This week, Dr. Renate Weller, DVM, PhD, moved into her new office at the University of Calgary School of Veterinary Medicine, welcomed freshmen to Foothills campus, met with fellow students at Spy Hill, and began introducing themselves to faculty and staff. The new Dean of the UCVM officially started her position on September 1st, but she and her family have been hard at work since arriving from London, England in mid-August.
“We enrolled our younger children in middle and high school and our older children in U of C. We managed to buy a car. Now we’re looking for an apartment. I would like to find a place where I can hold my donkey and his pony friends, ”says Weller, who works with her husband Dr. Thilo Pfau, PhD, four children, a donkey, a horse, a pony and two dogs. Prior to joining, Weller was Director of Veterinary Education at CVS Group plc, one of the UK’s largest integrated veterinary service providers. She was previously Professor and Deputy Dean at the University of London’s Royal Veterinary College.
Weller and her family have settled in well. “We haven’t met an unfriendly Canadian,” she says. Pfau started out as a professor at the Faculty of Kinesiology. Her two older children are also determined to study at UCalgary – Clara is studying economics and psychology and Lucie is studying modern languages. Her teenage son, Tom, is looking forward to learning skate and ice hockey, and the youngest, Josepha, is looking forward to junior high.
At 15, the UCVM is also “in its teens,” says Weller, which is an ideal time to think about the future and how the faculty can remain successful in the long term. In the coming weeks and months she will consult with faculty, students and staff to get everyone’s input.
“I can’t come in and say, ‘This is what needs to be done.’ This is a team effort. So we will work together. We will keep the things that work well and we will work out the challenges and what needs to be done to overcome them. We’re going to look for ways where we can improve and where we can do things a little better, ”she says.
Veterinary profession well placed to help solve global problems
With its outstanding faculty, innovative teaching methods and collaborative university framework, UCVM is well positioned to tackle the immense social, environmental and economic challenges associated with animal health.
“I’m a bit of a veterinary snob. I think we are the profession best placed to help solve some of the big global problems like antibiotic resistance, food production and climate change because animals help. We have to play a role in all sorts of sustainability issues: social sustainability, we help people with their pets, economic sustainability: especially in Alberta with the big agribusinesses and we have to play a role in environmental sustainability, “she says
Another current problem Weller wants to address is the shortage of veterinarians in Alberta. “We have to see how we can solve this. Obviously, saying, ‘Well, we’re just taking in more students’ isn’t the answer. That’s not how it is done. The faculty is busy and the state government comes into play. So we have to make it work for everyone, ”she says.
Loved working with students
Weller brings many years of experience as a researcher, educator and horse clinician to her role as dean of the UCVM. During her studies at the Royal Veterinary College, she won numerous teaching awards and was named a National Teaching Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy in 2017. Weller is certified by American and European colleges and her clinical excellence has won several international awards, including induction into the Hall of Fame for equine veterinarians in the United States.
Awards and honors aside, Weller loves working with students. “That’s why we do this job. I mean to see all of these young faces embarking on this journey. That makes it worthwhile, ”she says. And she’s thrilled to meet students and officially work at UCVM, a decision she’s been thinking about a long time.
“You don’t move a family of six plus four-legged members on a whim. They see it as a great adventure. They are super excited and so am I, ”she says
Collene Ferguson, School of Veterinary Medicine, contributed to this article.