North Queensland’s depleted veterinary profession is about to receive an injection of new blood, when the first cohort of Veterinary Science students graduate from James Cook University.
Five years’ hard work from both staff and students will pay off this month when the first batch of JCU animal doctors enter the veterinary industry.
And the word from the profession indicates that practitioners are poised and ready to snap up this next generation of vets, with many students already securing jobs in country practices in Queensland and elsewhere.
“Before taking on the massive responsibility of training the region’s future vets, we made sure we asked people on the front line what they wanted from our graduates,” Veterinary Science Dean Lee Fitzpatrick said.
“Their responses formed the basis of our integrated curriculum, which has grown to become quite the innovation.
“We have received favourable feedback from vets across the profession and that’s reflected by the jobs being offered to our graduates.
“The end product will speak for itself. It will be an honour to call them colleagues.”
Joshua Berryman is one of more than 40 students anticipating the day he can finally call himself a vet.
“It’s been a long time coming, and a hard slog, but it’s coming to crunch time and it’s so close now I can hardly sit still,” he said.
“I can’t wait to get out there and start practising.”
Berryman was a 17-year-old Ignatius Park College pupil when he lobbied former Prime Minister John Howard a for a vet school at JCU when he visited Townsville in 2004.
The Wulguru student presented a petition signed by 5000 people to the PM in a bid to secure funding for a veterinary science program at the university.
“All I knew was that there was a shortage of rural vets in North Queensland,” Berryman said. “I wanted to be a vet so badly and I just couldn’t see why I shouldn’t be able to complete my studies here in Townsville.”
His tenacity worked. Two years later the Government injected $26 million into the university to establish an undergraduate veterinary program to serve North Queensland. Berryman was one of the first students accepted into the course when it launched in 2006.
During the first four years of the program, the pioneering students, who hail from all states and territories of Australia, acquired the knowledge and skills to diagnose, treat and prevent disease in a wide range of animals, including companion animals, farm animals, aquatic species and native fauna.