From Textbooks to Triage: A DVM’s International Journey Into Practice

For DVMs with dreams of practicing veterinary medicine in Canada, the journey to a new country can seem daunting. But at VetCare, we’re here to ease your worries and turn those dreams into reality. Our mission? To guide aspiring veterinarians like you every step of the way, from navigating the intricacies of visa applications to acing the recertification process.

However, this process is about more than just paperwork and permits. It’s about the personal stories, the journeys that bring us here, and the reasons why we choose to stay. Just ask Dr. Muhammad Shahzad, whose decision to join VetCare wasn’t just about career advancement — it was about community, growth, and making a real difference in animal lives.

From navigating certification challenges to enduring the trials of the COVID-19 pandemic, his story embodies the compassion, devotion and determination that define the incredible veterinary professionals within the VetCare network. Keep reading for his point of view!

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My experience with VetCare has been nothing short of excellent. When I needed more mentorship, I felt that the whole team came together to figure things out and provide me with the best hands-on experiences. I’m eternally grateful for that support I got from management and the community of practices.

Dr. Muhammad Shahzad

DVM, Belmont Veterinary Services

dr shahzad holding two cats

A graduate from the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences in Lahore, Pakistan, Dr. Shahzad’s career took him on many adventures, from wildlife conservation in Abu Dhabi to private practice in Pakistan. However, he dreamt of practicing veterinary medicine in Canada. The catch? Dr. Shahzad had to pass multiple challenging recertification exams to obtain his Canadian license.

“I prepared for my first exam, the BCSE, and I successfully completed it in 2021 before coming to Canada. Then, I prepared for the next major exam, and I completed it in 2022. After that, I had to complete the NAVLE exam to get a restricted license to practice in Canada,” he recounted. It was a long process, but a rewarding one, especially once Dr. Shahzad had VetCare’s support.

“I had offers from private practices in Mississauga,” he explained. “I also got some response from veterinary corporations… but then I talked to Brian [Dawson, Manager of Talent Strategy at Vetcare].” It was a very casual and friendly conversation, and he told me about VetCare in a very honest way. So, it left a good impression on me.”

 “He told me about this growing company. I knew I could grow up with the company and feel like a part of it. That conversation changed my mind from practicing in a private clinic to going with the organization. So I decided to go with VetCare, and I really think that was my best decision at that time.”

Though Dr. Shahzad had finally made it to Canada, he still needed to complete exams and bank hundreds of hours of hands-on experience. Luckily, the nurturing community environment at VetCare provided that vital learning time.

“I started at Beaver Creek Animal Hospital. It was a really good experience there. I was lucky because this was a busy clinic, so it gave me the option to see a lot of cases. My supervisor, Dr. Raj, motivated me well,” he shared.

“But when I moved to Belmont Veterinary Services, Dr. Tracy’s supervision really gave me a good opportunity to perform surgeries and work with anaesthesia. My Practice Manager and the RVTs were amazing; they arranged opportunities for me, like surgeries through the Humane Society,” said Dr. Shahzad. “Dr. Tracy and Cheryl [Hart, Regional Manager at VetCare] also went out of their way to arrange things with a large animal clinic and gave me the opportunity to practice.”

“When I really needed more hands-on experience or mentorship, I discussed it with my team members, my managers at VetCare. I felt that the whole management team came together to figure things out, to connect me to other clinics. I don’t think that I would have gotten that if I had worked in private practice. Even some of my colleagues that are working in other veterinary companies, they are not getting this kind of support in Canada.”

Despite challenges with COVID, VetCare’s community offered the vital stepping stones Dr. Shahzad needed in a short amount of time. “After joining VetCare in 2022, after just a few months, I completed my hard exam, which is called the surgical assessment. I was initially not able to get a date for the CPE because of the COVID backlog, but I finally completed it in December 2023 and got the result in January 2024,” he shared. “I am eternally grateful for the experience and support I got from VetCare. That was really helpful for me, and I think it also helped me to pass my CPE in one shot.”

Now a fully certified DVM at Belmont, Dr. Shahzad is still committed to learning and bettering himself. “I am really satisfied but I am always studying about my cases, the patients, and their histories because I I have to provide the best quality of care to my clients.”

As a new grad, he is constantly challenged by unique veterinary cases, so he continues to rely on the VetCare team for greater exposure. “I’m thankful Cheryl had me spend a few days on emergency critical care. It’s really good to have an opportunity to go to other practices and explore more and more,” says Dr. Shahzad.

“I would recommend that all foreign vets take their exams, get their restricted license and then start practicing with support from other colleagues or veterinarians like I did.”

Dr. Shahzad’s story epitomizes the essence of Vetcare — an organization where passion meets purpose, and high-quality veterinary care and empathetic management teams combine. As he continues to tread the path of veterinary excellence, his story serves as an inspiration to all those who believe in the transformative power of customized care.

“When you are happy with your work, and you have done something that is best for your patient, you get a lot of comfort and happiness. When clients are sharing their stories with me, and they are appreciating the quality of care that we provide them, I feel eternal satisfaction.”

Dr. Muhammad Shahzad

DVM, Belmont Veterinary Services

Dr. Muhammad Shahzad graduated from the University of Veterinary & Animal Sciences in Pakistan in 2012, then pursued a Master’s in Theriogenology. After working in wildlife conservation with exotics like cheetahs in Abu Dhabi, he spent 4 years in private practice before moving to Canada.

He has a special interest in senior health, orthopaedic surgery, infectious diseases, and emergency medicine. Outside of work, he enjoys spending time with his family and pursuing extreme sports like skydiving and jet skiing.

Thinking of practicing medicine in Canada? Check out our website for more information on the relocation support services we provide to help you transition smoothly.
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