Better understanding of the human-animal bond and the role of technology in animal health care is the focus of a new $1.5-million chair position at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College (OVC).

A North American first, the five-year chair is supported by a donation from IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. The multinational corporation produces diagnostic and information technology-based products and services for the veterinary industry.

“This is an important and innovative area of scholarship,” said U of G president Franco Vaccarino. “It merges two distinct yet intertwined subjects that are foremost in the minds of animal owners – the bond with their pets and the availability of the new and emerging information.

“The superb work of the OVC in epidemiology, primary health care, and innovative teaching, makes it an ideal home for this forward-looking chair.”

Peter Mosney, director and country manager for IDEXX Canada, added:  “The new Chair at OVC is a milestone in our continued efforts to advance the standard of care within the veterinary profession and solve complex medical problems in today’s fast-paced, information-rich environment.”

The chairholder will create and teach new ways to recognize and reinforce the importance of animals in their owners’ lives. Experiential learning opportunities for student veterinarians will focus on technology to support bond-centred care.

The chair will also help develop a world-class research and graduate training program connecting veterinary medicine and epidemiology with emerging technologies, including social media and web-based care.

“Our student veterinarians are open to embracing new ways of working and communicating,” said OVC dean Elizabeth Stone, “but they need more experience and expertise in using technology to increase their effectiveness and productivity. This will help them build positive relationships with their clients and within the veterinary practice team.”

With huge amounts of new information emerging in the field, the chairholder will develop and apply epidemiology and other methodologies to address key questions for animal health-care providers.

“This is a very exciting new era of veterinary medicine,” said Prof. Cate Dewey, chair of the Department of Population Medicine.

“New DVM graduates will be practising veterinarians at a time when they and their clients will be immersed in social media, Internet-sourced information and reams of computerized records from individual animal visits and laboratory submissions,” she said.

Pet owners receive information from a variety of sources and expect exceptional veterinary care during their pet’s visit, Dewey said.

“As a profession, we know that the human-animal bond is so strong that the majority of owners consider their pets to be members of the family. Therefore, owners are looking for bond-centred health care to reflect this reality.”

OVC plans to launch an international search for the IDEXX Chair in Emerging Technologies and Bond-Centred Animal Health Care.