Michelle Lem

Ashoka Fellow
Kanata, BC, Canada
Fellow Since 2013


This profile was prepared when Michelle Lem was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2013.
The New Idea
Michelle engages veterinarians to restructure their societal role from healthcare provider for animals to community health liaison for people. In doing so, she is building a process of identification and utilization of non-traditional networks to facilitate the social inclusion of isolated populations.

Recognizing the incredibly strong bond between an individual and their pet, Michelle is capitalizing on this important trigger for changemaking. While a person may not be driven to action to care for themselves, many pet owners will go to great lengths to ensure their pets are well cared for. Thus, Michelle offers an insightful tactic to overcome systemic and behavior-driven access barriers to social services. In doing this, Michelle is enabling local communities to reach a greater number of its marginalized populations.

Michelle is transforming how medical services, social services, local government and law enforcement agencies interact with large segments of marginalized populations, by facilitating their access and entry points through the community veterinarian. Michelle is equipping local veterinarians to establish free, regional, mobile clinics, which target pet owners in need of housing services and/or medical support services. These clinics provide access to free veterinary care for the animal and local shelters, public health and social services for the person; placing the veterinarian as a local liaison and convener of an integrated model of care.

Michelle’s vision is to tap into the inherent, empathic and entrepreneurial nature of people—like those who become veterinarians—to play a role in addressing social issues that utilizes much more than just their professional training.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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