Veterinarian’s gift supports profession’s future
When Dr. James (Jim) Mailer of Stettler, Alta., passed away on July 20, 2011, he left a generous gift of $200,000 to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM). The legacy was his way of giving back to the institution that had laid the foundation for his successful and rewarding career as a veterinarian.
Jim’s gift will support the WCVM’s Research Trust Fund that provides research funding and scholarships for graduate and undergraduate students. Another portion will go toward the veterinary college’s Student Equipment and Teaching Fund.
As well, a new bursary — the James Peter Mailer Student Bursary Fund — has been created to support veterinary students who wish to enter mixed animal or large animal practice.
“It was important for him to give back to the college for all that he was given as a result of his education,” explains his daughter Brenda Mailer. “And he wanted to contribute to those areas that will help to keep building the veterinary profession.”
Brenda describes her father as a man who lived his life well – a dedicated veterinarian who made a difference to his profession and to his community, but most importantly to his family.
After graduating from the WCVM in 1977, Jim and his wife Joyce moved to Stettler where he began his career at the Stettler Veterinary Clinic. He became a partner in the busy mixed practice in 1979.
“With Mom’s help he dedicated himself to the practice,” Brenda recalls. “He never turned down a call, no matter what time of day or night or how much sleep he had. I remember that he’d look so tired, especially during those heavy calving seasons, but he always just kept going. It was so important for him to provide good customer service.”
In addition to being detail-oriented and particular in his work, Jim enjoyed coming up with a creative diagnosis or treatment or finding more efficient ways of doing things. At one point, he redesigned the clinic and rearranged the chutes to provide easier access for clients and staff.
The people with whom he worked were important to Jim who worked hard to keep employees and clients happy and aspired to be fair and willing to compromise.
He was also very proud of his profession and looked forward to mentoring and working with the veterinary students, either as summer students or as new graduates.
“Many of the students who worked with dad have told us how appreciative they were of his dedication to their learning experience,” says Brenda. “They tell us that he was a fantastic teacher who would help them to self-discover the answers rather than just tell them what to do.”
Being well-versed in large animal medicine, Jim liked to explore new methods for preventing and treating bovine diseases. He was also active in the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association and served as president in 1994.
Jim was particularly proud of the key role he played in developing and expanding the Western Drug Distribution Centre (WDDC). He also carried out much of the initial software development for WDDC’s Cattle Vantage – a herd health software package.
In 2010 Jim was honoured with the Boehringer Ingelheim Western Canadian Association of Bovine Practitioners Veterinarian of the Year Award – an acknowledgment of his lifelong dedication to the veterinary profession.
Jim also gave back to his community by volunteering and contributing to several local clubs including 4-H, the Rotary Club of Stettler and the Heartland Youth Centre.
“Everybody knew him,” recalls Brenda. “He really created relationships with the people in the community, and particularly with the farmers. When he got sick, there were people who would just come to the house to say Hi and see how he was doing. It goes to show you that you really need to try and create those relationships – they can bring so much into your life.”
Undoubtedly one of Jim’s greatest accomplishments is the relationship that he developed with his daughters, Brenda and Sheree.
Brenda recalls that when they were younger, he’d bring them down to the clinic or take them out on calls whenever he had an interesting case or something that he wanted them to see.
“Sheree was way better than I was. I was always hiding behind something, trying to peek but scared of the animals. It was really cool for us to experience that – seeing the animals and seeing our dad at work.”
Sheree went on to work with her dad as a receptionist for about 11 years, and she has great memories of those years at the clinic. After her son Troy was born, Sheree returned to work and brought him in with her.
Jim also worked with Dr. Sandra Lee (WCVM ’94) who joined the practice right after her graduation from the WCVM and stayed for five years. Jim and Sandra were married in 2008.
Jim’s strong work ethic, his belief in lifelong learning and his dedication to his career have motivated his daughters to “give everything your all and don’t do anything half way.
“He taught Sheree and me to keep growing as people. To grow by constantly trying to learn more, by contributing to the community and by finding ways to enjoy life,” says Brenda.
In addition to his values, they remember their father’s personal qualities – his sense of humour, his flair for calligraphy and photography and his keen interest in politics and world affairs.
But most importantly, they remember him as a man who enjoyed life and loved being a veterinarian.
“To this day, anyone who knew our dad tells us what a wonderful veterinarian he was,” says Brenda. “He was a kind, generous person, and his values and wisdom will stay with us forever.”