Veterinary medicine a family passion

Dr. Elly Holowaychuk (WCVM ’76). Photo: Myrna MacDonald.

“Veterinary medicine is a passion for me: my work makes my life whole and gives me purpose,” says Dr. Eiltie (Elly) Holowaychuk. “I like nothing better than making a client’s day – having that miracle that we’re always looking for actually happen.”

That passion along with a firm belief in hard work has been the driving force behind the career of Holowaychuk who has owned and operated Mills Haven Veterinary Clinic in Sherwood Park, Alta., since 1977.

Born in Holland, Holowaychuk emigrated to Canada with her parents, arriving with little else but the dream of owning a dairy farm. After many years of hard work, they were able to buy a dairy operation near Medicine Hat, Alta.

Holowaychuk loved working on the farm but she especially enjoyed working with the dairy cows which she exhibited at cattle shows.

“Although I had always loved animals, I knew that I really wanted to be a veterinarian after we purchased the dairy.”

That dream was fulfilled in 1972 when she was accepted into the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM). Holowaychuk says she, her classmates and mentors became a close family and formed friendships that continue today.

It was during her first year that she met second-year student, Bohdan (Bob) Holowaychuk. “Our first date was going to a cattle show,” she recalls. “I wanted to go because I loved cows and previously exhibited them myself. As we froze in those cow barns, I came to appreciate that Bob was indeed a very special fellow.” They were married the following summer and began a partnership that has continued for 39 years.

After graduating in 1975, Bob began a career with Agriculture Canada, and in 2005 he joined the Regulatory Services Branch of Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development.

Unable to find a full-time position following her graduation in 1976, Holowaychuk worked locums in several Edmonton clinics. Those experiences proved invaluable to her when she established her own practice the following year.

Thirty-five years later, Mills Haven Veterinary Clinic has grown to include 20 staff members. “My veterinary family — they are as important to me as my clients,” says Holowaychuk, who still enjoys the challenges of finding new and better ways to serve her clientele.

The Holowaychuk family has also grown to include three children – a son and two daughters – and now two granddaughters. All have enjoyed their time at the clinic.

And the couple’s passion for veterinary medicine has been passed on to their daughter Marie. A 2004 WCVM graduate, Marie is now a faculty member at the Ontario Veterinary College and a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care.

Fiercely loyal to the WCVM, Holowaychuk has mentored and hired a number of WCVM graduates. She and her husband enjoy going back to the veterinary college to see all of the changes that have taken place. They are particularly proud to have been contributors to the college’s expansion.

“My connections with Marie and the WCVM are a great privilege and advantage,” says Holowaychuk. “It is very easy for me to keep up on the latest happenings in our profession, and I definitely know where to go for any help or counselling should I require it. It is most important to keep up with an ever-changing profession and continue to learn and move forward.”

While Holowaychuk’s ethic of hard work has paid off, it’s not money or recognition that gives her the most satisfaction.

“For me, one of the most enjoyable things is that so many of my clients are now second and third generation, and they are faithful to me beyond words,” she says. “I will do anything for them, and they pretty much do anything for me.”

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