Chance meeting leads to conference in Kenya - Veterinary Practice
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InFocus

Chance meeting leads to conference in Kenya

The first Small Animal Veterinary Education Conference Weekend in Kenya, organised by the VRCC referral centre and supported by Merial, has been a great success, says Malcolm Holland, VRCC practice director.

The first Small Animal Veterinary Education Conference Weekend in Kenya, organised by the VRCC referral centre and supported by Merial, has been a great success, says Malcolm Holland, VRCC practice director.

Over 30 veterinary surgeons from all over Kenya gathered in November at the coast in the elegant Leopard Beach Hotel, ideally located and equipped to host a conference, with its airconditioned, spacious facilities beautifully situated alongside the Indian Ocean.

The Kenyans, all with an interest in small animals, were a real cross section of the African profession, ranging from the very prosperous with large practices in Nairobi to a young vet who made the long journey from the picturesque island of Lamu, near the Somali border. He had a gruelling seven-hour bus ride accompanied by armed guards from his clinic, which is funded by a benevolent French lady.

The conference, which it is hoped will be the first of many, came about following a chance meeting on the VRCC stand at the BSAVA congress in April when visiting Kenyan veterinary surgeon, Nonee Magree, informed Mr Holland that what her countrymen most needed was expert advice from visiting specialists. They were also desperately short of opportunities to meet and interact with each other.

Mr Holland, a long-time visitor to East Africa, along with VRCC’s clinical director, Dr Susan North, had been looking for an opportunity to help their African colleagues for some time and jumped at the opportunity to take on the responsibility of planning and implementing a conference weekend 5,000 miles away!

Killed by elephant

The weekend was originally planned with Nonee and her dynamic colleague, expert wildlife vet Dr Zahoor Kashmiri, both of whom visited VRCC’s UK Centre during the summer, forming friendships and discussing plans. Tragically, Zahoor was killed by an elephant in Ethiopia in September, which might have put the whole plan in jeopardy.

Fortunately, the treasurer of the Kenyan Veterinary Association, Dr Vijay Varma, stepped in, even though he has a particular interest in equine medicine, to make certain this muchneeded event took place and was a success. Everyone stood for a minute’s silence at the conference start, remembering their much-liked and respected colleague Zahoor.

A full and challenging two-day programme was devised and implemented by the VRCC specialists. Dr Susan North, a highly qualified veterinary oncologist and a European specialist in internal medicine, lectured on topics relevant to those attending. Another of VRCC’s directors and head of surgery, Henry L’Eplattenier, lectured on a wide range of surgical topics, and Merial’s Dr Hein Hesse, who had flown in for a first-time visit to Kenya from his home and base in South Africa, spoke on pain management and parasite control.

The weekend finished with a prolonged question and answer session with the enthusiastic delegates hungry to gain as much knowledge as possible from the visiting specialists before their long journeys home.

A welcome gala dinner took place on the Friday night below a sparkling moon on the hotel beach with an impressive barbecue and a local band adding glamour to the tropical atmosphere. The next day Susan and Henry were hurriedly driven to the nearby Colobus Monkey Trust to help with an adult male involved in an RTA. Troops of monkeys are very common, the young Colobus being especially attractive, all white as opposed to the striking black and white of the adults.

Regular face

Another visitor to the conference was the Professor John Cooper, a regular face in Kenya where he and his wife lived and worked for many years, and a regular contributor to Kenyan veterinary medicine, running regular field workshops. John was pleased to be able to greet some of his old friends and expressed a keen interest in working and participating in future events.

“The conference weekend was successful on so many fronts,” says Mr Holland. “The delegates had access to first-hand information not readily available to them – the last lecturing team visited over 20 years ago – and they were able to interact with each other, forming networks, making and renewing friendships.

“VRCC was not seeking any material gain, not selling products or services, just fulfilling a desire to pass on our experience for the improved welfare of small animals in East Africa.” A questionnaire was distributed and completed so the next event, which will probably take place in Nairobi, can address the topics identified by the delegates as being of particular interest. Attendance is expected to more than double.

Specialists keen to participate in future events or companies with interests or ambitions in Kenya are invited to contact Malcolm Holland at the VRCC.

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