New vet, new town, new lessons

Dr. Julia Nguyen is presented the 2018 Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week award by Bill Herron. The award recognizes the recipient’s past accomplishments and encourages future contributions to rural communities in Grey Bruce.

Julia Nguyen is a first generation Canadian who grew up in the suburban General Motors city of Oshawa.

Her parents, refugees from Vietnam, originally landed in the United States but eventually emigrated to Canada where they raised Nguyen and her two older siblings.

Nguyen had a love for animals and science from a young age so when her parents encouraged her to go into medicine, becoming a veterinarian was the perfect fit.

“My family always had a dog growing up but my main experiences with animals began when I did a co-op placement in high school at a small animal clinic,” said Dr. Julia Nguyen.

More local volunteer work with animals followed, as did attending the University of Guelph. Nguyen studied wildlife biology as an undergraduate at the university and received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the Ontario Veterinary College.

It was a job on a farm in Walpole, New Hampshire, however, that ignited Nguyen’s passion for agriculture. She rode alongside a local dairy veterinarian for four months while working on the farm, which raised pigs, cows, sheep, turkeys and chickens. The experience would come in handy post-graduation when Nguyen accepted a job at Miller Veterinary Service in Chatsworth. She and her partner Mark relocated to Owen Sound as part of the career move and have spent the past four months settling in to their new town.

Gaining a new large animal veterinarian in an area so rich in farming is a major win! The number of veterinarians specializing in large animal production isn’t what it once used to be.

“I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to serve clients that depend on their animals for their livelihood,” Nguyen said when asked why she chose the specialty.

It also allowed her to incorporate individual and herd medicine and presented a chance to build great relationships.

Nguyen said she’s enjoying meeting new clients and getting to know their stories. How they became farmers, why the manage the farm the way they do, their opinions on certain topics- it’s all interesting to her.

No job is without its challenges, though, especially for a young Asian woman working in a sector that’s predominantly made up of white folks.

For the most part, Nguyen said the reception has been welcoming but there have been some blunt questions like ‘are you from here?’ or ‘do you speak Chinese?’ Even though the new vet says it’s often coming from a place of curiosity, she doesn’t hesitate to tell her story.

“I usually take over the conversation for a good two minutes explaining when and how my parents became refugees from Vietnam in the U.S. and then emigrated to Canada,” Nguyen said.

Dealing with consumers’ misunderstandings of modern agriculture is another subject Nguyen has found herself speaking up on.

“I want to be unbiased and also appropriately informed about all aspects of agriculture,” she said. “But I struggle with frustration and defensiveness when I am confronted with some of these misconceptions.”

It’s a feeling many people working in the Ontario agriculture sector can relate to including members of the Ag Women’s Network. It’s not uncommon for this topic to come up in an online conversation or at a group meeting. Questions are often posed by members on how to handle today’s changing consumer perceptions.

Nguyen is a new member of the AWN, which seems to be in line with the rest of her life right now.

She said she took interest in the association to become connected with, read about, and reach out to other women in ag.

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