No cure for veterinary funnybone

23:00, Dec 11 2013
HORSING AROUND: Veterinary graduands Lauren Allen, left, and Steffi Jalava with lecturer Joe Mayhew in front of the school's CT scanner, Massey University is celebrating the 50th year of veterinary education in New Zealand.

One thing that has not changed in Massey's 50 years of veterinary education is the horsing around.

The technology has improved, the facilities have been given a multimillion-dollar facelift and the graduate numbers have quadrupled.

But despite the passage of time, some of the after-hours rites of passage Massey University vet students go through have stuck.

Massey is celebrating the 50th year of veterinary education in New Zealand today with a special graduation ceremony.

The school was established in 1963 by the then Massey College and remains the only veterinary school in New Zealand.

Watching the ceremony will be Massey's equine studies professor Joe Mayhew, who was in the first intake of vet students.


When he was studying, lectures were held in prefabricated rooms, some minor surgery was done in the paddocks and the initial intake of 32 students resulted in 21 graduates.

Since then he has worked in and run his own clinics, both in New Zealand and overseas, before returning to his academic roots.

"At the start we were really guinea pigs together. It wasn't them [the lecturers] and us; it was us collectively. But then of course the staff got the big stick out and started whacking us around and that's what we do these days too," he joked.

The course had changed and developed over the years, with a switch to emphasising interpersonal skills alongside technical knowledge, he said.

"The opportunities you get with a vet degree are quite amazing. It's not just looking after furry animals.

"There's a huge spectrum."

However, some of the more light-hearted after-hours activities and pranks still seem popular among the students five decades later.

"Being the first class we didn't get initiated by the other students but there were some pretty dicey escapades, that's for sure," Prof Mayhew said. One he remembers well was a late-night trek taking a yeti-shaped footprint pattern around town with his friends and stencilling footprints on the ground from the Manawatu River to The Square, including a bucket of whitewash splashed against a wall to look like a toilet stop. "The funniest thing was three-quarters of the way up we realised the police were watching us, but they actually gave us advice as where to put the next print."

Graduands Steffi Jalava, 25, from Lake Rotoma, and Lauren Allen, 25, from Hibiscus Coast, said the camaraderie had continued, even if modern class sizes were reaching into the hundreds.

Now the annual vet events include first-year initiation, with tasks like crawling through the duck pond and being drenched in cod liver oil; "halfway day", where third-year students mark the midway point of their five-year degree with a trip to Taupo; and the infamous naked vet calendar, Barely There.

Among those graduating this afternoon are students with four doctoral degrees, three masters, a postgraduate diploma, 29 veterinary technology degrees and 96 veterinary science degrees.

Manawatu Standard