Foreign veterinary programs share 150th anniversaries

Scottish, Canadian institutions celebrate with parties, lectures
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A year before the AVMA observes its founding 150 years ago, two international veterinary institutions are celebrating their own sesquicentennials.

The year 2012 marks the 150th anniversary of the University of Guelph Ontario Veterinary College and the University of Glasgow School of Veterinary Medicine in Scotland.

Dr. James McCall, circa 1900, founder of Glasgow’s veterinary college (Courtesy of the University of Glasgow)

The latter was founded in 1862 by Dr. James McCall, who was a graduate of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh. He taught anatomy and physiology there for two years before traveling to Glasgow in 1859 to set up in practice. Instead, he spent more time providing classes for budding veterinarians. In 1862, formal classes were instituted, and by 1863, a royal warrant was issued that established Dr. McCall’s enterprise as the Glasgow Veterinary College. This entitled its students to examination by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons; the first graduate qualified in 1865.

Dr. McCall was a president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and held a number of public offices, including those of veterinary inspector and adviser to the Board of Agriculture for Scotland. He was influential in Glasgow becoming the first city in Britain to introduce market meat inspections and to license the city’s dairies, according to the veterinary college’s website.

Today, Glasgow is internationally recognized for its research, and in 2004, it became one of the first veterinary colleges to establish an institute of comparative medicine. The Scottish veterinary college also is renowned for its international work, forming joint programs with schools and institutions in the Netherlands, Denmark, The Gambia, and a host of South American countries.

In 1999, it became the third European veterinary institution to achieve accreditation from the AVMA Council on Education.

Ontario Veterinary College founder, Dr. Andrew Smith, is pictured (third from the left) in this photo of members of the OVC class of 1899. (Courtesy of the University of Guelph Ontario Veterinary College)

Glasgow marked its anniversary with a yearlong campaign that honored the past and looked forward to ongoing success in the future.

In January, Dr. Jim Wight, a 1966 alumnus, marked the launch of the 150th anniversary with a lecture, “James Herriot and Glasgow—past and present.” To reflect on how veterinary practice has changed over the past 50 years, Dr. Wight talked about his own veterinary experience and that of his late father, Dr. J. Alfred Wight, better known as James Herriot, who wrote the world-renowned books about life working as a veterinarian in Yorkshire.

The focal point of the celebrations was the “Vet150 Congress” from Oct. 5-7 at Glasgow. The event began with a lecture series on the veterinary college’s history and the McCall Memorial Lecture and was followed by a continuing education program, a commercial exhibition, and a gala banquet. There also was a “ceilidh,” a traditional Scottish social gathering with Gaelic folk music and dancing.

The Ontario Veterinary College celebrated its 150th anniversary with a similar fête that paid tribute to its own Scottish roots. On Sept. 17, the OVC hosted its Fall Faire, which featured Gaelic music, food, and dancing as well as an exhibition featuring life at the veterinary college over the last 150 years.

It all started in 1856 with a campaign to establish a veterinary college in the British colony of Upper Canada (present-day Ontario) to train the people needed to care for the horses that helped keep the economy moving, according to the veterinary college’s website.

The Upper Canada Board of Agriculture agreed that Toronto would be the location of the college and approached Dr. William Dick, principal of the Edinburgh Veterinary College of Scotland, to recommend an alumnus to run the college. Dr. Dick recommended Dr. Andrew Smith, an 1861 Edinburgh graduate, qualifying Dr. Smith’s appointment as veterinary surgeon to the agriculture board.

This iconic painting of Dr. Andrew Smith and a groom by artist Paul G. Wickson dates from 1891 and hangs in the dean’s office at the Ontario Veterinary College. (Courtesy of the University of Guelph Ontario Veterinary College)

Dr. Smith arrived in Canada and began practicing veterinary science and giving public lectures in Toronto in 1862. In 1864, he was granted a charter by the agriculture board for the founding of the Upper Canada Veterinary College, later named the Ontario Veterinary College. Dr. Smith constructed the college’s first buildings at his own expense, employed a small faculty, admitted students, collected their fees, and was the main instructor.

Dr. Smith served as principal and taught at the OVC until it was taken over by the Ontario government in 1908.

In 1922 the college moved to Guelph, Ontario, and in 1964 became a founding college of the University of Guelph.

In recent years, the OVC has undergone a substantial amount of redevelopment. Dean Elizabeth Stone has been the driving force behind the OVC Integrated Plan, which has included the Institute for Comparative Cancer Investigation and the University of Guelph Centre for Public Health and Zoonoses. Plus, in 2010, the Primary Healthcare Initiative celebrated the opening of the Hill’s Pet Nutrition Primary Healthcare Centre.

This year, in honor of the veterinary college’s 150th anniversary, a special exhibition on veterinary medicine has been featured at the Guelph Civic Museum. And on June 5, the OVC released the book “Animal Companions, Animal Doctors, Animal People,” an anthology of poems, stories, essays, a dramatic monologue, and a graphic story. The book was published by the veterinary college and co-edited by Dean Stone in honor of the sesquicentennial celebration. It is meant to “provide readings that would inspire, console, and energize veterinarians in their daily interactions with animals and people,” according to the OVC’s website.