Gillian Muir appointed dean of Western College of Veterinary Medicine

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Muir is both the first woman and the first WCVM graduate to serve as dean.

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Bryn Levy Dr. Gillian Muir was named dean of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine after serving on an interim basis for one year. Photo by Matt Smith /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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Dr. Effective July 1, Gillian Muir became the new Dean of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan. Muir takes over the position after assuming an interim role last year. Originally from Calgary, she graduated from the 1988 WCVM class, making her the first alum of the college to serve as dean, in addition to the first woman in that position. Muir spoke to Postmedia after her appointment. Questions and answers were processed.

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Q: Have you got used to the new title?

A: I ‘acted’ for a while and then ‘interim’. But it is good to finally agree on this signature for your e-mail.

Q: What is the role of the WCVM?

A: We are the veterinary school for BC, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. So we train the veterinarians of tomorrow. And we train specialists – many don’t know, but there are many veterinary specialists who are extremely in demand. These surgeons, cardiologists, ophthalmologists, we’re the only place in western Canada that trains veterinarians. We run a veterinary hospital that services Saskatoon and the prairie, it’s 24 hours a day, all different kinds of animals, all these referral specialties.

We also do research. We monitor diseases in our animal herds, we monitor diseases in wild animals. We are working on vaccine development. So VIDO – which many people heard about through their work on vaccines and their role during the pandemic – was founded by researchers from the veterinary school. We are still closely associated with VIDO.

Q: What do you think it means for college to have a woman at the helm and have the first WCVM graduate back as dean?

A: Our class (1988) was the first class to have more female than male students. This species never returned afterwards. It was part of a trend across North America, and also in Europe, that saw more and more women applying for veterinary school. So we have now reached a point where for many, many years at least 80 percent of our graduates have been female.

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I think this could go hand in hand with that as our cohort moves through our careers, and I move forward through my career, we take on more leadership roles.

Q: What was it like to come as interim dean during a pandemic?

A: It was really an online relationship building crash course. Because now, of course, I met new people in industry, new people in government, people in professional associations and other veterinary schools. And I had to develop these relationships all online.

A lot of the work I did was very operational, just a lot of daily management and decision making for all of these things that kept popping up due to the limitations of how we had to work. Everyone left college, but of course we run an entire hospital here and the hospital stayed open. So the hospital was extremely, extremely busy. All doctors and staff worked together around the clock to manage all incoming cases.

Q: What do you look forward to when the restrictions drop?

A: One thing we’re really looking forward to is back at vet school together. Last year we had face-to-face classes and were allowed to do some labs and practical work in small cohorts. But this year we’re face to face again. Vet med is a very practical, team-oriented profession that we have to learn.

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