Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

June 03, 2004

Communications in veterinary medicine focus of international conference

The University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College, the oldest veterinary college in North America, is co-hosting the world’s first international conference on communication in veterinary medicine June 13 to 16 at White Oaks Conference Resort & Spa in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

“Client communication is well-studied in human medicine, but it’s not studied well in veterinary medicine,” said Ontario Veterinary College graduate Jane Shaw, one of the conference organizers. “There are lots of anecdotal reports and much expert opinion from people in the field that point to the importance of communication.”

The conference is expected to attract about 150 practitioners, teachers, researchers and technicians from Canada and abroad to discuss clinical communication skills, relationship-centred practice, dealing with difficult situations from patient death to finances, teaching programs and communications research.

The trend toward developing communication skills is getting more attention in veterinary practices and is reflected in the compulsory communications component of U of G’s new four-year doctor of veterinary medicine curriculum, said population medicine professor Cindy Adams, conference co-organizer.

“About 60 per cent of human medical schools have a core emphasis on communication,” said Adams. “Students have to demonstrate some level of competence in communication as part of their national board exams. Veterinary medicine may follow in the footsteps of human medicine and include communication competence in board exams.”

Adams, who was trained initially as a social worker, has studied the human-animal bond and clinical communication skills, including studies pairing autistic children with dogs and exploring how people grieve after the death of a pet. She will co-present “Performance-Based Learning: Building the Foundation of Clinical Communication Skills in the Learning Labs for Veterinary Students.”

Shaw said that the training she received in communication skills at U of G was invaluable and was the starting point for her PhD research. In a study of veterinary practices in southwestern Ontario, she found that vets focus on bettering their communication skills to boost client satisfaction and adherence, improve pet health, increase veterinarian satisfaction and reduce malpractice complaints. She will share her results at the conference.

Keynote speakers at the conference are U of G clinical studies professor John Tait, who will discuss “Communications in the Practice Setting,” Suzanne Kurtz of the faculties of education and medicine at the University of Calgary, who will examine “Communication in Teaching,” and Debra Roter of Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, who will address “Communication in Research.”

Conference organizers are OVC and Bayer Animal Health. The event is sponsored by Bayer and Medi-Cal and organized in association with Bioniche Animal Health, the Veterinary Defense Society, Western University of Health Sciences, the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education and the Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians.

For more information or to register for the conference, visit

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.

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