The Alberta Veterinary Medical Association  has recently given top honours to a local veterinarian.
Uncas Veterinary Clinic  veterinarian Dr. Leslie-Anne Smith was the recipient of the young veterinarian of the year award.
While she is originally from Saskatchewan, Smith grew up in Ardrossan and is currently living in Sherwood Park, after having graduated from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine  in Saskatoon in 2008.
Immediately after graduating, she joined the Uncas clinic and has been working there ever since.
“I like the challenging aspect of trying to balance out what I can do for the animal and how I best can help the animal’s healthcare,” Smith said.
She noted the challenging part is how animals do not have the same healthcare that people like Canadian residents do.
“(Animals’) healthcare is much like the States where you have to pay for every diagnostic, every exam, where with the Alberta healthcare system, we can go to a doctor if we’re sick,” Smith explained.
“Trying to help people spend their money in the best way possible is actually an aspect of veterinary medicine that I didn’t actually realize I would enjoy. It makes it challenging, and the challenge is nice.”
When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up when she was young, Smith said she was like many other little girls her age who wanted to be a vet.
“I was lucky enough to start shadowing Dr. Robert Jones — who owns the Uncas Vet Clinic here — when I was a teenager, so I got to see quite a wide range of veterinary medicine and be really involved in it at a young age,” she said.
“I got to understand that it’s not all just hugging puppies and kittens all day. There are some sad aspects to it, and there’s some very stressful aspects to it, but I think all that kind of background helped just prepare me. When I did apply for veterinary school, it was because that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
Smith not only works at the clinic, but also volunteers with the Alberta Society for Injured Birds of Prey , the Alberta Spay Neuter Task Force  and mentors Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine  students, who do rotations in the clinic every year.
Her normal working hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., although the clinic does emergency calls after the clinic is officially closed.
“Our clients are wonderful, and they are probably one of the main reasons why I love doing what I’m doing,” Smith said.
“I wanted to be a vet because I liked animals, but I never actually thought I would like people as much as I do, because they’re just wonderful and they just want the best for their animals. Seeing everybody’s own bond with their animal... it just makes my job rewarding.”
She said she also enjoys seeing the progress of animals throughout their lives, from when they are a puppy to an “old man” dog or kittens to “old lady” cats.
“The toughest part is when I have to help people make that final decision for their animal for euthanasia — it’s just very stressful for people,” Smith admitted.
“It’s a nice opportunity, at the same time, that we can let animals die with some dignity, be surrounded by the people that love them and that they don’t have to suffer.”
Besides working with the animals and clients, Smith said she especially enjoys having the students come.
“Sometimes it’s just like any job — you wake up, you go to work, you go to bed, but when the students come, they kind of bring this breath of fresh air,” she said.
“They’re also eager, they’re young and they’re keen, and it re-confirms why I went into this profession.”
Uncas Veterinary Clinic has approximately 10,000 patients.
“My favourite animal are the kitties — kitties are pretty close to my heart,” Smith said.
“It seems like dogs get a little bit more attention when it comes to veterinary care, but that’s really starting to change now with our society, which is lovely. Cats are getting to come to the vet clinic more, they’re getting their health checks more, so we’re starting to find diseases faster and sooner and able to treat them better.”
However, she said that snakes are her least favourite animal.
“My staff know that I’m not the best person to have to do a snake. I think it’s the not blinking thing. Otherwise, if it walks in the door, we see it here,” Smith said.
As Dr. Jones used to work for the Edmonton Valley Zoo , Smith said she has had the opportunity to be up close and personal with alpacas, monkeys, otters, big horned sheep, elephants and tigers.
Now, while she does not work with animals quite as exotic, Smith said she enjoys going to conferences, which licensed vets are required to do to further their education and learn about new technology.
“Being in the medical field, everything is constantly evolving. We pretty much have the same resources that most of the human world has,” she noted.
“It’s nice that we have the capability to go farther with our diagnostics and try and find things, at the same time though, we still try and use our intellect and our brain in the way we were taught to try and figure things out.”
With all the aspects of the job, Smith said being a vet can be taxing.
“Everybody comes in worried, and you want to do the very best you can, and sometimes you can’t figure out what’s going on — you just can’t know sometimes, unfortunately... and then with euthanasia sometimes it can just be very draining, especially when it seems like you’re doing a lot of euthanasias in a week. You kind of get tired, you get a little sad, but that’s what friends and family are for,” she said.
However, she has no plans on quitting anytime soon.
“My hope is to keep doing this job for as long as I can because I enjoy it so much,” Smith said.
“I hope my health and my body and everything will allow me to keep serving the public and keep serving my clients to the best of my abilities.”