By Dale Cory
It’s a Monday morning, and Dr. Bill Frischke of the Central Veterinary Clinic in Ponoka finds himself prodding the body of Cali the cat.
Cali’s owner, Jason Carson of Ponoka, is distraught because Cali hasn’t consumed any food for a few days after undergoing laser surgery to be de-clawed at another clinic.
Dr. Bill takes Cali’s temperature, and pokes around a bit before deciding to take some blood work to help in diagnosing the problem.
Carson wraps Cali in a blanket and heads for home, anxiously anticipating the phone call he hopes will provide answers — positive answers with regard to Cali’s future.
Many people in today’s society work toward personal goals, with their own well-being first and foremost.
Many others, the ones with some substance to their being, dedicate themselves to others — be it humans, or in this case, animals.
It only took a few minutes of watching Dr. Frischke at work to determine that he is in the latter category.
Frischke recently received the 2010 Alumni Mentorship Award from the University of Saskatchewan Alumni Association. The award is presented in recognition of an individual who has made a significant and on-going contribution to the personal, professional or educational development of others.
“It means a lot. I’m kind of a modest person. As for the actual recognition and award — it’s kind of a secondary thing,” said Frischke after sending Cali and her owner on their way. “The most-important part is that people thought that way to nominate me.”
The award may be secondary for Dr. Frischke — but not for the many veterinarians who have learned under Dr. Frischke over the years.
“I feel especially fortunate to have spent my first years in practice at Central Veterinary Clinic, working with Dr. Frischke, and feel that he is especially deserving of this award,” says Dr. Zoe Wagenaar, who insists she benefited greatly from Dr. Bill’s warmly encouraging tutelage.
“The first years of practice are very challenging for most new graduates. There is a gap between what is learned in school and what is required in practice. New graduates rely heavily on mentorship from the veterinarians they work with to help bridge this gap. I always felt that Dr. Frischke wanted me to be successful and this was reflected is his actions.
“In practice, busy schedules, fatigue, and fragile egos often get in the way of someone’s ability to be a good mentor. The impact of positive mentorship for new graduates is career defining, especially in mixed/large animal medicine.”
It’s really no surprise Dr. Frischke got into veterinary medicine. It was in his blood from an early age. Born and raised on a farm near Strasbourg, Sask., after high school, he took a radiology technician course at Regina General Hospital. After working at Foothills Hospital in Calgary, he enrolled in a pre-veterinary program at the University of Calgary, and in 1972, he was accepted to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the U of S. After graduating in 1976, Dr. Frischke joined a mixed veterinary practice in Ponoka. Shortly after, he started his own veterinary practice, Central Veterinary Clinic, where he continues to practice full time.
“I can very easily remember when I was a new grad. You come into a vet practice, and they tell you, ‘You spent six years going to school, and you just learned the basics. No you’re going to go out and really learn.’ It’s kind of true. You’re hopefully going to move where someone will help you out. I didn’t have that the first place I went,” recalls Dr. Frischke, who knew then he would be different once the shoe was on the other foot.
“I’m a believer that if I learn something — I can benefit by teaching somebody. That’s the way I want to be. That’s the way I am. A lot of the veterinarians we’ve hired here over the years have been new grads. I always say to them, ‘No question’s a stupid question. And it goes both ways. I’m the older vet with experience and they’re the new vet coming in. But, I learn a lot from them, too. It’s a two-way street.”
Over the last 30 years, Dr. Frischke has mentored many newly graduated veterinarians, including Dr. Wagenaar, who worked at Central Veterinary Clinic from 2003-2009, and now practices in British Columbia, along with Dr. Maureen Blessing, Dr. Shelan Lehane, Dr. Richard Beekman, Dr. Nancy Pouteau, Dr. Leighton Coma and Dr. Shari Muller.
“Dr. Bill answered questions in a way that left me feeling respected and empowered. He willingly responded to my requests for help at all hours of the night and showed up with a smile on his face, which had a way of making a bad situation better,” adds Wagenaar, who now has a clinic in Kimberley, B C. “He shared stories of his experiences with me, which were not only entertaining, but the knowledge contained in the stories were often just what I needed in situations that I encountered. And mostly, he believed in my ability to learn something, and took the time to teach me everything that he knew. His belief in my abilities gave me the confidence to continue to grow into a competent veterinarian.”
What’s kept Dr. Bill in a mixed veterinary practice?
Well, first and foremost, he admits he enjoys the work tremendously. Unlike other jobs that can become mundane after a few years, Dr. Frischke insists he likes his work more now than he ever has.
“The best part? You’re dealing with a sick animal — and sometimes they can be very sick. You fix them up, they heal up, and they’re better,” says Frischke. “It’s that part that is probably the highlight of it all. You learn from these animals that they sense more than what we give them credit for. I keep thinking — if a dog could look at you and tell you exactly what they think, like I am to you now — you would faint.”
And with that, Dr. Bill is off to another room, to another animal, to assess yet another problem.
Practicing veterinary medicine is Bill Frischke’s cake. The icing is winning an alumni mentorship award.
And you need something with substance before you get to enjoy the sweet things in life.