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Veterinarian Dr. Leia Cunningham heads off on a house call
Photo: Sarah Rogers/Nunatsiaq News
Permanent veterinary service has come to the Canadian North!
by Sue Hamilton
Growing up in Iqaluit, Dr. Leia Cunnngham's family always had dogs and, as young as four years of age, she wanted to become a veterinarian. Her youthful ambition was realized this past Fall when, as a recent graduate from Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, Cunningham opened up a practice back in her home town.
Called the Nunavet Animal Hospital, Cunningham's clinic is currently on wheels in the form of a well-equipped mobile unit, capable of providing medical, diagnostic and surgical services from vaccinations to blood analysis and radiographs to treatment of injuries and spays and castrations. Clients can come to her at her home as well as receiving house calls. Currently she is seeing about 30% cats and 70% dogs. "I have seen a large need for vaccines, deworming and spay/neuter. I am also seeing a large number of dogs that are getting hit by cars, unfortunately."
Dr. Cunningham is thrilled and encouraged by the community support she's enjoyed. Her clients are giving her positive feedback and there are enthusiastic comments posted as the result of an article in the December 2, 2011 article about her in the Nunatsiaq News.
Right now Cunningham's clients are almost all pet owners, although she has had a couple of dog team owners asked her to treat "wounds and such". While she expects more requests from team owners in the future, she thinks that because they have been without veterinary service for so long (quite an understatement!) they have learned to become self-sufficient in many ways.
Iqaluit is a "transportation hub" located between outlying regions of Nunavut and Nunavik and Dr. Cunningham anticipates some animals being flown to her clinic for veterinary services from other arctic communities. "At this point in time we will try our best to accommodate them." Also looking ahead, she says, "Once we are a bit more established and have our permanent clinic, I would love to travel to other communities to offer veterinary services."
In the coming year, Dr. Cunningham anticipates expanding her current part-time schedule to full time, and maybe transition from the mobile clinic into a permanent building once her veterinarian-husband returns home from a contract assignment in southern Canada and the family has settled in.