Sept. 3, 2021
UCalgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine welcomes a new dean
So far this week, Dr. Renate Weller, DVM, PhD, has moved into her new office at the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, greeted first-year students at the Foothills campus, met with other students at Spy Hill and has started to introduce herself to faculty and staff. The new dean at UCVM officially began her job Sept. 1, but she and her family have been hard at work since arriving from London, England in mid-August.
“We enrolled our younger children in middle and high school respectively and our older one's at U of C. We managed to buy a car. Now we are house hunting. I would like to find some acreage where I can keep my donkey and his pony friends,” says Weller, who has moved to Calgary with her husband, Dr. Thilo Pfau, PhD, four children, a donkey, a horse, a pony and two dogs. Before the move, Weller was director of Veterinary Education at CVS Group plc, one of the UK’s largest integrated veterinary services providers. Prior to that position, she was a professor and associate dean at the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London.
Weller and her family are settling in well. “We’ve yet to meet an unfriendly Canadian,” she says. Pfau has started as professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology. Their two older children are also raring to go at UCalgary — Clara is studying economics and psychology and Lucie is studying modern languages. Their teenage son, Tom, is looking forward to learning to skate and playing ice hockey and the youngest, Josepha, is looking forward to junior high.
At 15, UCVM is also “in its teenage years,” says Weller, which is an ideal time to consider the future and how the faculty can maintain long-term success. In the coming weeks and months, she’ll consult with faculty, students, and staff to get everyone’s input.
“I can't come in and say, ‘This is what needs doing.’ This is a team effort. So, we are going to work together. We are going to keep the things that work well, and we're going to work out the challenges and what needs doing to meet them. We will look at opportunities, where we can improve and where we can do things a little bit better,” she says.
Veterinary profession well placed to help solve global issues
UCVM, with its outstanding faculty, innovative teaching methods, and collaborative university framework, is well positioned to tackle the immense social, environmental, and economic challenges related to animal health.
“I'm a bit of a veterinary snob. I think we are the profession that's best placed to help in solving some of the big, global issues like antibiotic resistance, food production and climate change because animals contribute to that. We have a role to play in all sorts of sustainability matters: social sustainability, we help people with their pets, economic sustainability: especially in Alberta with the big agribusinesses and we have a role to play in environmental sustainability," she says
Another ongoing issue Weller plans to help address is Alberta’s shortage of veterinarians. “We need to look into how we can help solve that. It's obviously not the solution to say ‘Well, we just accept more students.’ That's not how it's done. The faculty is at capacity and provincial government funding comes into play. So, we need to do it in a way that works for everyone,” she says.
Excited about working with students
Weller brings many years of experience as researcher, educator, and equine clinician to her role as dean at UCVM. While at the Royal Veterinary College, she won numerous teaching awards and in 2017 she was appointed National Teaching Fellow to the UK’s Higher Education Academy. Weller is board certified by American and European specialist colleges and her clinical excellence has been recognized internationally with multiple awards including admission to the Hall of Fame for Equine Veterinarians in the US.
Awards and accolades aside, Weller loves working with students. “This is why we do this job. I mean, seeing all those young faces embarking on this journey. That is what makes it worthwhile,” she says. And she’s thrilled to start meeting students and officially get to work at UCVM, a decision she thought about long and hard.
“You don't move a family of six plus four-legged family members on a whim. They see it as a big adventure. They’re super excited and so am I,” she says
Collene Ferguson, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, contributed to this article.