Dr. Leighton Coma, DVM. (Photo submitted)

Dr. Leighton Coma, DVM. (Photo submitted)

Ponoka’s Central Veterinary Clinic recognized for excellence in leadership, mentorship

CVC has locations in Ponoka and Bashaw

Central Veterinary Clinic (CVC) of Ponoka and Bashaw has been recognized with two awards from the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (ABVMA). The clinic was named the ABVMA outstanding Mentor-Practice award and co-owner Dr. Leighton Coma was named the 2020 ABVMA Outstanding Veterinarian of the Year.

Dr. Coma was selected for his “leadership championing and campaigning for rural veterinary medicine in Alberta,” said Dr. Kelly Loree, in the submission to ABVMA.

“Dr. Coma’s personality and skills are valued greatly in practice, and he has significantly contributed to the betterment of the veterinary profession in Alberta.”

Coma was raised on a horse, bison and cattle ranch near Thorchild, Alta., benefiting from the positive influence of lcaol veterinarians in the community who inspired him to pursue veterinary medicine.

He attended the University of Lethbridge. While there, he established the first U of L pre-vet club and completed his bachelor of science in biology.

He then transferred to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon, Sask., graduating in 2009.

In 2012, he completed the Summer Dairy Institute training at Cornell University in New York.

After completing his education, he returned to rural Alberta to raise his family, joining the partnership at CVC.

Loree says Coma has “quietly but enormously” impacted the dairy industry in western Canada.

Coma started a booth at the Western Canadian Dairy Seminar in 2017 to allow special interest groups to talk directly to a frontline veterinarian.

“It was the first and only veterinary booth ever of its kind at this conference and it had been immediately utilized by everyone,” said Coma in an email interview.

“I connected with dairy lobbyists, politicians, provincial and federal government research groups, private companies in robotics, nutrition, foot trimming, pharmaceuticals, finance organization and various universities and colleges.”

He engaged more reserved farmers by offering a prize if they asked him a question.

“Now I have fielded thousands of dairy questions from dairy men and women across western Canada.”

Questions ranged from organic to conventional to religious-influenced.

“In this capacity, I served the veterinary profession scientifically, socially, and politically.”

Coma has also assisted the Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC), the SPCA (for both large and small animals) and the RCMP.

With AFAC, Coma started as one of 10 veterinarians in the province working as an ‘on-call veterinarian.’

“This group would receive complaints concerning animal welfare and then they would assign me to go and try to improve the animal situation by working with the farmer and getting change through compliance rather than prosecution.”

With the SPCA, he would be called to animal welfare cases or provide forensic evidence or testify in court as an expert witness.

He assists the RCMP when dangerous animals are on the loose and tranquilizing is needed.

He has also been a speaker for various organizations such as the Dairy Research and Extension Consortium of Alberta (DRECA).

Coma and the clinic are credited with re-establishing veterinary services to rural areas because they took over the Bashaw vet clinic when Dr. Henry Srubka retired.

“We felt that too many rural clinics in the province are closing doors so we put doctors and technicians back into the old Bashaw clinic,” said Coma.

CVC is not only staffing the clinic in Bashaw, but has added x-rays machines, lab equipment and dental tools.

The partners, Coma, Loree and Dr. Trevor Hook, now operate one of the largest mixed animal practices in the province and has successfully attracted many young veterinarians to practice rurally.

Coma has mentored as many as 80 veterinary students, 30 vet technician students and five vet technician assistants to practice rurally.

CVC was founded in 1988 and how has 11 veterinarians and 20 support staff providing a wide range of small animal, bovine and equine services.

CVC was an original member of the University of Calgary’s Distributed Veterinary Learning Community (DVLC) and received the University of Calgary’s Boehringer Ingelheim Award of Excellence in Clinical Teaching in 2017.

“For more than thirty years, the Central Veterinary Clinic in Ponoka has opened its doors to students from across Canada to provide excellent, on-going mentorship to young veterinary professionals,” said a statement from the partners.

Students are integrated into a tight-knit group of young practitioners and technicians from diverse backgrounds and areas of interest, working together to provide excellent patient care.

“The Central Veterinary Clinic is a positive, up-beat, rural clinic. We strive to help build students confidence in stressful and difficult situations and inspire them to keep working hard and challenging themselves to be better.”

Students are paired with seasoned veterinarians and technicians, both in the clinic and on the farm, that help them set achievable goals and skills or concepts to focus on that day.

“For us, mentoring means paying it forward: we use our hard-earned knowledge and experience to teach and give opportunities to multiple students from different schools,” the said.

“At the Central Veterinary Clinic, we use our passion, experience, and professionalism to train our future colleagues.

“Receiving the ABVMA Outstanding Mentor Practice Award recognizes the long history of mentorship that this clinic has given to many veterinary professionals over the years and celebrates the excellence we strive to achieve every day.”