Twelve months after drafting a joint proposal with the University of Guelph (U of G) to bring a new veterinary program to Thunder Bay, Ont., Lakehead University says work is “progressing,” CBC News reports.
The proposal, which targets fall 2024 for its first cohort, would bring a Collaborative Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in Rural and Northern Community Practice Program to the city. Ideally, upon completion of their studies, new graduates choose to live and work in the region, addressing the North’s current shortage of animal health services.
At this time, there are no veterinary clinics in Thunder Bay that are able to accept new patients, says Wendy Landry, president of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA). Landry, who recently penned a letter to Lakehead University president and vice-chancellor, Moira McPherson, PhD, MSc., in support of the proposed program, says new pet owners must drive four hours (approximately 350 km) to Dryden, Ont., to access regular or emergency care for their pets.
“In the winter, weather conditions along highway 11/17 can be a huge barrier to accessing care in northwestern Ontario,” Landry writes. “The highway can be closed due to accidents or driving conditions can be dangerous during winter storms. This represents a major obstacle to pet adoptions and personal pet care. There are many pets in need, and it is inhumane to not have adequate services to provide the level of care they require.”
The proposed program would see students complete their first two years of study in Thunder Bay before moving to Guelph to finish the final two years of their degree.
“The proposal would materially increase the number of DVM graduates in Ontario for the first time in a generation,” Landry writes. “By having students conduct their education in the North, it can increase our chances that they will decide to stay in the North and fill the void we are experiencing.”