I am now in the final week of my practicum placement at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) working in the Animal Health and Welfare Branch Veterinary Sciences Unit. I have learned so much during my time here and have gained an incredible appreciation of the important role that veterinary science plays in public health. I was able to gain an entirely new perspective by shifting away from a human-centric view of public health and focused more on veterinary issues.
My main project was an investigation into non-mainstream sources of antimicrobials in Ontario. In anticipation of the pending federal changes by Health Canada to move all medically important (category I-III) antimicrobials to the prescription drug list, the provincial government through OMAFRA, wanted to take a closer look at the distribution system of veterinary drugs (including antimicrobials). My project intended to fill an information gap, by collecting data on what types of antimicrobials were available for sale over-the-counter by retail locations (including pet supply stores, aquarium supply stores, apiary supply stores and online pharmacies/retail). I designed, organised and conducted the study, then summarized my findings into a Policy Background Paper, intended to inform future provincial policy decisions. My findings were quite interesting and honestly shocking, as I found large quantities of medically important antimicrobials for sale, completely unregulated by Health Canada (they did not have a Drug Identification Number). These findings are expected to have a large impact in the near future!
Secondly….all of August has been RABIES season! I have been assisting the lead veterinarian in conducting rabies risk assessments, and doing sample submissions and post-exposure management for potential domestic animal exposures to rabies (from wildlife or other). Anytime a domestic animal was potentially exposed to the rabies virus, we would work with the animal owner’s veterinarian to conduct a risk assessment and determine whether testing or post-exposure management was warranted. This experience was very beneficial as it allowed me to interact with many different stakeholders (including Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), Public Health Units, private veterinarians, animal control and pet owners). I was able to see how all stakeholders continually and efficiently work together to manage and control the rabies virus in Ontario. I learned something new every day, as no two rabies calls were ever the exact same!
To top off an already amazing practicum experience, I was invited to help the MNRF with aerial baiting, a once in a lifetime opportunity that I couldn’t turn down! Today, I met the MNRF wildlife technicians at the Brantford Municipal Airport, to help distribute approximately 25,000 baits out of a Twin Otter plane. I was warned by others not to eat breakfast and to take a Gravol before flying. Thankfully, it turns out I have a very strong stomach, as I did not experience motion sickness whatsoever. Another technician and I carefully loaded the baits onto a conveyor belt which was connected to a computer programmed to drop the baits along a predetermined flight path.
What an overall wonderful experience, I can’t wait to incorporate what I have learned about animal health and veterinary science into my career in public health!