Nov. 30, 2023
Stoney Nakoda and UCalgary Vet Med partnership continues to thrive with 2nd community clinic
The University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM) has a strong commitment to community engagement and is making a positive impact, one paw print at a time.
Since 2008, UCVM's impact has extended to the five Sahtu Settlement Area communities in the Northwest Territories, where Dr. Susan Kutz, DVM, PhD, a dedicated professor at UCVM, immersed herself in the establishment of a community-based wildlife disease monitoring program. This initial collaboration paved the way for community members to share their concerns, focused on the health and welfare of local dogs and public health risks associated with dog overpopulation.
These remote communities are reachable only by winter roads for a brief six weeks each year, making access to veterinary care extremely challenging. Community concerns about dogs prompted the initiation of an innovative community-based clinical rotation for fourth-year veterinary medicine students that provides preventive veterinary services in the five Sahtu communities each February.
But the story doesn't end there. From this ongoing partnership with the Sahtu communities, a new chapter unfolds — a blossoming collaboration between UCVM and the Stoney Nakoda First Nation. When reflecting on the Sahtu partnership, Dr. Tessa Baker, DVM, a postdoctoral associate at UCVM says, "We know that we have a big impact on dog health and welfare and community well-being, and we know that it is an incredible learning opportunity for students."
The challenge, however, is that only four students per year get to participate. Baker and Kutz pondered, "How could we develop a program that more of our students could participate in?" and "How can we do this work closer to home?"
Enter the partnership with the Stoney Nakoda First Nation. UCVM was put in touch with a member from the community back in 2016 and initial discussions began about a partnership around animal health. Since then, this partnership has been built with an advisory council comprising Elders and Knowledge Keepers from the Stoney Nakoda First Nation. With the leadership of Dr. Cathy Wagg, DVM, associate professor (teaching), the partnership began by working with the local schools to engage Nakoda youth in hands-on veterinary sciences activities.
Baker says, "When we moved into planning for these clinics, we did further consultation to understand what the need for and interest in preventive veterinary services were. We were told that the barriers that people face most commonly are cost, transportation, and previous negative experiences accessing vet care.
"In 2020 we had an opportunity to apply for a grant from PetSmart Charities of Canada to implement our vision of a broader program that spans all four years of the DVM program, allowing students, faculty and staff multiple opportunities to work with the community. Receiving this grant in January 2022 has been integral to our ability to develop the animal health program, including providing these clinic events.”
Fast forward to March 2023, when the first preventive veterinary clinic event took place in the community — a collaboration uniting fourth-year students, alumni, UCVM vets and techs, nearby veterinary clinics, donors and the community.
These two-week clinics, with plans to expand student participation to eight over time, deliver preventive health-care services. Spaying and neutering, health exams, vaccines and deworming are at the forefront. The first clinic served over 130 clients and 318 dogs and cats.
The second community clinic recently took place in November 2023. Over six clinic days, nearly 100 clients were served, with 210 dogs and cats examined, 194 vaccinated, and 66 spay and neuter procedures performed. It's a testament to the effectiveness of teamwork and shared dedication to the well-being of the community's furry companions.
The November clinic welcomed a new sponsor, VetStrategy a veterinary provider in Canada with an expansive network of clinics and hospitals coast to coast. They played a pivotal role in supporting the recent clinic and will also be supporting the upcoming clinic in March of 2024. Their financial support allows for the purchase of much-needed surgical materials and equipment.
VetStrategy's staff are also committed to the cause. Dr. Robin Goodfellow, DVM, and Brooklyn Leduc, RVT, from Bow River Veterinary Centre attended the clinic to support with animal care. Dana Brown, director of corporate social responsibility for VetStrategy says, “Through our Positive Pawprint Strategy, VetStrategy is committed to supporting organizations that are increasing access to care for patients in communities across Canada. With our sponsorship of the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, we're proud to engage the next generation of veterinarians and encourage our clinic teams to give back.”
These clinics thrive on volunteer support, like that from Goodfellow and Leduc, as well as numerous UCVM alumni veterinarians, a sentiment echoed by Baker: "We appreciate the volunteer help; it is a huge help to us and we couldn’t do it without them."
Maintaining the financial sustainability of these clinics is paramount for UCVM to foster a lasting partnership with the Stoney Nakoda First Nation and provide ongoing animal care. With the PetSmart grant ending in August 2024, UCVM is seeking additional funding and ongoing support for this important program. UCVM welcomes additional partners, whether through monetary or in-kind donations or volunteering time. For more information, contact Sarah Parker, the Director of Development at UCVM: firstname.lastname@example.org.