PULLMAN, Wash. – Ram and Vanmathy Kasimanickam, husband and wife faculty members in Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, recently returned from India where they combined a visit to their home state and veterinary alma mater with professional outreach.
What evolved from a single email to the Veterinary College and Research Institute (VCRI), Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, India, became an international meeting they hope will run far into the future, according to Ram, a board-certified reproduction specialist in the WSU Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences.
“The people there are very hungry for advanced animal reproduction information that may help their flocks become more profitable,” he said. “They know of WSU and hold us in high regard.”
International meeting on short notice
Originally, the family just planned a visit home in late June and traveled exclusively on their own funds. In honor of their educators and institutions in India, though, Ram contacted the dean and fellow faculty and offered his availability to speak.
Within a short period of time a single email mushroomed into a formal international meeting titled, “Current Concepts in Small Ruminant Production System and Disease Management for Profitable Sheep and Goat Husbandry Practices in Tamil Nadu.”
Ram Kasimanickam, center, with colleagues during a gathering
of veterinarians in India.
The meeting was held in collaboration with the Joint Directorate of Animal Husbandry, which helped pull together a slate of speakers and presentations that quickly drew about 220 attendees. Vanmathy, an assistant research professor in the same WSU department as her husband, assisted the hosts throughout. Ram presented three original papers.
“The reception I received was a pleasant surprise,” said Ram, who after becoming a veterinarian left India in 1996 for specialty training in Canada. “The Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University vice chancellor Prabakaran, VCRI dean Prathaban and joint director of animal husbandry Gangaraj welcomed us unconditionally.”
Small successes yield large impact
Unlike in the U.S., many Indians still rely directly on sheep and goats for meat, milk and fiber and as a primary asset of the family. Most flocks are very small and residents typically live on the equivalent of a few dollars per household per day. The government tries to help by providing free animals to families below the poverty line but this has had minimal impact.
“The animals in this extreme southeastern part of India are threatened with virtually every tropical disease and parasite you can think of,” Ram said. “Reproductive efficiency is low.
“The challenges to increase production in India are enormous but even small increases will have a significantly greater human impact than they would in the U.S,” he said.
Ram and Vanmathy also visited Madras Veterinary College, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, where they toured the veterinary teaching hospital and talked to clinicians. Ram presented a seminar to faculty and students, presided over by the college dean Asokan and organized by the Indian Society for Study of Animal Reproduction, Tamil Nadu Chapter.
“I hope this meeting continues,” Ram said. “My goal is to develop training for their veterinary faculty and bring some of them to WSU.”