Omake Moment – March 2024

You may be surprised to learn that the work that veterinarians do affects us all, and this has nothing to do with whether you are a pet owner or not. Due to the interconnectedness of the health of animals, people and the environment, veterinarians play a critical role in environmental protection, research, food safety, public health and medical research. This is key, considering that a large percentage of all human diseases originate in animals. Some of the ways that veterinarians contribute to universal health include the protection of people from animal diseases or the safety of our food by overseeing the health and welfare of livestock.

Dr Anna Marais is the associate dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Namibia (UNAM). “Namibia is an animal-orientated country, with a considerable portion of the GDP derived from livestock and wildlife. To effectively manage animal disease, maintain animal health, cater for our meat export market and wildlife tourism industries, as well as ensuring national safety of food of animal origin, a well-trained cadre of veterinarians is required. To this end, the University of Namibia has established a School of Veterinary Medicine,” says Dr Marais about the institution whose impressive track record is earning international accolades and regional respect.

In honour of our late president, Dr Hage Geingob, who was sometimes called Omake for the cheers he received around the country, this Omake moment story focuses on the UNAM School of Veterinary Medicine, which is proving a shining beacon in the extensive list of Namibia’s achievements.

Dr Marais explains that there is much for Namibians to be proud of in this story. “Before the School of Veterinary Medicine was established, the entire veterinary profession in Namibia was trained outside the country, a large proportion of whom were expatriates. We now train highly competent Namibian veterinarians in our own country.”

What started as a stakeholder workshop in 2010 is today a fully equipped and established training facility whose curriculum is based on the guidelines for veterinary education by the World Organisation for Animal Health and benchmarked against other veterinary schools in the region, including the Universities of Pretoria, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Zambia. The school has input and support from the Directorate of Veterinary Services and the Veterinary Association of Namibia, and is fully accredited by the Namibian Veterinary Council as well as the National Council for Higher Education of Namibia.

“The veterinary programme is a clear indication that the School of Veterinary Medicine will become a centre of excellence in the region and subregion. Already, many veterinarians who graduated from the School of Veterinary Medicine are employed or self-employed in Namibia, Botswana and South Africa, and others are pursuing higher degrees abroad,” according to Dr Marais.

The School of Veterinary Medicine is now in its eleventh year of operation and has a wide variety of fields of specialisation on offer, including veterinary pathology or veterinary public health. It offers students pre-clinical, paraclinical and clinical training.

What is more, students are equipped with an understanding of many animal species. From production animals such as cattle, poultry, fish and bees, to wildlife species, including critically endangered species, and right through to companion species such as horses, dogs and cats.

Situated at the UNAM Campus in Windhoek as well as at the Neudamm Campus outside Windhoek, this thriving academy has key partnerships with established Namibian and regional partners. Dr Marais explains that the school uses a distributed teaching model, where students and instructors connect in different locations. They use supplementary lecturers as well as visiting professors and experts from Namibia, neighbouring countries and abroad. The partnerships assist with what is called “Day One Competences”, which describes the knowledge and skills required of veterinary students upon graduation to ensure that they are prepared to safely practise independently. Through their extensive programme, holders of this qualification are able to work in this demanding field, applying knowledge of veterinary medicine to diagnose and treat, conduct epidemiological studies and more.

Dr Marais mentions that a wide range of partners assist the school to provide their students with exposure to various fields and experiences. “Our final year students undergo an intensive core clinical rotation at the UNAM Veterinary Academic Hospital, where they are exposed to a number of medical, surgical and outpatient cases in a variety of species. The remaining extramural clinical rotations are conducted at selected state and private veterinary facilities in Namibia, private and state wildlife reserves, communal and commercial farming areas, villages in remote areas of Namibia with our Mobile Animal Clinic, export abattoirs and meat processing facilities, the SPCA and the Central Veterinary Laboratory.”

She adds, “Our clinical rotations include pathology and production animal clinical studies on our extensive and well-stocked farm, as well as the surrounding communal areas through our ambulatory clinic.”

Veterinarians are in high demand regionally and internationally, but with high standards and extensive study loads only the best will qualify. The UNAM School of Veterinary Medicine, with its impressive curriculum, extensive partnerships and support from the highest levels of government is proving itself a shining beacon for Namibia, worth cheering for.

2024-03-13T09:00:44+00:00 March 6th, 2024|NEWS|