Q: What is WSAVA’s goal?
Dr Walt Ingwersen: The more individuals get together, learn and share the knowledge the better it is for everybody. There is a popular saying in North America, ‘A rising tide lifts all ships’—that’s the way we feel about WSAVA. Our goal is to develop WSAVA Global Guidelines and minimum standards of care because there are certain problems that are common across the world for companion animals but the way we deal with them and approach them as veterinarians will differ depending on the resources we have available. Our Guidelines take these regional variations into account.
Q: Which WSAVA initiatives have helped to raise standards of health and wellbeing in companion animals?
Dr Walt Ingwersen: The last ten years have been phenomenal for the WSAVA. We have doubled our membership and doubled the number of our Committees. We have also tripled the number of standards and Guidelines that we’re developing. Our Congress has grown steadily – this year was a record year for us with more than 3,300 delegates! We have also strengthened our Secretariat and increased the number of volunteers working for us around the world to 120.
Q: What are WSAVA’s key projects?
Dr Walt Ingwersen: One thing we feel very passionate about is that to do our jobs well as veterinarians we need to have appropriate availability and access to veterinary therapeutics – medicinal, diagnostic, vaccines, food and preventives. At the moment veterinarians in many countries, including a number in Asia, don’t have access to the products they need so we have created a Therapeutics Guidelines Group to bring all the stakeholders together to look at how we can resolve this issue.
The second thing we are very passionate about is that we need to strengthen the veterinary healthcare team as a whole. So we are looking at ways to integrating and developing better nurses and technicians.
The third, we have recognised in North America and Europe that we are in a profession which is emotionally draining and at times may lead to mental health issues. We have developed a Professional Wellness Group to look at that from the global point of view and identify the issues and how we can help our members.
Q: What challenges does your global veterinary community face?
Dr Walt Ingwersen: As a global community we face time differences and language differences. We have launched a Translation Committee to ensure that our resources are as accessible to as many of our members as possible. Our website is being redeveloped and we are launching the WSAVA Academy to provide educational resources in different languages for our members. A central platform is important.
Q: What are the major changes you have noticed in Asia?
Dr Walt Ingwersen: Companion animals have become mainstream. It’s also a growth area for us as an association with new members coming in. The passion from veterinarians from and throughout Asia is phenomenal. They really want to be part of something bigger that encompasses knowledge, learning and application.
The veterinarians in the region are very passionate.
Q: What about rabies eradication?
Dr Walt Ingwersen: We have our Vaccination Guidelines which are specified and according to different regions of the world. Depending on where you are there are different protocols for vaccination. However for Rabies point of view it’s very specific. Follow the label which provides assurances for immunity. We have signed a memorandum of understanding with the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) that we will participate in rabies eradication by 2030 and we are doing that collectively with others. The WSAVA’s charitable Foundation is supporting the work of Mission rabies in India and North East Africa.
(Dr Walt Ingwersen is the Immediate Past President of the WSAVA. He graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) in 1982. He later returned to complete an internship and residency in small animal internal medicine, resulting in his post-graduate Doctor of Veterinary Science degree and certification by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine as a Specialist in the area of veterinary internal medicine. Since June 2002, Dr Ingwersen has been a consultant to Boehringer Ingelheim Canada Ltd. He is an active volunteer for provincial, national, and international veterinary medical associations.)