contact between clients and members of the clinical team as well as cleaning/disinfection protocols to prevent the spread of infection. The VMC team asks for everyone’s help in supporting these critical steps. If anyone has questions about these protocols, please contact Falyn Jarvis, the VMC team lead for client services (falyn.jarvis@usask.ca).

To avoid issues, the VMC is now limiting pet food purchases: clients may only purchase one bag or case (per type) of pet food during each visit. As well, clients must give 24 hours' notice for regular pick up of pet food. For special pet food orders, clients must order well in advance (10 to 14 days) before pick up. 

RESEARCH

Research operations at the Animal Care Unit (ACU) continue as usual with minimal interruption to research studies. The ACU is working with the university’s waste management group to ensure that their work continues — a necessary resource for researchers using the unit’s Level 2 facilities. The ACU also has two months’ supply of feed and bedding for animals in their care, so that concern is taken care of.

So far, no campus-wide decision has been made about summer research programs. The WCVM research team has been in touch with clinical interns and residents who are scheduled to begin their programs this summer. While final decisions haven’t been made, administrators continue to complete immigration paperwork associated with these internships and residencies in case programs can go ahead.

OPERATIONS

With the Government of Saskatchewan declaring a provincial State of Emergency to address the COVID-19 pandemic, USask is implementing a working remotely policy while ensuring the core functions of the university remain operating. Based on the policy, all non-core USask employees still working on campus will make the transition to work remotely by Monday, March 23. This goal aligns with the government’s emergency declaration, while also allowing supervisors some time to plan. As part of that process, all colleges are developing their lists of critical activities and personnel. Animal care, animal health and diagnostics continue to be critical services to campus (and society). Visit the USask updates page for more details.

The March 19 launch of online courses and exams went well for the WCVM ICT team, which continues to support WCVM faculty and staff with their technical needs. Most employees working in operations and finance are now working remotely.

The college’s human resources team attends daily USask meetings and receives updates on human resources-related issues and concerns. The university is planning to release more information this week that will help to answer employees’ questions. Please visit the USask updates page for more information that is relevant to staff and faculty.

As additional resources for questions about self-monitoring, self-isolations and dispelling myths about COVID-19, here are links to several excellent resources produced by government health agencies in Canada and the U.S.:

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS

As we work through this stressful time, please feel free to contact Erin Wasson, the WCVM’s veterinary social worker, with your questions or concerns. USask has also posted links to resources online, along with the following sources that support good mental health as well as the physical health of our WCVM community. 

Questions?  

Dear WCVM community:

Here is our latest update of the veterinary college’s efforts in response to the COVID-19 situation. If you have questions or concerns, please contact wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca. As well, visit the USask COVID-19 page to read the university’s latest updates and listing of resources for students, staff and faculty.

I want to thank everyone for their hard work and their willingness to be responsive and nimble as the situation evolves. I’m especially grateful for your ability to come together as a team in these unprecedented times. Thank you! We can make it if we continue to work together. 

We know that people throughout the college have questions and concerns. Some of our jobs' tasks simply can’t be done from home. But we are prepared, and we are trained to manage infectious disease every day. There are good safety protocols in place, and I urge everyone to continue following these preventive measures. We will continue to plan for whatever may come and keep everyone informed as new information develops.

Take care, everyone.
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean



EDUCATION

DVM students (Years 1 to 3)

Student Services is making the final preparations for tomorrow (March 19) when all USask classes will resume remotely. The college’s first remote examination is also scheduled for Thursday morning. Team members have been in regular contact with students to answer their questions and to help make alternative arrangements in exceptional circumstances. We appreciate that this is a stressful time, but I have a great deal of faith in our amazing students, faculty and academic team as they face this new “norm” for education delivery.

Student Services is working to finalize an alternative content source for the college’s core business course since the original instructor is now immersed in Ontario’s COVID-19 response. The team is also helping a group of third-year students shift from two elective courses that were cancelled to other available options for electives.

DVM students (Year 4)

The Student Services team continues to work toward the goal of having all fourth-year students’ rotations rescheduled by Monday, March 23. While there is still much to be done, there’s some positive news. Thanks to Dr. Debbie DeRantere's efforts, nearly all fourth-year students (the exception being a few students who are off campus) should have their surgery OSCEs completed by the end of this week.

Another encouraging highlight is a new online emergency and critical care experience, which was developed by Dr. Jennifer Loewen, that can be operated as a one- or two-week elective rotation. In situations where we can’t place certain students in a rotation, this online rotation will give our Student Services team some flexibility as they help senior students complete the required number of rotation weeks. Great efforts, everyone!

CLINICAL SERVICES

Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC)

The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC) continues to provide critical veterinary care for the community and to support the essential training of our fourth-year veterinary students so they can complete their veterinary programs. While caseloads are reduced in most clinical services, the veterinary teaching hospital’s small animal emergency and critical care service is extremely busy. The VMC leadership team is in close contact with the clinical team, and we are taking a day-by-day approach in evaluating the VMC’s operations and their scale. We continue planning for a variety of potential scenarios.

It’s important that we continue to provide clinical services for as long as we possibly can. The VMC reception team members continue to follow strict, preventive protocols for minimizing contact between clients and the clinical team. These patient admission/discharge protocols have been shared with all WCVM employees, and the VMC team asks for everyone’s help in supporting these critical steps. If anyone has questions about these protocols, please contact Falyn Jarvis, the VMC team lead for client services (falyn.jarvis@usask.ca).

The VMC pharmacy has experienced a higher number of prescriptions requesting medication to cover longer terms. So far the VMC is able to fill these prescriptions and is following the same supply guidelines as outlined by our medical supplier.  

 

RESEARCH

Research operations at the Animal Care Unit (ACU) are continuing as usual with minimal interruption to research studies. So far, the impact of the COVID-19 situation on research at USask and at the veterinary college has not been as immediate as it has been on the university’s academic programs. The nature of research where researchers are often working with only a few people makes it easier for research teams to practise social distancing in labs and offices. However, we stress that all researchers and their team members must be vigilant about avoiding group activities and practising good hand hygiene and disinfection measures in their labs and any shared office spaces.

At this point, USask has not made any campus-wide decision about plans for the university’s summer research programs. The WCVM Research and Graduate Studies Office has contacted all incoming summer research students to determine whether they wish to withdraw from the program because of health concerns. The WCVM has also contacted organizers of the Boehringer Ingelheim Veterinary Scholars program to ask about plans for the BI Veterinary Scholars program and the Veterinary Scholars Symposium, which is scheduled to take place at Tufts University from July 25-28, 2020. 

 

OPERATIONS

The March 19 launch of online courses and exams has been a key focus for the WCVM ICT team, and so far, everything has been progressing well. Team members have been assisting faculty with any technical questions, and what’s been heartening to witness is the collegiality between instructors as they help each other navigate new tools for delivering their course materials.

While we realize that potential problems may crop up, we have great respect for our college’s ICT team and their troubleshooting abilities. ICT team members have also been responding to questions and requests from employees who are working remotely, and so far, the team has been able to juggle their responsibilities while staggering work times in their shared office space.

Since the WCVM loading dock's hours have been reduced, we are co-ordinating incoming medical shipments with VMC representatives. 

The operations team is developing a schedule for lecture theatres and classrooms that the college’s custodial staff can use to co-ordinate and focus their cleaning efforts. Because so many employees are working remotely, we’re also compiling a list of occupied offices and work areas so custodians can streamline their cleaning activities. This information is doubly useful for us as we work to develop alternative emergency response plans in case of an incident at the college. As well, COVID-19 prevention posters have been posted in all of the WCVM’s washrooms and other public areas.

The college’s human resources team attends daily USask meetings and receives updates on human resources-related issues and concerns. The university is planning to release more information this week that will help to answer employees’ questions. Please visit the USask updates page for more information that is relevant to staff and faculty.

 

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS

As we work through this stressful time, please feel free to contact Erin Wasson, the WCVM’s veterinary social worker, with your questions or concerns. USask has also posted links to resources online, along with the following sources that support good mental health as well as the physical health of our WCVM community. 

Questions?  

Dear WCVM community:

Here is an update of the veterinary college’s efforts in response to the COVID-19 situation. If you have questions or concerns, please contact wcvm.deansoffice@usask.caAs well, visit the USask COVID-19 page to read the university’s latest update (posted earlier today).

During this uncertain time, the WCVM realizes that our employees have many concerns and pressures to deal with in addition to their responsibilities at work. I want to assure you that the WCVM’s leadership team recognizes the challenges you are facing, and we support the vital work that you do. Our college’s operations and finance team members are also working hard to keep things running smoothly and to ensure that there are no disruptions to the college’s payroll and other financial services.

Whether your work base is still at the college or at home, we need to work together to overcome the challenges we will face in the coming weeks.

Be well, everyone!
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


EDUCATION

DVM students (Years 1 to 3)

The WCVM is on track to having all DVM classes (Years 1 to 3) ready for remote course delivery beginning on March 19. The college has permitted all Year 1 students to return home for the remainder of the term, and depending on their course demands, many other students in Years 2 and 3 have also returned home. With assistance from WCVM staff, faculty members are uploading final examinations to the university’s Blackboard system.

To ensure that all members of Years 1, 2 and 3 can advance to the next year, the WCVM team is working on plans to offer specific OSCEs (objective structured clinical exams) and skills labs sometime in the summer months before the next academic year begins. We are working on options for the fourth-year externships and rotations scheduled during the spring and summer months. Normally students must pass their OSCEs first. We will need to find an approved option for students to provisionally advance to fourth year for externships and summer rotations, and then complete the OSCEs later. The college’s Student Services team is working with class presidents to ensure that all students are informed of updates as they become available.

DVM students (Year 4)

The WCVM is making progress in the goal toward finding ways to assist fourth-year students in completing their core rotations at the Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC). Both the small animal medicine and anesthesia teams are working to scale back their longer core rotations from four weeks to three weeks so they can accommodate as many students as possible in limited time. Surgery is working collaboratively to accommodate students and the shift in rotation schedules. 

The Student Services group is working on rescheduling fourth-year students in available rotations, and the aim is to have everyone’s schedules adjusted for Monday, Mar. 23. It is critical to continue clinical services while we can. It’s a complex process, but we’re making headway. It’s going to take teamwork. We are so appreciative and thank everyone for pitching in to make this happen. 

CLINICAL SERVICES

Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC)

The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC) continues to operate with limited clinical services and is following preventive protocols to minimize contact between clients and the clinical team. To avoid issues, the VMC is urging animal owners and referring veterinarians to call in advance before bringing or sending animals to the veterinary teaching hospital. 

It is critical that we maintain clinical services while we can for our fourth-year students to complete the requirements for their DVM program. We also provide critical services to the community. We must work together as a team across the hospital to make this happen. While keeping safety first, I know we can do it.

Some VMC administration members are working remotely and/or restricting time spent on site for specific duties. In situations where employees must be on site, clinical team members should continue taking precautions to distance themselves from their coworkers and follow strict hygiene practices. As a precaution, the hospital’s materials management unit is also taking measures to limit contact with clinical teams in the high-traffic stores area.

RESEARCH

Research operations at the Animal Care Unit (ACU) are continuing as usual with minimal interruption to research studies, and the university’s facilities management has confirmed that all cleaning and support services will continue. The support provided by the research labs has been important.

The WCVM Research and Graduate Studies Office has directed graduate students to work from home as much as possible, use online options to work on courses, and practise social distancing measures if they must work in the shared graduate student office spaces.

OPERATIONS

The college’s ICT team continues to assist WCVM faculty with lecture capture preparations in advance of remote course delivery on Mar. 19. As much as possible, the university-wide focus has been on delivering course work with minimal use of bandwidth since so many people will be relying on the online services. To supplement the coursework, some faculty members are looking at the option of offering text-based interaction so students can ask questions or clarify points during the online lectures.  

Since shared offices make social distancing difficult, ICT team members are working in staggered shifts to minimize contact with each other while still providing services for instructors as well as employees who need assistance to set up their remote work stations. The college’s finance team members are also working separately to avoid contact, with most work being done remotely.  

This week’s abrupt change in how people do their regular jobs on campus is bound to cause questions, and it’s natural for people to be uncertain about expectations and requirements while they work remotely. USask has also posted more staff-related information and resources on line, so please review this section. If you still have questions, please talk to your supervisor or contact wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

The WCVM’s human resources team continues to meet with USask representatives to discuss important questions and concerns associated with staff members working remotely, requesting employees to cover other tasks outside of their usual areas, employee safety in case of a fire or an emergency, and other pressing issues. More information will be available this week.

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS

As we work through this stressful time, please feel free to contact Erin Wasson, the WCVM’s veterinary social worker, with your questions or concerns. USask has also posted links to resources online, along with the following sources that support good mental health as well as the physical health of our WCVM community. 

POSTPONEMENTS AND CANCELLATIONS

As mandated by USask, the WCVM has postponed or cancelled the following events to help protect the campus community:

  • WCVM “State of the College” presentation (March 19) — postponed
  • Fourth-year reception (April 2) — cancelled
  • Ultrasonography and embryo transfer workshops (May 4-9) — cancelled

Questions?  

Dear WCVM community,

To ensure that everyone keeps informed of the WCVM's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will distribute regular email updates to all students and employees in the veterinary college. The WCVM Dean's group and other team members have worked on response measures that will enable us to focus on four key priorities over the coming days and weeks: 

  • first and foremost, manage the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and community
  • seek out creative ways that will allow the WCVM Class of 2020 to graduate
  • use innovative alternatives that will enable Years 1 to 3 to advance to the next academic year
  • provide the necessary clinical services that meet the public's needs

We recognize that this is a stressful time for everyone as we work to implement preventive measures and minimize the spread of the coronavirus in our communities and across the country. Take care of your health and the health of your families, be supportive of each other, and be prepared for change as we face these challenging times together.     

Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


EDUCATION

DVM students (Years 1 to 3)

WCVM faculty and staff are working to ensure that all classes in the DVM program (Years 1 to 3) will be ready for remote delivery beginning on Thursday morning, March 19. In addition to lectures and course materials, the WCVM team is arranging for all remaining examinations (including final examinations) to be given through online systems. All labs are cancelled unless alternative arrangements can be made between the college and the university. The college’s Student Services team is keeping students informed of updates as they become available.

DVM students (Year 4)

The WCVM is working to assist as many fourth-year students as possible in completing their final core rotations at the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre over the next few weeks. The Student Services team is rearranging students’ schedules so they can enter core rotations earlier. This process may mean students complete a portion of an elective rotation this week before shifting to a core rotation as spots open. Student Services and faculty members are also exploring the option of shortening certain core rotations from four weeks to three weeks.

For senior students who only have elective rotations left to complete, the WCVM is investigating potential externship opportunities in the students’ home communities. This option would allow them to return home early and still fulfil academic requirements outlined by the university and the Council on Education (COE). While these revisions progress, specialty services teams are responding with creative ways for students to complete their elective rotations. Field service, wellness, elective surgery and large animal medicine are opting for “remote rounds” and other social distancing tactics.

 

CLINICAL SERVICES

Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC)

Our goal is to continue to support the needs of our clients and patients. To do so, we are initiating strict protocols to maintain a safe environment. These protocols include ways to minimize employees' and students' contact with animal owners. As part of the process, the VMC's reception team members are calling clients in advance of appointments. If it’s an emergent case and the owner has recently travelled or is showing signs of respiratory illness, the VMC team is asking about the option of another person bringing in the animal.

In response to staff shortages in some units, the VMC will limit those clinical services. If necessary, the VMC will be prepared to move to offering emergency services only — a decision that many veterinary teaching hospitals have already made because of the rapidly-changing situation across North America. 
 

RESEARCH

Animal Care Unit

Research operations are continuing as usual with minimal interruption to research studies. If a significant number of ACU staff members must stay home, researchers have agreed to assist with the feeding and care of animals participating in their studies.

Graduate students

Graduate students continue to work on coursework and projects. As a preventive measure, the WCVM Research and Graduate Studies Office has cancelled this year’s in-person Graduate Student Poster Day on Mar. 26, along with the awards ceremony on Mar. 27. As an alternative, the research team is working on details to offer a digital research poster competition in the coming weeks.  

 

OPERATIONS

The WCVM’s ICT team are working hard to assist instructors in meeting the university’s deadline of Mar. 19 for remote access of classes. In the interim, ICT is asking faculty and staff to use “low-tech” options for communicating to decrease bandwidth use. Once the academic requirements are met, ICT will help other staff prepare for working remotely as a means of minimizing social contact.

As much as possible, the WCVM is working to have people work at home so they can practise social distancing and meet other responsibilities such as caring for children and other family members. In cases where people must be at the college to complete their job’s responsibilities, the WCVM may rotate staff so people are working alone or in small groups during their work time.  

Many questions are left to be answered, and the WCVM human resources team hopes to have more information to share over the next few days. The college’s key concern is for the health of WCVM employees and their families — other details can be worked out over time.
 

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS

WCVM veterinary social worker Erin Wasson continues to be available through remote access. Extraordinary circumstances such as the COVID-19 situation may be distressing for students, veterinary service providers, staff and their families. Sharing and accessing pandemic-related information has an impact on self-protective boundaries. The nature in which information is shared can trigger anxiety and other responses. Knowing this, please use the links below to support good mental health as well as the physical health of our WCVM community. 

Questions?  

  • Visit the WCVM home page for links to resources — including a WCVM-focused COVID-19 response page
  • Visit usask.ca/updates for more details about the USask response to COVID-19 and to access other resources
  • Send questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca

The University of Saskatchewan (USask) updated information on its COVID-19 information page (usask.ca/updates) on Mar. 15, 2020. The update included information about working remotely and self-isolation recommendations.

Because the situation is changing rapidly, the WCVM leadership team members are providing supplementary information to the university’s overall message. We also wish to reassure our faculty and staff that the college supports their individual choices regarding personal health as well as the health of their families.

Travellers and self-isolation

  • Employees and students returning from international travel (including the U.S.): please self-isolate and do not come to campus for 14 calendar days after your return from travel. Please continue to monitor your health and follow the guidelines and recommendations of the province and the federal government, as these guidelines are updated frequently in response to the changing situation. 
  • Employees and students returning from travel within Canada: please follow recommendations relating to your recent travel. If you were exposed to someone with COVID-19, please self-isolate. Continue to monitor your health and follow the guidelines and recommendations of the province and the federal government.

Working remotely

  • Faculty and staff: if you have not recently returned from international travel and have no symptoms of illness, please come to work on Monday, March 16, so we can determine what arrangements need to be made for performing your job’s activities remotely (where it’s feasible). We will assist staff in making the transition to working remotely as ICT services become available.
  • If you are unable to attend work on Monday, Mar. 16, please contact your immediate supervisor.
  • Please be assured that the WCVM’s priority is the health of our staff, their families and our community. We will manage issues about leave time to support our staff in making the appropriate decisions for their well-being.

While you are at work, we ask you to please follow the government’s recommendations for social distancing as we work together to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. As much as possible, refrain from gathering in groups and please use the phone or online tools to communicate with your coworkers.

Thank you for your patience and co-operation as we make this transition in a rapidly-changing situation. If you have questions or concerns, please contact wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca or speak to your supervisor.

Many questions have come up about COVID-19 and how the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) will respond to potential coronavirus-related issues on the University of Saskatchewan (USask) campus. Although the risk of infection remains low in Saskatchewan, we need to plan for certain scenarios involving people and animals associated with the veterinary college. USask response to COVID-19.

USask is focused on a proactive, preventive approach, which follows the lead set by Health Canada and the Saskatchewan Health Authority. As part of its regular operations, USask is developing emergency management plans in case they are needed. The USask Crisis Operations Team (COT) continues to post update at usask.ca/updates. USask has announced the following travel policies:

  • On March 10, USask released specific directives about travel for students to countries that fall under “avoid non-essential” or “avoid all travel” advisories issued by the Government of Canada. Please visit usask.ca/updates for more details.

  • On March 11, USask released a new travel policy for all faculty and staff. This new travel policy, which will require approval for all university travel, is effective immediately. Click here for more details. The policy includes any university-business travel (for students, faculty and staff) planned to regions where Government of Canada COVID-19 “Level 3” (avoid non-essential travel) or “Level 4” (avoid all travel) advisories exist. USask will not approve travel to these areas until further notice. Please review the entire policy regarding travel to and from the university.

  • USask continues to monitor the coronavirus and will review and modify the new travel practices to respond to a rapidly evolving situation.

WCVM response to COVID-19

  • After discussions with USask and the WCVM dean’s group, we have drafted some policy decisions to address potential issues involving students, faculty, staff and animals. Our intent is to remove any college barriers that might prevent faculty, staff or students from making decisions regarding their health, and to ensure the smooth continuation of as many operations as possible. We ask that units keep these priorities in mind as they respond to new situations.
  • The WCVM follows the university’s new policy on travel for students, faculty and staff. Please continue to visit usask.ca/updates for the latest USask reports. The WCVM’s policies and recommendations may change based on the university’s overall policies outlining academic-related travel.
Veterinary students (travelling during the academic school year)
  • Fourth-year students may decide against travelling to off-site clinical rotations or externships because of the potential risks related to COVID-19 without any academic penalty. That decision will be considered a valid excuse for not completing the rotation. The WCVM Student Services team will work with affected students to come up with alternative clinical rotations.
  • If fourth-year students decide to participate in off-site clinical rotations or externships, they must be aware that if they are exposed to COVID-19 or become ill with the coronavirus, they may need to miss subsequent rotations or externships because of the self-quarantine period or illness. These consequences may also affect the students’ date of convocation.
Veterinary students (travelling spring/summer months)
  • USask will not allow students to travel for university-related activities to countries that fall under “avoid non-essential” or “avoid all travel” advisories issued by the Government of Canada. Please see usask.ca/updates for more information.
  • Groups of WCVM veterinary students are travelling to countries around the world with programs such as Global Vets and Veterinarians Without Borders/Vétérinaires sans frontières (VWB/VSF). In previous years, the university and the college have always supported these international travel opportunities as long as students are not visiting countries where there are travel advisories.
  • If participating WCVM students decide to change their plans and not travel this year, their college travel awards will carry over to the next year.
  • Because of COVID-19’s global spread, WCVM students must be aware of the potential risks before continuing with their travel plans. If students choose to travel to other countries, they must accept the risk. If they are exposed to COVID-19 or become ill with the coronavirus, they may need to change their travel plans or remain in self-quarantine upon their return to Saskatchewan. As well, international travel could potentially result in quarantine elsewhere. Depending on the timing, these actions may affect their academic attendance. It is recommended that all students purchase comprehensive travel insurance and make arrangements in case they need to stay longer in the countries because of illness or quarantine.
Veterinary students: classes, OSCEs and final examinations in the event of a university closure With no cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan, operations at USask continue as normal.
  • If USask cancels lectures due to COVID-19, the college will need to provide online lectures for its students. If the entire USask campus closes, we will need to consider the necessary requirements to manage classes from home. Everyone should consider how they will respond to these possibilities.
  • If examinations can not be administered on campus, the WCVM will arrange for final examinations to be administered through Blackboard or another online resource.
  • If veterinary students (Years 1 to 3) cannot complete their OSCE examinations on campus, the WCVM will arrange to have the OSCEs available before the next academic year commences.
  • To ensure that all examinations are available in advance, the WCVM’s Student Services is requesting that faculty/instructors submit their final examinations and answer keys to department representatives before Mar. 31.
WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC)
  • If the entire USask campus closes, the WCVM will request that the Veterinary Medical Centre remain open to accommodate emergency cases coming in to the Small Animal Clinic and Large Animal Clinic and to continue offering as many regular services as possible.
  • If a growing number of WCVM staff members are unable to work because of the spread of COVID-19, the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre may need to cancel clinical services. Clinical teams will send home as many patients as possible and concentrate on caring for critical care and emergency patients that aren’t stable enough to be discharged. This is an unlikely scenario and one we wish to avoid, but it is prudent to consider all possibilities.
  • The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre will plan for different scenarios and adjust their actions based on circumstances.
  • The college will also consider alternatives for fourth-year students if their 580 clinical rotations are disrupted.
Graduate students
  • If graduate students decide to remain at home for an extended period because of COVID-19 health issues (personal illness or fear of exposing family members to the virus), the graduate students will need to follow the USask College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies’ regular policies for requesting unpaid leave. The college will align with any changes in university policies related to COVID-19.
  • We ask that graduate advisers work to accommodate graduate students who are making decisions based on their health concerns.
  • The WCVM will work with the affected graduate students to accommodate delays to their programs because of exceptional circumstances.
  • If USask decides to close the university, this approach may need to change based on the university’s policies.
Staff/faculty members
  • On March 11, USask implemented changes to the university’s “Request to Travel” processes in response to the COVID-19 global outbreak. For more details, please click here.
  • If employees choose to not come in to work because of a COVID-19-related issue, or if they can not return to work because of illness or self-quarantine, we will follow the university policies and procedures related to vacation, sick time and COVID-19 response.
  • We ask faculty and staff to consider preparations for continuing your instructional or research obligations remotely.
Animal Care Unit
  • To ensure the care and safety of animals housed in the WCVM Animal Care Unit and other facilities, the WCVM will need to arrange for volunteers in case a large number of ACU employees become ill or are unable to come to work because of COVID-19. We don’t anticipate that this will be a major issue, but we want to have a back up plan to ensure that animal welfare concerns are addressed.
  • If necessary, we will implement the WCVM Animal Care Unit’s emergency response plan that addresses potential situations including disease outbreaks and building closures.
Events at the college
  • As the situation evolves, everyone should be aware that some or all events at the college may be affected or need to be cancelled. If possible, please consider alternative plans.
Questions?
  • If you have any college-related questions or concerns, please email wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca or call 306-966-7448.
  • For more information or if you have questions related the USask response, please email covid19@usask.ca.
  • For the latest updates on Canada’s response to COVID-19, please visit the Government of Canada website.