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Former veterinary medicine student comes back to teach

New pathologist passes ‘notoriously difficult’ North American exam on first attempt

Dr. Dayna Goldsmith holding a skunk

Dr. Dayna Goldsmith holding a bat

By Collene Ferguson, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Dayna Goldsmith didn’t believe it at first.

The new sessional instructor in pathology at the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM) had passed the American College of Veterinary Pathologists (ACVP) boards exam the first time, a feat less than half of people pull off.  “It’s crazy,” she says of the good news that she recently received. “I had to reread the email that I got several times before it sunk in.”

Goldsmith graduated from UCVM in 2013 and was accepted into a three-year residency in anatomic pathology at the University of California, Davis. Last month, she started her new job at UCVM and was planning to rewrite parts of the exam next year. 

“It’s a big test,” she says. “You have to study for between six months and a year in order to have a chance of passing.” The test is administered in four parts, so if you fail the first time you don’t have to repeat the parts you passed. Goldsmith wrote the first part, a multiple choice exam, during her residency at UC Davis. She wrote the other three parts of the test over two days at the ACVP offices in Iowa about six weeks ago.

“It’s a very old fashioned test,” says Goldsmith. “We all bring our microscopes on the plane with us to Ames, Iowa. The first day you spend about three hours looking at pictures in the morning on a projector and in the afternoon you do five hours of describing slides with your microscope.” The next day the veterinarians write another multiple choice exam based on recent literature and text books.

“The ACVP boards are notoriously difficult with the overall pass rate around 50 per cent and the first time pass rate usually lower,” says Dr. Amy Warren, associate professor in anatomic and clinical pathology. “For Dayna to pass on her first attempt is testament to the thorough training she received at the UC Davis as well as her hard work and natural brilliance.”

Now that she’s a board-certified pathologist, Goldsmith is looking forward to being able to focus on teaching and diagnosing disease in Alberta wildlife. “I’ve had a passion for wildlife since I was a kid,” she says. “I always liked the outdoors and would always bring home all kinds of weird and wonderful creatures -- my poor parents.” She brought that passion to UCalgary, studying songbirds while completing a BSc in zoology and working with black bears, grizzlies, elk and deer at UCVM. 

Goldsmith is happy to be back at her alma mater. “Being part of a small veterinary school that’s still up and coming has a lot of advantages,” she says. “There’s a lot of room for growth, and a lot of ways to make a difference as a pathologist and as a member of the faculty here.”