Dirt in her veins: Three Hills veterinarian wins Merck Veterinary Award

Dr. Kathleen Parker of the Valley Vet Clinic in Three Hills was awarded the 2018 Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) Merck Veterinary Award for dedicating her career to contributing to the Canadian livestock industry, including poultry, swine, beef and most recently goats and sheep.

The award is meant to acknowledge members who work in food animal production practice, clinical research, or basic sciences and made significant contributions to its advancement.

Her daughter, students and late career colleagues banded together to nominate the veterinarian for her consistent hard work in the industry on all fronts.

Shock was the first feeling that came to mind once it was announced.

“It wasn’t from the old school people, it was the youngins’ and I think that, for me, is the most humbling that I am relevant and I have something to offer to the new generation and the new faces of veterinary medicine. Something at this stage in my career I think is tremendously rewarding,” said Dr. Parker.

The award consists of $1,000 and a glass plaque outlining the winner’s success.

The CVMA annual conference was held in Vancouver, B.C. July 5 – 8 where Dr. Parker was presented her award.

Dr. Parker is one of two women to have ever received the prestigious title since the award’s inception in 1985.

After graduating from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) in 1981, Dr. Parker established a mixed animal practice in central Alberta.

The large animal ambulatory service has evolved into a comprehensive mixed animal practice today at the clinic in Three Hills where she also runs a purebred Suffolk Sheep Farm with her husband.

Misogyny was prevalent at the beginning of her career, causing Parker to ‘coast’ before pushing through adversity and begin doing what she loved.

“In the beginning, nobody would hire me because I was a girl and why would they when they had two experienced veterinarians on either side of us so I ended up in Three Hills because that is where my husband’s family was from,” said Dr. Parker.

A previous veterinarian took Parker on for a few months after she moved. She was a person who liked to be constantly busy which brought her back to Saskatchewan as the clinic in Alberta was rather quiet at the time.

She started her own practice afterwards in 1982 with only a half ton truck and a kit to aid her in answering service calls.

“That is why I did ambulatory [service] because I didn’t require a clinic and I carried everything I needed in my truck. I still have that old kit,” Dr. Parker illustrated. “This was a time before in-clinic diagnostic equipment, x-ray machines, and ultrasounds. Heck, it was before the fax machine and cell phone. It was very ‘western’.”

After years of being the owner, Dr. Parker made the decision in 2003 to sell the clinic to a nearby owner as financial and administrative burdens became too much for the vet. The clinic was growing by 35 per cent per year which became an overwhelming task.

“It went from being the owner to being an employee overnight in the same building. That was an interesting paradigm shift but at least I got rid of the administration,” said Dr. Parker.

Dr. Parker has remained a valued and relevant keynote speaker at symposiums, workshops, and conferences across Canada having conducted 14 so far on various topics like soft tissue surgery and animal dentistry.

She strives to encompass the overall scope of the animal health industry by empowering producers, students, and clients to learn and understand the purpose and benefit of livestock welfare.

She is a veterinarian that teaches those around her because it is her belief that knowledge is power.

“I just love talking to producers,” said Dr. Parker “I love teaching them and I’ve never been threatened by it. I have always thought they made the best clients ever. The more they knew and the more they understood what went into making a decision, the better a client they were because they got it.”

Monsanto approached Dr. Parker years ago where they did ‘amazing things.’

“We imported embryos to Canada which had never been done before,” said Dr. Parker. “We developed anaesthetic protocols and embryo transplant protocols and all kinds of gold standard protocols. It was just the most amazing experience.”

At her core, she is a food animal practitioner and a grassroots farmer.

Parker does not plan to slow down any time soon. “So as long as I am relevant, contributing and current and I don’t lose that enthusiasm, I’ll continue to do this even if I can only talk to the students or I can talk to a producer. If I can help them, I’ll keep doing it.”

 

Terri Huxley

ECA Review

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