Oct. 2, 2023

Besties go from vet med staffers to students

Bonding over animals and aspirations, 2 UCalgary alumni follow same career path
Chrissy Hansen and Blaire Hutton at White Coat Ceremony, 2023
Chrissy Hansen and Blaire Hutton at White Coat Ceremony, 2023 Matthew Honeychurch

Humans are naturally herd creatures. We like to follow our pack, follow established norms and go with the flow. Well…not everyone.

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) students Blaire Hutton and Chrissy Hansen aren’t following that typical path. After completing their undergrads and joining the Animal Husbandry staff at UCalgary’s Spy Hill campus, they have exchanged their paycheques for lab coats, stethoscopes, and probably some coveralls and muck boots!

It seems that fate has conspired to bring these two together. Both were born and raised in Calgary, completed their Bachelor of Biological Sciences at UCalgary and volunteered with animal rescues and clinics. Both entered the DVM class of 2027 this fall. So close and yet so far. It’s hard to believe that they never met until working together at the Spy Hill campus.

Chrissy Hansen

Chrissy Hansen

Chrissy Hansen

New student Chrissy Hansen, BA'22, BSc'22, DVM class of 2027, on returning to school: “My passion has always been veterinary medicine and I have always had a connection to wanting to do production animal health. Working at UCalgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM) allowed me to experience the research side associated with large animals as well as a large variety of species and fostered an amazing learning environment that really deepened my passion.”

Her counterpart, Blaire Hutton, BSc'22, DVM class of 2027, echoes that sentiment: “I’ve always been passionate about becoming a vet. My role at UCVM was amazing for solidifying my aspirations and inspiring me to pursue the DVM program.”

As future vets, they need to prepare themselves for the ubiquitous “How did you do it?” question that dogs every vet into eternity.

The answer tends to follow a similar path.

“I’ve always been around animals. When I was old enough, I started volunteering at equine clinics, just to get some experience. I then expanded into several local animal rescues like Calgary Wildlife Rehab (which is conveniently the next-door neighbour of the Spy Hill campus) and the Canadian Animal Task Force,” says Hansen.

Blaire Hutton at Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (AARCS)

Blaire Hutton at Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society.

Zoe Hutton

As fate would have it, Hutton was doing the same thing. “I worked in animal clinics and volunteered at Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society. There’s a joke in vet med that we tend to be high achievers, always focused on work — that’s definitely accurate for the two of us!”

After seeing the “behind the scenes” for so long, “it’s honestly kind of strange walking the halls and seeing everything through a different lens,” says Hansen.

Hutton says it’s hard not engaging more with her former coworkers. “I really miss seeing our coworkers every day. We visit often, but not being in the same role with the same people has been an adjustment.”

“It has definitely been bittersweet because we had such an amazing team that felt like family. It was such an amazing place to work, getting the inside scoop on cutting-edge research and advancements in animal health. Working at Spy Hill I was fortunate for great mentors who have a wealth of knowledge. It was amazing to work with such talented people every day,” says Hansen.

So, what’s next for these two?

Once Hansen graduates in 2027, she plans to work with large animals with the goal of working in production animal health. “I want to serve our rural Alberta communities and advocate for our industry and its sustainability.”

Hutton is open to any possibilities the program may present. “My interest right now is in mixed-animal practice or wildlife/conservation, but veterinary medicine is so diverse, I’m not yet certain which area I’ll pursue after graduation.”

While there are no regrets to their decision, they do acknowledge the challenges that come with being a student. Without a beat, they both say, “We miss having our evenings and weekends free. And it’d be nice to get to the end of our task list!”

Hansen’s words of advice to those thinking of pursuing further education: “Never give up on your dreams. Everything happens for a reason and the path you find yourself on may give you even more than you could ever imagine. I know the relationships with my fellow classmates will be relationships I will maintain for the rest of my life.”

Hutton couldn’t agree more, “Although it’s a very big decision, it is so exciting and fulfilling.”

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