By Karen Mantel

Powell, left, and Chanelle Taylor
Wendy Powell, left, and Chanelle Taylor

Alumni from the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) share the same commitment to interviewing the next cohort of DVM students. They like giving back to a profession they love, providing input and feedback on the recruitment process, connecting with students who will shape the profession in the future and being there as mentors to support them throughout their careers.

Canadian DVM candidates at OVC are assessed in Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs) as part of their application process to the college. The MMIs run for a week in May, with five groups of eight students interviewed every day for a total of 200 candidates during the week.

This year the number of assessors rivaled the number of candidates, with 148 alumni, students and faculty participating in interviews. More than 30 per cent of those are alumni and another 45 per cent are current DVM students.

Many alumni come back each year, says Elizabeth Lowenger, manager, student affairs, who recruits each assessor. Some participate in a few sessions, while others are involved for one or more days of interviews. The mix of alumni from veterinary practices and industry provides a variety of expertise and perspectives.

This is the fifth year the MMIs have been used in the admissions cycle at OVC. During each session, candidates rotate through a series of eight timed stations, where they must interpret a scenario for two assessors who evaluate them using a scoring rubric. Scenarios are structured to test the candidates’ ability to think on their feet, communicate their opinions and ideas, critically appraise information and demonstrate advanced understanding of issues facing the profession.

Cathy Rae, DVM ’79, interacts with practitioners, as well as faculty and students at OVC, in her role as manager, veterinary services (equine) with Zoetis. She spent some time in private practice, followed by more than 15 years as a pathologist at a diagnostic laboratory. With 15 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, working mainly as a technical services and support veterinarian, she sees great value in alumni participation in the MMIs.

“Alumni will be veterinarians who have taken on roles and positions in many different sectors – government, private practice, pharmaceutical industry, feed industry, academia and research,” says Rae. “Their perspectives and opinions on veterinary medicine and what it takes to be successful as veterinarians will be shaped by their experiences. Their feedback on the selection process will be invaluable to help ensure that it is providing the kinds of veterinarians that are needed in today’s world.”

Chanelle Taylor, DVM ’14, agrees that it’s important to look for qualities in candidates that “you see in your industry.” Taylor, who graduated in April and now works with Cargill in London, Ont., has been involved in the MMI process since her first year at OVC. She values the opportunity to participate in the process. “It’s nice to be a part of the future.”

That sentiment is echoed by OVC alumnus Robert Close, who has been involved with the MMIs for several years. “You get to contribute to another person’s success,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate to be a veterinarian.”

Close has been a veterinary practitioner for 30 years and owns Close Veterinary Clinic in Kitchener, Ont. “For me it’s payback time because I’ve had a wonderful career, and it’s due to my education at OVC and the people in the provincial and federal government through their funding of buildings and facilities.”

He also thinks it’s important for students to see veterinarians being involved as mentors. “We are there as colleagues to support them through their career,” he says. “It’s important that we contribute to the students’ thinking that sharing information and experience is a part of being a professional.”

Ben Potvin recently completed his first year of the DVM program. He says students “can give a unique perspective to the interview grading, as we ourselves were recently part of the process. Therefore, we can understand the stress and mental requirements to thrive in the MMIs.” Giving back and mentoring future students also figures strongly in his decision to participate.

“I wanted to be involved in the MMI process because it is a unique opportunity to give back to the OVC community,” he says. “The MMI process takes an incredible amount of people to accommodate the interview process for this many applicants. More importantly though, I feel the opportunity to be involved in the OVC interview process is more than just a matter of selecting students to be admitted into the DVM program; it is a process to select applicants who will one day be our colleagues and represent our profession.”

This is also the first year Wendy Powell, DVM ’88, has participated in the MMIs. Working with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), she focusses mainly on programs at federally-inspected poultry slaughter establishments. This summer, Powell is overseeing second-year veterinary students who are working at the CFIA. The MMI process provided another opportunity for her to be more involved with OVC.

She sees value in having veterinarians from non-clinical careers as part of the process. “It’s important to have a broad view of what vets do when they graduate,” she says.

Powell also underlines the importance of mentorship to student veterinarians. “Professors see students every day and they know what they need to look for in successful students,” she says. “People in other fields of veterinary medicine know what to look for in people successful outside of the classroom.”