A vet's life

Dr. Nicole Gallant named national president of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on August 8, 2015

Dr. Nicole Gallant considered ending her veterinary career almost as soon as it began.

Her first week on the job was the type of initiation she had feared.

She had to tend to a horse that was colicky, a major cause of sickness and death in these powerful animals.

A dog died, though through no fault of Gallant’s care.

And then there was the call to a farm to deliver a calf that had a nasty outcome. Not only did the calf die, decapitation was required to get the dead baby animal out of the cow.

“Baptism by fire,’’ recalls Gallant.

The then rookie vet was left questioning just exactly what she had signed up for.

Thirty-two years later, the answer is clear: a rewarding and diverse career. Her life as a vet has been - and remains — one interesting adventure after another.

“Every day is different,’’ she says.

“You never know what will come in through the door.’’

Gallant, 56, cannot remember a time when she did not want to be a vet.

The only child to the late Ted and Mina Gallant, she grew up on a mixed farm in Cape Egmont in western Prince Edward Island.

While she had a couple of dogs and a bunch of cats, as well as a pet pony, she also was regularly drawn to the dairy cows and pigs on the farm.

Gallant found the presence, and close proximity, to farm animals calming.

“My memory is I was always in the barn,’’ she says.

“I liked being around them.’’

By high school, she was quite set in her mind that veterinary medicine was her calling.

Gallant, who is fluently bilingual, went on to graduate from the Faculté de medicine vétérinaire at the University of Montreal in 1983.

She was offered a job at the Kensington Veterinary Clinic. She was only slated to work at the clinic for one year.

That suited her fine, she explains, because she was 24 and “thinking I wanted to see the world.’’

Turns out she would see plenty of Island farms in the years to follow.

She liked being back home on Prince Edward Island. She was treated well by the clinic. The workload was manageable and divided fairly.

So she stayed on P.E.I. to work as a vet.

For the next two decades, the bulk of Gallant’s work was tending to dairy cows, delivering hundreds of calves along the way.

“I love getting a live calf out...it’s kind of fun,’’ she says.

Her farm visits extended to emus when Islanders started raising this exotic breed in the 1990s, and later to alpacas.

She recalls one baby alpaca that was fortunate to have its head stuck out of its mom’s body, breathing freely, while Gallant performed a lengthy — and ultimately successful — delivery.

Working with large animals, though, eventually took a toll on Gallant’s body.

Today, she enjoys working part-time and focusing on small animal care while still doing some large animal work.

Gallant also has the public profile as national president of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) following her recent appointment.

She will be expected to speak on any number of veterinary issues to both the media and to industry people.

“I look forward to representing the profession across the country as the association continues to be the national and international voice for Canada’s veterinarians, providing leadership and advocacy for veterinary medicine,’’ she says.

Gallant became a councillor on the P.E.I. Veterinary Medical Association in 1988 and became its registrar the following year until 2002. In 2007, she was voted PEIVMA representative on CVMA council and then voted onto CVMA executive in July 2012.

Working part-time as a vet now allows Gallant more time to pursue her host of hobbies, from travel to reading, and from gardening to biking.

Gallant, who lives in Kelvin Grove a short distance from the vet clinic, also loves to spend time walking her Golden retrievers Jersey and rambunctious 14-month-old Beau on Island beaches.


Did you know?

The word veterinary comes from the Latin “veterinae” which means “working animals”. “The word ‘veterinarian’ was first used in print by Thomas Browne in 1646.

The term veterinarian is used in North America and other countries using predominantly American English, whereas in the United Kingdom, and countries which are formerly part of the British Empire or are part of the Commonwealth of Nations tend to use the term veterinary surgeon.