UBC-community partnership addresses public health needs while preparing future grads

When the BC government declared the COVID-19 pandemic a public health emergency in March of 2020, Kelsi Jessamine and Dr. Doris Leung had to act quickly to continue supporting their clients—pet owners experiencing homelessness or who are vulnerably-housed in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES). The pair, who jointly run Community Veterinary Outreach’s (CVO) Vancouver program, had received a UBC Community-University Engagement Support (CUES) grant to offer a series of free “One Health” veterinary clinics. The first event in late February had been a huge success. When the health order to stay at home came out, the second clinic was just days away.

“It was just one of those things where, one day before the event, we thought, ‘we can’t do it’,” said Doris, Regional Director of CVO in Vancouver. “The thing is, we had 80 pet owners signed up for that event, so we knew that people wanted to come—whether it was for flea control or grooming or pet food or pet supplies, or for seeing a nurse or a mental health support worker or a pharmacist—we knew there were a lot of people in need.”