June 8, 2021
Class of 2021: Cats, dogs, hedgehogs, guinea pigs, cows, horse, goats — oh my!
The path to veterinary medicine wasn’t quite a straight line for Dr. Chelsey Zurowski, DVM, who is graduating from UCalgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM).
“I've always been interested in animal science, and kind of found my niche in that, but I didn't make the decision to go to vet school until I was in graduate school,” says Zurowski. After completing an undergraduate degree in zoology, she did a master’s in evolutionary biology, looking at mammalian molar development and evolution.
“Really quite nerdy,” Zurowski says with a laugh. “I dabbled in developmental biology and paleontology, and during grad school I realized I needed a little more instant gratification in my life. From there, I applied to vet school, and I was lucky enough to get in. That kind of started my journey into this and I'm very happy with it, wouldn't change a thing.”
Adaptability and MacGyvering
Zurowski is now working at Animal Medical Centre South, a mixed animal practice in Dunmore, Alta. owned by UCVM alumna Dr. Megan Herman, DVM. Their motto: Big or small, we treat them all.
“I love the pace of it, there’s never a dull moment,” says Zurowski. “You never know what's coming in next, whether it's a cat or a dog, an exotic creature like a hedgehog or a guinea pig, or a cow or a horse. They also have some sheep and goat clients, it’s a big mix.”
A key skill she’s bringing to her new position is adaptability, a skill she’s honed over the past year and half navigating the twists and turns of learning during a pandemic. “Whether it’s adapting to a busy schedule, or adapting a treatment plan to fit the needs of an owner, or adapting to working with what you have, and kind of MacGyvering things on the go as you need them. That's one of the most helpful things that has come out of vet school for me.”
Taking care of both mental and physical health is crucial
Getting through vet school, with its demanding program and packed curriculum — full days learning about multiple species and all aspects of veterinary medicine in four years — can take a toll on mental and physical health. Zurowski learned the hard way the importance of self-care.
“Through first and second year, I wasn't doing a great job. Then in third year, I made a commitment with a couple of classmates to start going to yoga at 6 a.m., before class, two to three times a week,” says Zurowski. “Oh, my goodness. That changed everything. It was a bit of a push to get myself out of bed, I felt a little stunned at 5:30 when my alarm went off. But it was lovely to incorporate that bit of movement, and that bit of meditation, multiple times a week to be in a healthier mental and physical space.”
Zurowski encourages current students to find what works for them in terms of mental and physical wellness, by seeking counselling and other mental health resources, and finding physical activity that is enjoyable for them — something that can look different for every person.
“I felt I was able to show up much better for myself, for my partner, for my family, for my friends, and for my classmates.”
Taking better care of herself seems to have paid off. Zurowski, the class valedictorian, graduated with distinction and two awards: The P.H. Cribb Award in Rural Veterinary Practice and the Morton Johnston Scholarship for Outstanding Client Care.
It’s been a wild ride
“I'm very proud of my classmates, for all of us making it this far,” says Zurowski. “Our original fourth year was completely canceled, and it had to be kind of made up as we went, pending what was happening with the pandemic. I guess that plays into the adaptability side of it as well. It's amazing those rotations came together, with all the work from faculty to get us out in the community. It's been a bit of a wild ride, but it’s fantastic we've made it here, and made all our dreams come true.”