June 25, 2020

Class of 2020: Bluffton-bound Vet Med grad pulls up stakes and heads to an Alberta hamlet

City-raised Justine Maybee is excited about living the life of a rural veterinarian

Only a few weeks before Dr. Justine Maybee was due to complete four intensive years of veterinary medicine studies, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down her last practicum rotation. Finishing her degree in a pandemic was, in a word, “anticlimactic.”

“We were in the middle of a rotation, and we got an email saying, ‘Stay home.’ And then one saying, ‘Your rotations are done,’” says Maybee, a newly minted veterinarian from the Class of 2020 at the University of Calgary's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM).

“It was pretty strange having those six weeks cut short. I think everyone was disappointed. We were all looking forward to seeing each other one last time, and walking across the stage together to graduate. And none of that happened.”

Lots of variety in a rural mixed veterinary practice

Although the end of school might have been a letdown, Maybee is thrilled about what lies ahead: practising mixed animal medicine in the tiny hamlet of Bluffton, Alta., about 97 kilometres northwest of Red Deer. At Bluffton Veterinary Services, she’ll be treating creatures great and small, working both in the clinic and on the farm.

“Bluffton is 60 per cent large animal and 40 per cent small animal. They have a lot of equine and cattle clients, but they also have a lot of goat and sheep clients in the area. And a bit of alternative livestock, like elk and bison as well,” Maybee explains. “That was one of the draws for me, the fact there are so many different species that I get to work on.”

Another draw for the Calgary-raised Maybee is the lifestyle a small rural community offers.

Growing up, I loved horses and cattle even though I didn't get to see them that often. And I've always been a huge outdoors fan, so I think that's part of the attraction for me, being near lakes and hiking. I think I enjoy the rural life more than the busy hustle and bustle of the city.

Another big plus for Maybee is that her partner, who’s with the RCMP, was able to transfer to a detachment in the town of Rimbey, “and it's just 10 minutes down the road, so it worked out perfect!”

Leaving UCVM, but not really leaving

Although Maybee is leaving the big city and UCVM behind, she hopes to stay connected with both her classmates and her teachers.

“Our class was really tight knit, and you got to know everyone really well. And we had so many amazing professors, going above and beyond to make the learning fun or make concepts stick. I remember one day Dr. (Bruce) Stover came in with a model of a steer that he had put together in order to show us how to perform a perineal uretheostomy. And Dr. Serge (Chalhoub) and Dr. Soren (Boysen) were always great at coming up with wacky and weird ways to make the material stick and help you remember it.”

Those close ties will be helpful going forward. “All of our professors have given us their emails or personal phone numbers to call or text anytime with questions or cases. They're more than willing to help consult and help you through.”

Maybee is heading off to a new life as a rural veterinarian with three city cats and a dog in tow. But setting up a home in the agricultural heartland of Alberta, will she be adding some livestock to the menagerie?

"Not yet, but hopefully a Jersey cow in the future,” she says, laughing.