Kincardine vet honoured for efforts

Dr. Roger Thomson gets OMVA award for African poultry project
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A Kincardine veterinarian is being recognized for his work in Tanzania, Africa.

Dr. Roger Thomson was presented with the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA) Award of Merit Saturday morning in Toronto at the 2009 OVMA Conference and Trade Show.

“It is great to be recognized,” said Thomson in a phone interview Friday morning. “But what I really appreciate is the fact people have taken the interest to find out about the things that we’ve done and I think it will really help the project move along.”

The project he refers to is the Ilima Poultry Project in Tanzania. Vets Without Borders (VWB) is currently in the middle of a three-year project integrating Rhode Island Reds (a variety of chicken) to the local free range chicken flock.

Dr. Roger Thomson speaks Saturday morning at the OMVA Conference and Trade Show, where he was presented with an Award of Merit. (photo courtesy of the OVMA)

Thomson, now on the VWB board of directors, said the project began after he found a personal connection in Tanzania.

“I was moving in Kincardine (in the late 1980s) and found I had all these old veterinary medical journals. I decided to send them to a vet in Africa and we developed a relationship. (Roger’s wife) Cathy and I eventually went over with him to the village he grew up in.”

Upon arriving in Tanzania, the Thomson’s were frustrated by the resources at the local elementary school.

“Our first project was to get desks for all the students,” he said. “In 2003 when we went over, there were no students who could pass the exit exam (required to enter high school). Now we have 70 to 80 per cent of students passing. There is even a local high school now, which makes life much easier. Before, the ones that did pass would still not attend high school as they would not have money to make the hour trip by bus.”

The desks were made by local craftsmen, a point that many humanitarian efforts in the region have missed.

“The locals have to take ownership and get involved or (aid programs) just won’t work,” he said.

One of the challenges Thomson faced in helping the people of Tanzania was how to get the money to where it belongs. Working with his Tanzanian friend, the money takes a complicated path to ensure it ends up where it was intended.

“Since we figured out that, we were able to go forward with the poultry program,” for which he was honoured on the weekend, he said.

“We still have a higher mortality rate than we should (with the Rhode Island Reds),” he said. “But it is getting better.” Working with an African University, VWB has educated many of the farmers on how to best tend the poultry. Now they are vaccinating the animals and have built chicken coops to protect them from predators.

“We’re (VWB) committed to two more years of funding on this project,” he said. “So it will be interesting to monitor.”

To donate to the Ilima Poultry Project, visit www. vwb-vff.ca.

Since 1977, Thomson has had various roles with, among others, the Grey-Bruce Veterinary Association, the Bruce County 4-H Club and LifeLearn Inc. He also served on the Complaints Committee at the College of Veterinarians of Ontario and is treasurer of the Ontario Veterinary College’s Alumni Association.

Thomson was one of four veterinarians honoured at this year’s conference.

“(Dr. Thomson) is a very passionate individual,” said Nadia Vercillo of the OVMA Monday morning. “He really is an inspiration to all.”

Walkerton’s Dr. Linda Bolton also received an OVMA Award of Merit for her work with the Cat Lake Project, which brings veterinary services to Cat Lake, a native community in Northern Ontario accessible only by air.

Ilderton’s Dr. Stan Henderson and Hamilton’s Dr. Kathleen Delaney were also honoured at the conference.