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Iqaluit's up-and-coming vet

Chris Windeyer
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Nov 06/06) - If Leia Cunningham has her way, she'll be the first veterinarian to set up shop in her hometown of Iqaluit.

Now working on a bachelor's degree in biology at Concordia University in Montreal, Cunningham knew from an early age she wanted to be a vet.

"As a kid I loved animals and I saw growing up that there wasn't anybody to take care of them at home and I wanted to do that," said Cunningham, who recently won the $3,000 Al Woodhouse bursary.

"I joke with people that I've been bringing home stray animals since I was eight."

If all goes according to plan, once Cunningham's finished her bachelor's degree, she will be off to the Ontario Veterinary School in Guelph. That's Canada's largest vet school and one that is especially useful for someone like her who wants to work on both small and large animals, she said.

She wants to set up a clinic in the capital, so she'll need to be able to work on pets. But she also wants to work with the Government of Nunavut, so she'll need to be able to treat the large animals that hunters harvest.

And while the large animal training at Guelph will consist mostly of southern livestock species, Cunningham isn't worried about making the leap from cows and pigs to muskoxen and caribou.

"The general organ systems are the same," she said. "If you have hooves you pretty much have the same body parts, if you have claws you have the same body parts."

Having just finished the craziness of midterm exams, Cunningham credits her dad, Duncan Cunningham, and her mother, Phoebe Sowdluapik, with keeping her on an even keel.

And while Cunningham lives in one of Canada's most vibrant cities, she mostly avoids the nightlife, preferring instead the books.

"Every once in while I'll go out, but I just prefer to study," she said, laughing. "You don't hear it much but it's true."