Dr. Burtis and Dr. Fox are currently working on a project to assist the veterinary school at the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science (I.A.A.S.) of Tribhuvan University, located in Rampur, Chitwan, Nepal. They are asking the Consituency Organizations of the OVMA (such as the Hamilton Academy of Veterinary Medicine), individual veterinarians, other organized groups in veterinary medicine or other interested persons for donations in support of the project. Donations should be sent either to Dr. Buris directly or to Veterinarians Without Borders and directed toward the Nepal Veterinary School Project. VWB/VSF will issue charitable donation receipts for any donations received. We are pleased to report that they have received donations already from some of these local veterinary associations, individual veterinarians and Lifelearn. In addition to a cash donation, Lifelearn will also donate computer soft ware learning modules to the Nepal School. Here's a bit of background about the project.
Dr. Ron Fox and Dr. Barry Burtis first visited the school in May, 2006. They had made contact, via an internet connection, with Dr. Subir Singh, before our arrival in Nepal. Dr. Singh was a member of the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the school and a lecturer in the Department of Veterinary Pathology, Theriogenology and Clinics. He invited Dr. Burtis and Dr. Fox to visit the school, after they had completed their trek to Everest Base Camp, to tour the veterinary school and meet the faculty and students. They were also asked to make a presentation to the students and faculty about veterinary medicine in Canada.
Dr. Fox and Dr. Burtis very much enjoyed their visit and the opportunity to meet some veterinary colleagues in Nepal. They were very graciously received and were most impressed by the efforts of a very well educated and dedicated group of veterinarians to train veterinary students in Nepal. They met Professor Dr. Durga Datt Dhakel, Dean of the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science. He outlined some of the challenges facing veterinary education, many of them unique to the realities of life in Nepal.
Before their tour of the veterinary school, they were introduced to the faculty of the veterinary school and had the opportunity to hear from each of them about their own educational background. They then outlined the teaching responsibilities for each of their departments and how they were being fulfilled. A tour of the school followed this meeting and then Dr. Burtis and Dr. Fox had the chance to address the faculty and students about veterinary education and job opportunities for veterinarians in Canada, as well as their careers as companion animal practitioners. Their two day visit completed, they left with thoughts of the vast difference in resources between Nepal and North America for training veterinarians. Despite the most basic of facilities and a dire paucity of teaching resources, the faculty appears very committed to their task, proud of their achievements of the past decade and hopeful that the future holds better for both Nepal and the veterinarians they are educating. They also were most grateful for the friendship they had established with Dr. Singh. Subir, in addition to being a very friendly and intelligent young man, acted as a superior host for their visit and he impressed them as someone with a very bright future in our profession.
Back home in Canada, Dr. Burtis and Dr. Fox were anxious to see if there was some way they might assist their new friends in Nepal. The Nepal veterinary students have been thrilled to receive the subscription to the Canadian Veterinary Journal that our clinic paid for them to receive. Also, in short, with the assistance of the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association, in the years 2007, 2008, and 2009 we have collected donated used textbooks from veterinarians attending the OVMA Annual Conference. Then, with funds of their own and donations from the Hamilton Academy of Veterinary Medicine and several individual veterinarians, they have shipped a selection of these textbooks to Nepal. This has allowed a veterinary library to be established in the building that houses the veterinary school, located across the road from the main campus library. It also means not only the number of texts available to veterinary students has dramatically increased but also the publication dates of books now available for study has moved from the 1970's to the 1990's.
In May, 2008, Dr. Burtis returned to Nepal with his wife Donna. After some trekking in the Annapurna region, this time, he had arranged a return visit to the I.A.A.S in Rampur. The fine hospitality shown to him and Dr. Fox in 2006 was repeated full fold. Subir, now a full faculty member and recently selected member of the Nepal Veterinary Association, had married. Subir continues to be employed as a veterinary consultant for the Avinash Group of Poultry Industries in addition to his faculty duties. In this capacity he was recently chosen as a delegate to represent Nepal at an international conference planning responses to the Avian Flu outbreak.
It was a pleasure to meet and get to know Subir's lovely wife Raksha. The Burtis`s were entertained and served two dinners in their humble home on campus. Their three day visit was a busy one. Donna was given a campus tour, they ate in the student cafeteria, they met a number of faculty members from the veterinary school and toured the school. Dr. Burtis was formally thanked and received the thanks for the others involved in the donated textbooks project. Subir proudly showed him the bookshelves holding the library of donated Ontario veterinary texts. They heard from some of the faculty members who were using some of the texts in the courses they were teaching. They sat in on a veterinary graduate's defense of his Masters thesis. Finally, they had an interview with the Acting Dean of the Institute. Dr. Burtis was happy to see a new coat of paint had freshened the outside of the veterinary school but little else had changed since his first visit.
At the moment, there is no intention of abandoning our annual textbook collections. Dr. Brian Derbyshire has been thankful to receive our overflow of books to send to various Commonwealth veterinary schools. However, the cost of shipping books around the world is quite prohibitive. It would be much more cost effective to ship CD's, DVD's and other software. Additionally, in this era of computers, internet learning and software teaching modules, the role of textbooks is changing. Fewer and fewer books are likely to be donated from Canadian veterinarians since they are using them less. Without computer resources veterinary education suffers considerably. Internet access is available in Rampur and the rest of Nepal and now that the ten year rebellion in Nepal has ended, it is hoped that expansion of this form of communication will be a priority for the new, freely elected, government. At the present, one of the most dramatic differences we note between a visit to the Rampur campus library and a university library in Canada relates to computers. There is not one computer in the Rampur library.
As a result, Dr. Burtis and Dr. Fox are beginning a fundraising effort here in Ontario to allow us to purchase some computers to be used in the education of veterinary students in Nepal. Veterinarians Without Borders/Veterinaires Sans Frontiers (VWB/VSF) has endorsed the project and is working on several other initiatives to assist the veterinary educators in Nepal.