Students benefit by helping the pets of needy Calgarians

May 20, 2015

Jody Graves considers Izzy, her young
Chihuahua dachshund cross, a part of the family. As a single mother on a
fixed income, Graves was grateful to be able to take part in a pilot
program where Izzy received veterinary care at no cost.

“It was
great, you could ask them all kinds of questions,” says Graves. “They
teach you how to feed your pet and how to take care of them so they have
long healthy lives. Not a lot of us can afford to take our animals to
the vet, so to have them come in and look at all our animals and give
them their shots, it was really wonderful.”

The University of
Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM) partnered this spring with
the Calgary Urban Project Society (CUPS) to host six free veterinary
clinics for pets of people living below the poverty line. The new
service learning program gave third year students the opportunity to
take what they learned in the classroom out into the real world.
Students interacted directly with clients and their companions while
under the close supervision of UCVM and community veterinarians.

been a great initiative for the students,” says Dr. Serge Chalhoub,
who, along with fellow UCVM faculty member Dr. Jack Wilson, championed
the project. “They have been practicing their professional and
communication skills and gaining experience with clients. There’s a
veterinarian coaching them, and the students do preventative medicine,
deworming, vaccines, nutrition education and wellness education. Our
first six sessions were highly successful.”

The participants in
the pilot program were CUPS clients. Thirty-two cats and dogs and their
owners, who were once homeless or at high risk of becoming homeless,
took part. In fact, the pilot project was so successful that starting
this fall it will be a regular part of the third year Doctor of
Veterinary Medicine curriculum. The program provides benefits for both
the student and the client, creating a win-win situation.

those who have experienced poverty, homelessness and the social
isolation that often accompanies it, the role of a pet becomes all the
more critical,” says Amanda St. Laurent, with CUPS. “Caring for a pet
can provide a sense of normalcy, responsibility, stability,
unconditional love and a reason to face a new day.”

Chalhoub says
in addition to the services offered at the clinics, 11 pets were spayed
or neutered as part of third year surgery labs at UCVM. “The students
ended up operating on the pets they’d seen at the clinics, which is
really neat.”

Amy Larkin and Jen Wheeler were among the third year students involved in the program.

me, it’s really about the chance to practice what we’ve learned in the
classroom in a real setting but still under the supervision of our
professors,” says Wheeler. “So you’re dealing with real clients, with a
real case where the decisions you make actually impact them.”

Both students found it a fantastic opportunity to hone their professional skills and at the same time serve the community.

not only great for them, it’s also great for us,” says Larkin. “It’s a
nice stepping stone from the classroom into the real world. And it’s
really rewarding to know that what we’re learning is making a

UCVM is grateful for the support from industry and
the local veterinary community – including Associated Veterinary
Clinics, Boehringer Ingelheim, the C.A.R.E Centre Animal Hospital,
Calgary Academy of Veterinary Medicine, Horizon Veterinary Group, Purina
and Vétoquinol – support that helped make this valuable program

NOTE: Dr. Serge Chalhoub, Jody Graves and Amanda
St. Laurent are available for media interviews on Monday, May 25
between 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

About the University of Calgary

University of Calgary is a leading Canadian university located in the
nation’s most enterprising city. The university has a clear strategic
direction to become one of Canada’s top five research universities by
2016, where research and innovative teaching go hand in hand, and where
we fully engage the communities we both serve and lead. This strategy is
called Eyes High, inspired by the university’s Gaelic motto, which translates as ‘I will lift up my eyes.’

Stay up-to-date with University of Calgary news at and follow us on Twitter @UCalgary.

Contact Information

Media Contact

Collene Ferguson
Manager, Marketing and Communications
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
University of Calgary



Ottawa Answers the Question: Can YOU Do Lunch? for Canadian HIV and AIDS Research

Jul 12, 2014

The Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR) is hosting today (May 12) hosting its second annual charity lunch today at the Rideau Club in Ottawa. The lunch is aimed at uniting women across Canada in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Can YOU Do Lunch? is hosted by CANFAR spokesperson and media personality Valerie Pringle. She will be joined by special guests, Mrs. Laureen Harper and the Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health, as well as Ottawa influencer Sheila O’Gorman, chair of the event.

With a quarter of those infected with HIV being female in Canada, and many more sisters, mothers, caregivers and friends having been affected by the disease, Can YOU Do Lunch? is an opportunity for women from Parliament Hill to Sparks Street to join together, network, and answer the call to action.

“We are so grateful to the Ottawa community for coming together for Canadian HIV and AIDS research,” said CANFAR President and CEO Christopher Bunting. “AIDS is not over in Canada. In some populations we are still seeing an increase in rates. Can YOU do lunch? will help to fund Canadian research focused on answering the vital questions that could ultimately lead to a cure to this terrible disease.”

The lunch will feature a key note address from 17 year old Ashley Murphy and her mother Kari. Ashley was born with HIV contracted from her birth mother. Kari, who fostered Ashley when she required palliative care and later adopted her, will share the podium with her daughter. “HIV research and medications mean that Ashley can marry, have a family and that the spread of HIV ends with her,” remarked Kari Murphy. “We want this for all people that live with HIV, and research is the key.”

The Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research is Canada’s only independent charitable foundation dedicated to ending HIV and AIDS through research. CANFAR funds Canadian HIV and AIDS research and runs Canada’s largest youth-based education and awareness campaign aimed at empowering youth with information about HIV and AIDS. To date, CANFAR has funded more than 450 HIV and AIDS research projects. Since 1987, CANFAR has awarded more than $18 million to HIV and AIDS research projects. Visit for more information.