At the Spring 2017 School of Veterinary Medicine White Coat Ceremony on January 28, the newest class of St. George’s University students donned their newly received white coats and collectively recited the Oath of Professional Commitment. Like the more than 1,200 veterinarian graduates of SGU had done before, they dedicated their professional future to the thorough and ethical care of animals.
“The White Coat Ceremony is one of my favorite events of the year, and I am thrilled and honored to be here to share this day with you,” enthused keynote speaker Douglas A. Freeman, Professor and Dean of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Canada. “The White Coat Ceremony is our opportunity to formally induct you into the profession and to welcome you as colleagues into the amazing and wonderful veterinary medicine community.
“This profession has evolved from farm animal care, to equine care to small animal care, and you too must be resilient as you evolve throughout your veterinary medical career,” advised Dr. Freeman. “There are many jobs available in the veterinary profession, from academia and research to the military and industry. You may try a lot of different things. You don’t have to choose just one path. So as you embark on your journey of lifelong discovery, I wish you great success.”
Alumnus and Master of Ceremonies Heather Douglas, DVM SGU ‘06, knew exactly how the matriculating class felt as first-term students, and counseled them to make the most of the opportunity to study at SGU. Dr. Douglas is now the owner and veterinarian at Douglas Animal Hospital in Osseo, Minnesota. She said that, through the commitment of her professors, colleagues, and the welcoming community, she gained invaluable opportunities and a deep-rooted love for the Spice Isle.
“Being in Grenada and attending this University gave me a wonderful opportunity, and I feel I am successful in my career in veterinary medicine because of SGU,” shared Dr. Douglas, President of Douglas Animal Hospital and Visiting Professor at St. George’s University. “You too have everything you could possibly need right here to become a successful veterinarian.”
Attending his first-ever School of Veterinary Medicine White Coat Ceremony was Dr. Joseph Childers, recently appointed Provost of St. George’s University. He welcomed and congratulated the students on this next step they were about to take and, although not a veterinarian himself, connected with the students through his area of expertise—literature.
“Some of the greatest literature that was ever produced—works by Anna Sewell, George Orwell, and Jack London—are actually written by the point of view of an animal,” Dr. Childers said. “This was emblematic of who we are as human beings and our connection to the animal world. We are absolutely dependent on our animals, and who will speak for them, who will communicate with them?
“I recognize the importance of seeking an MD and the importance of what people do as medical doctors but they have a distinct advantage, they are able to communicate directly with their patients,” added Dr. Childers. “ You are called to something a little bit higher, a little bit more noble and I think in many ways much more self less. You’re advocating for creatures that cannot advocate for themselves, the creatures that we depend on. You have a double responsibility to not only deliver that kind of care and compassion but also to be those advocates. I think this speaks to the core of humanity and I congratulate you on your choice and I welcome you to St. George’s University. “
Dr. Chadd Tindall, an alumnus from the very first class of the School of Veterinary Medicine in 1999 and currently the Director of the SVM Office of Career Guidance, attended the ceremony. In addition, Dr. Austin Kirwan, Assistant Dean of UK Affairs in the School of Veterinary Medicine, who took the opportunity to robe his son, Elliot, now a first-term veterinary student.
“It was a fantastic experience. It was a long journey to actually get where you are and you would never believe that your child would be following so closely in your own footsteps but I think it brings home what SGU is actually all about,” Dr. Kirwan said afterward. “We are one family, it’s one nation, it’s one health, it’s one medicine, and it’s an absolute privilege. I graduated on that stage with my MBA from SGU and I’ve introduced my son to the veterinary faculty and school on that same stage, so it was a fantastic moment.”
The School of Veterinary Medicine accepted its first class in August of 1999, followed six years later by the installation of the first international chapter of Phi Zeta National Veterinary Honor Society on campus, the Alpha Delta Chapter. In September 2011, the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education announced its full accreditation of the St. George’s University Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program for seven years. Five years later, in October 2016, the American Animal Hospital Association gave its stamp of approval, accrediting the SVM Small Animal Clinic for two years, making it only the second practice outside of the US and Canada to earn the distinction.