University of Saskatchewan

Western College of Veterinary Medicine

Above: Dr. Tamara Quaschnick takes a break during her clinical internship at Idaho Equine Hospital in Nampa, Idaho. Below: Quaschnick works on one of her patients at the equine hospital. Photos: Trish Hammill.

Dr. Tamara Quaschnick, Class of 2009

tamara.quaschnickTamara Quaschnick, the 2009 recipient of the WCVM Faculty Gold Medal, feels both humbled and thrilled by the honour and regards the award as a milestone achievement for her. In addition to earning the college's most prestigious award for undergraduate students, Quaschnick has received several other awards while at WCVM, including the Dr. Dwayne Elaschuk Scholarship in Food Animal Medicine, a Winner's Circle Race for Education Scholarship and a Dennis Epps Bequest. She was also involved with the WCVM Students Association, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) and the student chapter of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP).

Quaschnick considers herself fortunate to have grown up surrounded by animals on the family ranch near Hanna, Alta. Since the family cattle operation was rooted in tradition and used horses whenever possible, they became an integral part of Quaschnick's life. A graduate of J.C. Charyk Hanna School, she went on to complete a Bachelor's degree in zoology at the University of Calgary where she earned a place on the Dean's List each semester. Her lifestyle on the ranch, her membership in 4-H and her work with several equine practitioners — Drs. Roxy Bell, Wayne Burwash and Karen Nyrop — were important influences on her decision to pursue a career in veterinary medicine.

After graduation, Quaschnick headed to Nampa, Idaho, to complete a one-year internship at the Idaho Equine Hospital. Once her internship wraps up in 2010, she plans to return to her home province: "I'm headed back to Hanna to work in the local mixed animal practice. I have a real heart for rural Alberta and look forward to being part of a community." 

Q: How important were animals in your life? Any favourites?
Well, fortunately for me, horses were part of my daily life. My first horse was a Welsh Arab named Scooter. We got him from a local horse dealer who literally sneaked him out the side door of a slaughter-bound trailer. He was a real cool pony who would do anything you asked of him-you could rope off of him, run poles, ride double. He was just solid gold.

During high school, I had another quarter horse mare named Philena. She was one of those horses that you'll remember for a lifetime - quick, smart and challenging! She could really watch a cow, and I haven't ridden a smoother horse. She made me into a mare fan and a better horseperson.

Q: Why did veterinary medicine make a good fit for you?
Some of the major things that drew me to veterinary medicine were the opportunity to have a career where no two days are the same, you have to be quick on your feet, you have to trust your decisions and you get the privilege of being able to help people by helping their animals. It's also knowing that your interventions have made a difference in an animal's welfare or performance and on the producer's bottom line - those are all reasons why I chose this path.

Q: What were some of the highlights of your four years at WCVM? What did you find challenging?
Fourth-year clinical rotations were some of the greatest adventures! I really enjoyed my large animal surgery and medicine rotations and the feedlot rotation in Okotoks, Alta. The spring equine rotation was also a great experience. I appreciated the chance to get to know our faculty — we have some phenomenal people at WCVM! In terms of challenge — finding balance and keeping perspective were daily challenges. This program definitely tries your determination!

Q: How did your involvement in clubs and organizations enhance your learning experience at WCVM?
Belonging to the AAEP (Equine Club) was very helpful in terms of learning about further career options and creating the opportunity to develop skill sets not covered in the curriculum. I'm currently completing an AAEP Avenues internship, having met one of the hospital owners at the Opportunities in Equine Practice Seminar, a conference hosted in part by the AAEP in Kentucky every year.

I also had the opportunity to do some work with Christian Veterinary Missions between my third and fourth year. I was in Mongolia for the month of July, and I still don't know how to quantify the impact that experience has had on my life — simply put, it was amazing!

Q: Can you tell us more about your clinical internship at the Idaho Equine Hospital?
Well, right now foaling season is upon us! I rotate at two-week intervals between the surgical service and the medicine service. On most days, I am in the barns by 7:00 a.m. treating the hospitalized patients, and I assist with appointments and surgeries scheduled throughout the day. I am on call every other night and weekend, so on-call nights are spent dealing with emergencies, treating hospitalized patients and checking on mares.

Q: How do you think this experience will help you in the future?
This internship has been an amazing fit for me — the largely western performance caseload, the staff and the clientele have been priceless. I have the opportunity to work with board-certified surgeons and a board-certified internist in addition to other experienced practitioners. This experience has greatly enhanced my confidence and my exposure to different diagnostic techniques. I think that it has really jumpstarted my career, has provided me with valuable mentors and has been a great transition between school and "the real world."

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?
I'm very interested to see where I'll be in five years! I'll likely be working in private mixed practice, but I still haven't completely stifled the notion of going on to do a residency.

Q: What personal qualities have helped you to achieve your goals so far?
To put it simply, I believe I was raised right. My parents have taught me — mostly by their example — the values of integrity, generosity, compassion and hard work. I believe that honesty and compassion are two traits that are essential for a fulfilling career, and I count those among my core characteristics. My life and decisions are based on a strong faith in God, and having that faith helps me to keep things in perspective.

Q: How has your training helped to strengthen those qualities?
My training has really complemented those qualities — it's provided me with the science and technical skills required for the job. I have also had the privilege of working with practitioners who are passionate about their job and truly care for their patients and clients. I admire their integrity and commitment and look to them as role models. I've been very blessed in my life, and I hope that my career will reflect well on the college.