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Founder of Community Veterinary Outreach Program Honoured with WSAVA 2019 Global One Health Award

A Canadian veterinarian and founder of an innovative community outreach charity in Canada, is to receive the World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s (WSAVA’s) 2019 Global One Health Award.  A prestigious global Award, it is presented by the WSAVA’s One Health Committee (OHC) to an individual or organization which has promoted an aspect of One Health relevant to companion animals.

Dr. Michelle Lem

Dr Michelle Lem set up Community Veterinary Outreach in 2003.  Its veterinary volunteers care for the animals of homeless and vulnerable people but, what sets the initiative apart is that, at the same time, its human health partners provide preventative health care, education and support to their owners. Human health services offered at Community Veterinary Outreach clinics include primary health care, immunizations, harms reduction, smoking reduction and cessation, naloxone training and distribution, and dental and oral care and referral. The charity now runs programs in eight communities across Canada, including Toronto, host city to the 2019 WSAVA World Congress. It recently received non-profit status in the US as Community Veterinary Outreach USA.

Dr Lem is a 2001 graduate of the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) and has practiced companion animal medicine and surgery in Ottawa and New Zealand. In 2009, she returned to OVC to pursue graduate research at its Department of Population Medicine and obtained an MSc following a research project on the effects of pet ownership on street-involved youth. She served as a member of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s Animal Welfare Committee for the last 5 years and is a member of the Canadian Veterinary Reserve. Dr Lem was elected as an Ashoka Fellow in 2013 for her social innovation in providing accessible health care for marginalized populations. Ashoka is an international organization that promotes social entrepreneurship.

Commenting, WSAVA OHC Chair Professor Mike Lappin said: “The combination of the veterinary care offered to animals with the preventative health care offered to their vulnerable owners makes Community Veterinary Outreach a very powerful One Health initiative.  We congratulate Michelle on helping to spread the One Health message and leading by example.  Having seen the benefits delivered by her charity, we hope to work with her to bring the Community Veterinary Outreach concept to a global audience, and so provide a positive benefit to animals, individuals and society.”

Dr Lem said: “Thanks to our dedicated teams of volunteers and community health partners across Canada, we have provided accessible care to more than 4,700 companion animals and 3,800 pet owners and we continue to experience an ever-increasing rise in demand for our services.

“Community Veterinary Outreach’s vision is a healthy community in which all members, human and animal alike, have equitable access to quality, preventative, and evidence-based health care and social services. We envision a future in which we work together, across sectors, to eliminate gaps in access to animal and human health and wellness services. We also envision a community that welcomes, empowers and supports marginalized pet-owners as partners on the path towards a healthier community, society and world.”   

Dr Lem will receive her Award during this year’s WSAVA World Congress, which takes place in Toronto from 16-19 July.

The WSAVA aims to advance the health and welfare of companion animals worldwide through creating an educated, committed and collaborative global community of veterinary peers.  It represents more than 200,000 veterinarians through 110 member associations.  WSAVA World Congress brings together globally respected experts to offer cutting edge thinking on all aspects of companion animal veterinary care.