Shannon Massie (pictured with Traveller and supervisor Renaud Léguillette
Shannon Massie (with Traveller and supervisor Renaud Léguillette) pursues a PhD through new part-time grad studies program. Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Oct. 15, 2021

Part-time veterinary medicine graduate program launches

Professionals can continue their full-time jobs with work-integrated degree program

Graduate students often need to quit full-time work because of the time pressures of pursuing graduate degrees. The University of Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM) is changing this by initiating a new pathway to graduate programs that allows for part-time, thesis-based Master of Science and PhD studies in Veterinary Medical Sciences (VMS).

Although there are several UCalgary faculty programs offering part-time graduate studies, this is the first part-time option for the VMS graduate program. Many veterinarians practising in UCVM’s Distributed Veterinary Learning Community (DVLC), as well as other professionals, want to advance their education and skills, but can’t manage full-time programs. (The DVLC comprises private veterinary practices, government agencies, and other institutions that offer practicum rotations for fourth-year UCVM students.)

The solution is a work-integrated graduate program that allows candidates to continue work combined with part-time study.

Three candidates are taking the newly offered modified program: Dr. Alyssa Butters, DVM, a veterinarian working at UCVM; Dr. Thomas Daborn, DVM, a veterinarian working in large animal medicine in the province; and Shannon Massie, MSc’15, a full-time exercise physiologist who works in an occupational setting assessing and supporting the health and fitness of firefighters.

Balancing the demands of work and graduate education

Massie says the part-time PhD program allows her to balance work with her studies under Dr. Renaud Léguillette, DVM, PhD, a professor of equine internal medicine at UCVM, and Calgary Chair in Equine Sports Medicine.

“This part-time program is ideal because it allows me to continue working and also get involved in research at the university again,” says Massie. “It's been the perfect timing and perfect opportunity to do both.”

Massie first worked with Léguillette on a summer research project at the Calgary Stampede in 2012, conducting electrocardiogram (ECG) testing on chuckwagon horses. She then earned her Master of Science with Léguillette as her supervisor, and now he’s supervising her PhD in equine exercise physiology.

The new program allows Massie to integrate her experience in human and equine physiology. “You end up driving both fields forward by learning from the other, and so that's where it's been a really good partnership with Renaud because his veterinary expertise complements my knowledge in human physiology,” she says.

Shannon Massie

With the new part-time program, Shannon Massie is integrating her experience in human and equine physiology in novel research.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Léguillette says this program is a great opportunity for professionals with the right qualifications, experience, mindset, and drive to take part in and expand their knowledge. As professionals, they might not be able to commit to full-time graduate studies, so this new initiative provides the opportunity for these innovative thinkers to be involved in novel research.

One size doesn’t fit all

“It's hard to have a one-size-fits-all for these kinds of programs because there are a variety of people coming from a variety of different fields,” he says. “This program was created with some flexibility in mind.”

Candidates choose their area of study and use their work environment as their “lab,” supported and supervised by UCVM faculty members.

“The most exciting aspect of this program is that the projects evolve from the close partnership between the candidate, their employer, and the UCVM supervisor,” says Dr. Jacob Thundathil, BVSc & AH, PhD, associate dean of Graduate Education and Internationalization at UCVM.

Increasing community connection

“I envision that this initiative will bring diversity to our program by bringing more experienced graduate students and increasing our connection with communities,” says Thundathil, who led the creation of this new educational pathway. “And the projects may tackle issues leading to innovations relevant to industries and clinical practice.”

The proposal was initially seen as a pilot project, but it has gained approval for an ongoing program and will remain the same duration as a full-time program, four to six years.