Our Belize Community - SAGA’s Healer: Vet Heather Stewart

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 17, No. 23            June 14, 2007

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Throughout the years, the stray cat and dog population in our community has increased, creating even more problems. Education has helped to understand that rather than an eradication properly caring for your pets, including the spay and neuter programs, it can grossly help with the animal over population. A big factor in educating the public came through the Saga Society in San Pedro Town. A non-profit organization, Saga works basely and solely on donations and grants. Through their hard working efforts, a veterinary clinic, a first for the island is now fully functional and its services are available to the general public. Assisting Saga is veterinarian doctor, Heather Stewart whom we proudly feature in this week’s “Our Belize Community.”

    Born in Rochester, New Hampshire in the United States of America, Heather was welcomed to this world by parents James and Patricia Stewart on September 1st, 1974. Heather’s educational achievements began at Rochester Catholic School and after graduating successfully she attended Spaulding High School where she enjoyed playing tennis and soccer. Always involved in the Sciences she knew that this was a career path that she really wanted to pursue and as such attended Merrimack College where she received her Bachelor’s in Psychology in 1996. However, while at College, one of her professors introduced her to a Biology program that she enjoyed immensely. Because of the joy that studying that particular field brought her, she remained in college and a year later received her Bachelor’s in Biology.

    Graduating from that esteemed college, Heather became part of the Peace Corps family and went to Dominican Republic. She had always enjoyed traveling and felt that this would give her an opportunity to focus on a future career. In Dominican Republic, she worked as a public health educator. Heather absolutely loved life there, it was intense work and poor living conditions (no electricity and limited water supply), but she states, “I loved the simplicity of their lifestyle.”

    Returning home, Heather went on to attend Texas A&M University. While there she did her externship in Spain under the guidance of the University of Castilla La Mancha. There she had the opportunity to research wild animals. “It was a wonderful experience,” Heather reminisces.

    Heather knew that she wanted to be a veterinary by then and chose to attend Ross University Veterinary School in St. Kitts. She successfully completed her vet education in 2005 and returned home to work for the Missouri Department of Health where she helped to develop educational models to train people about diseases that human might “catch” from animals. “We taught people about these diseases, such as, west Nile virus and tick fever, how they are contracted, prevention and cures,” she explained.

    Heather remained at Missouri’s Health Department for a period of six months only because she found something that struck her fancy even more. Through a post on the internet, she discovered Belize and San Pedro but especially the need of a veterinary doctor at Saga’s Humane Society. “I always knew I did not want to work in the US, so this internet post gave me something to look forward to.” Heather arrived in San Pedro on May 2005, fell absolutely in love, went home to sell or give away some her stuff and made the move to Ambergris Caye on November of that same year.

    Since then Heather has dedicated herself to Saga and the work they want to accomplish. “The Spay/Neuter programs have been a priority as have our adoptions which we have increased by twice as before. The Fort Dog shelter is something that we are working on as well as having updated our website, the blog and Nurse Melly’s advice column on The San Pedro Sun.”

    During her free time, Heather enjoys reading and exploring the island. Through her tremendous effort and for her love of animals, Heather is truly helping us with our pets and the stray animal population in “Our Belize Community."

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