Focus Area for Zoological Medicine
Description of the Focus Area
Zoological Medicine (ZM) is the broad term used to encompass the practice of medicine and surgery in nontraditional species. It includes a number of different areas, including exotic animal private practice, aquatic animal medicine, wildlife medicine, and zoo practice. Zoological Medicine (ZM) combines many elements of veterinary medicine, including preventative medicine, clinical medicine and surgery, pathology, clinical ecology, regulatory compliance, facilities and personnel management, and research.
Zoological Medicine veterinarians find work in private practice, government agencies, non-government organizations (NGO’s), academia, and even industry, and have responsibilities for a wide variety of species. ZM veterinarians can enter the field through several routes. Veterinarians offering clinical management of privately owned zoological species or for smaller zoological institutions may enter practice directly after DVM training. Specialists seeking to serve major zoological institutions, government agencies, large NGO’s or academia typically receive post-DVM education, either in an internship/residency format and/or research training in MS or PhD programs.
Board Certification is available in Zoological Medicine through the American College of Zoological Medicine (ACZM). For individuals preparing for private practice options that emphasize avian, reptile and amphibian, or exotic mammal medicine, Board Certification is also available through the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in those species defined specialities. Residency training positions can be very competitive and, therefore, good planning and preparation is important during the vet school years.
Zoological Medicine is a sufficiently broad career path that veterinary students should be careful to avoid too much specialization; it is arguably the ultimate mixed animal practice. Animal handling of a variety of species, clinical skills, and pathology are all important. Research, both basic and clinical, is an important component of Zoological Medicine.
Current Number of Zoological Medicine Focused Students
- Class 2013: 4
- Class 2014: 6
- Class 2015: 3
- Class 2016: 7 declared to date
- Class 2017: none declared to date
Your advisor should be chosen with the following areas of sub-focus within the Zoological Medicine Focus in mind.
General Zoo Medicine
General: Zoo Veterinarians generally implement institutional health management for animal collections owned or managed by government agencies, nonprofit organizations or corporations. They usually work with a wide variety of species and therefore must be aware of the health needs of all types of animals. They must be able to balance the need to provide very high quality individualized health care and at the same time to work at the level of population medicine or higher to provide preventative health care for their collection(s).
Potential mentors: Dr. Michael Loomis, Dr. Ryan DeVoe, Dr. Michael Stoskopf, Dr. Suzanne Kennedy-Stoskopf, and others.
Curriculum Recommendations: Zoological Medicine courses involving population medicine approaches, Epidemiology courses, and clinical research experiences are beneficial for students interested in pursuing this career option. A strong background in basic clinical veterinary medicine and surgery is also important. It is common for zoo medicine specialists to pursue advanced residency training and board certification. Students should prepare their choices to allow for these future opportunities. Thesis option recommended, but not required.
Aquatic Animal Medicine
General: Aquatic Veterinarians find employment in all sectors. Those seeking roles in display aquarium practice or endangered species health management are generally employed by government agencies, large nonprofit organizations or consulting firms or in academia. Those interested in pursuing food production careers are most commonly employed by corporations to manage health issues for large numbers of animals. They may work with a wide variety of species or be focused to specialized in one or a few related taxa. They must work at the level of population medicine or higher to be effective and must be well grounded in the principles of herd health management.
Potential mentors: Dr. Greg Lewbart, Dr. Craig Harms, Dr. Jay Levine, Dr. Michael Stoskopf, Dr. Suzanne Kennedy-Stoskopf, and others.
Curriculum Recommendations: Zoological Medicine courses involving population medicine approaches, Epidemiology courses, and clinical research experiences are beneficial for students interested in pursuing this career option. It is common for aquatic medicine specialists to pursue advanced research training in one of a variety of disciplines related to fisheries and wildlife sciences and/or to pursue residency training and board certification. Students should prepare their choices to allow for these future opportunities. Thesis option recommended, but not required.
General: Wildlife Veterinarians are usually employed by government agencies, large nonprofit organizations or consulting firms or in academia. They may work with a wide variety of species or be focused to specialized in one or a few related taxa. They must work at the level of population medicine or higher to be effective and must be well grounded in the principles of clinical ecology.
Potential mentors: Dr. Michael Stoskopf, Dr. Suzanne Kennedy-Stoskopf, Dr. Laurel Degernes, Dr. Michael Loomis and others.
Curriculum Recommendations: Zoological Medicine courses involving population medicine approaches, Epidemiology courses, and clinical research experiences are beneficial for students interested in pursuing this career option. It is common for wildlife medicine specialists to pursue advanced research training in one of a variety of disciplines related to fisheries and wildlife sciences at the MS or PhD level, and/or more rarely to pursue residency training and board certification. Students should prepare their choices to allow for these future opportunities. Thesis option highly recommended.
Wildlife Rehabilitation Medicine
General: Wildlife Rehabilitation Veterinarians are generally employed by nonprofit organizations. They usually work with a wide variety of species but can be specialized in one or a few related taxa. They deliver individual health care, usually in an emergency and/or critical care environment, but must also work at the level of population medicine or higher to be effective in making triage and resource decisions. Strong diagnostic and surgical skills are beneficial. Wildlife rehabilitation practitioners are also on the forefront of outbreak identification and public health issues. They must be well grounded in the best approaches to zoonotic and food animal diseases in wildlife.
Potential mentors: Dr. Laurel Degernes, Dr. Ryan DeVoe, Dr. Greg Lewbart, Dr. Michael Stoskopf, and others.
Curriculum Recommendations: A strong broad clinical diagnostic and therapeutic base is needed. Students should seek to take as many of the specialty small animal medicine and surgery courses as they can in addition to Zoological Medicine courses and epidemiology courses.
Mixed Small Animal /Exotic Animal Practice
General: Veterinarians in exotic animal practice usually see privately owned animals. A variety of species can be encountered, but companion birds, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, mice, rats, reptiles and fish are currently most common. Specialty practices that see only exotic species exist, but the majority of veterinary care for these species is provided by small animal practitioners, who have developed special expertise with these animals. Some students will prefer to declare the zoological medicine focus, particularly if they aspire to an exotics-only type of practice, but others may prefer to declare the small animal focus and take the avian and exotic animal emphasis that is mentored by Dr. Flammer.
Potential mentors: Dr. Laurel Degernes, Dr. Keven Flammer , Dr. Greg Lewbart, Dr. Ryan DeVoe, and others.
Curriculum Recommendations: Will be similar to the mixed tract. Zoological Medicine courses involving companion birds, rabbits, ferrets and reptiles should be emphasized. Additional courses in rats, mice, fish, and wildlife are helpful. A senior year externship in exotic animal practice is recommended.
Steps to pursue a focus in zoological medicine
- Speak with Dr. Stoskopf, focus area leader, who can help provide a list of faculty to consider as mentor.
- Identify and register with a mentor who can advise on opportunities in zoological medicine.
- Complete at least 5 credits of ZM selectives
- Complete at least 3 ZM electives (6 credits)
- Complete at least 3 ZM senior blocks (6 credits)
- Complete the ZM Core senior blocks
- Consider the Thesis option (Not Required)
Year 1-3 Requirements
ZM Electives: Complete at least 3 electives (6 credits). Check current listings for any course changes.
There are no prerequisites for these courses. Multiple years of registration are allowed for CBS 817, CBS 818, and VMC 921.
|Course #||Instructor||Course Title||Semester||Year||Credits|
|CBS 817||Kennedy-Stoskopf||Advanced Topics in Zoological Medicine I||Fall||All||2|
|CBS 818||Kennedy-Stoskopf||Advanced Topics in Zoological Medicine II||Spring||All||2|
|VMC 921||Lewbart||Special Topics in Zoological Medicine||F, S, SS I,II||All||1-3(v)|
|VMC 926||Degernes||Advanced Topics in Wild Avian Medicine||Spring||All||1|
|VMC 928||Lewbart||Wild Reptile Medicine||Spring||All||1|
ZM Selectives: Complete at least 5 credits. Check current listings. All selectives are 1 credit per week.
|Course #||Instructor||Course Name||Week Offered||Semester||Classes||Year|
|VMC 991||Harms||Advanced Ferret Medicine||1st||Fall||1,2,3||odd|
|VMC 991||Stoskopf||Advanced Herptile Medicine||1st||Fall||1,2,3||even|
|VMP 991||Cullen||Exotic Animal Pathology||1st and 2nd||Fall||2,3||all|
|VMC 991||Lewbart||Advanced Fish Medicine||2nd||Fall||1,2,3||all|
|VMC 991||Degernes||Raptor Medicine and Rehabilitation||2nd||Fall||1,2,3||all|
|VMC 991||Loomis||Health/Safety in the Third World||2nd||Fall||1,2,3||all|
|VMC 991||Kennedy-Stoskopf||Advanced Carnivore Medicine||1st||Spring||1,2,3||odd|
|VMC 991||Kennedy-Stoskopf||Environmental Medicine & Policy||1st||Spring||1,2,3||all|
|VMC 991||Kennedy-Stoskopf||One Medicine One Health||2nd||Fall||1,2,3||all|
|VMC 991||Stoskopf||Advanced Primate Medicine||2nd||Spring||1,2,3||even|
|VMB 991||Smallwood||Avian Anatomy & Physiology||2 nd (variable)||Spring||1,2,3||odd|
|VMP 991||Levine||Experiences in Aquaculture||2nd||Spring||1,2,3||all|
|VMP 991||Lewbart||Invertebrate Medicine||1st||Spring||1,2,3||All|
|VMC-991||Flammer||Companion Avian Medicine||1st||Spring||1.2.3||all|
|VMC- 991||Flammer||Adv. Companion Avian Medicine||2nd||Spring||2,3||all|
|VMC 991||Fish||Lab Animal Medicine||2nd||Fall||1,2,3||all|
|VMP 991||Barnes||Pathology of Birds I||1 st||Spring||1,2,3||all|
|VMP 991||Barnes||Pathology of Birds II||2nd||Spring||1,2,3||all|
|VMP 991||Cullen||Non-Domestic Animal Pathology||1st||Fall||1,2,3||all|
|VMC 991||Stoskopf||Marine Mammal||2nd||Spring||1,2,3||odd|
Year 1-3 Recommended Courses
Consult with your advisor.
Fourth Year Required Rotations
|Course #||Course Title|
|Take each of the Following|
|VMP 978||Clinical Pathology|
|VMC 971||Small Animal Medicine (2 rotations, consecutive)|
|VMC 973||Small Animal Surgery (VMC 973G-General or VMC 973O-Orthopedics)|
Primary Care Requirement: choose at least one of the following ***
|VMC 939||General Limited Small Animal Practice|
|VMC 989||Zoo Medicine (2 rotations, consecutive) Prerequisites|
|VMC 998||Basic Wildlife Rehab Medicine, NC Zoo|
|VMC 999||Advanced Wildlife Rehab Medicine, NC Zoo|
|Emergency Requirement: choose at least one of the following|
|VMC 960||Small Animal Emergency|
|VMC 966||Equine Emergency|
|Equine Care Requirement: choose at least one of the following|
|VMC 979||Equine Medicine|
|VMC 975||Equine Surgery|
|Choose at least two of the Following|
|VMP 970||Ruminant Health Management I|
|VMP 973||Special Topics - Epidemiology|
|VMC 941||Special Topics - Theriogenology|
|VMP 982||Poultry Health Management I|
|VMP 983||Poultry Health Management II|
|VMP 984||Swine Medicine I|
|VMP 985||Swine Medicine II|
|VMP 987||Ruminant Special Topics|
|Choose at least three of the Following *only two courses at the Zoo (those marked with *) can be chosen to fulfill this requirement, meaning that each student must take at least one course in this group not taught on the zoo grounds*|
|VMC 996||Advanced Avian Clinical Medicine|
|VMC 959||Advanced Primate Medicine|
|VMC 958||Advanced Prosimian Medicine|
|VMC 999||*Advanced Wildlife Rehab Medicine, NC Zoo|
|VMC 998||*Basic Wildlife Rehab Medicine, NC Zoo|
|VMC 988||Exotic Animal Medicine|
|VMC 997||Raptor Medicine & Rehabilitation|
|VMC 950||Sea Turtle|
|VMC 964||*Zoological Husbandry & Nutrition|
|VMC 989||*Zoo Medicine (2 rotations, consecutive) Prerequisites|
|VMC 987||Aquatic Medicine (Not offered for the current clinical year)|
**All Extramural Rotations (in 4th year) - maximum of 6 credits (3 rotations) total
***Students may count VMC 989 (Zoo Medicine), VMC 998 (Basic Wildlife Rehab), or VMC 999 (Adv. Wildlife Rehab) toward both their Primary Health Requirement and their Species Requirements.
7. ZM DVM Thesis Option
This is an option for students seeking to distinguish themselves and not in any way a requirement for the Zoological Medicine Focus. Students interested in pursuing some types of career in Zoological Medicine can benefit considerably from selecting to do a DVM thesis. This is entirely optional. It provides the opportunity to select a project or topic and to study and investigate the topic in depth throughout the time spent in the veterinary curriculum. Students desiring this option should talk with their faculty mentor as soon as they are aware of their interest in pursuing the option, and no later than the last week of their third year. Theses can be research based or literature based and should deal with some aspect of zoological medicine. Students will be expected to write a comprehensive treatment of the thesis topic demonstrating their familiarity with the published literature pertaining to their thesis topic, and some original analysis of the topic. They will also be asked to present and defend their thesis orally. In some cases the thesis material will be suitable for peer reviewed publication, in which case the student will be encouraged to publish. Students selecting this optional thesis opportunity will select a major professor from the zoological medicine faculty and at least two other faculty at large to serve on the thesis committee. The major professor does not have to be the student’s faculty mentor, nor does the faculty mentor have to sit on the committee, though this is possible if appropriate. The student will outline their intended topic and direction and work with the faculty committee to develop the thesis project.
- CVM Summer Research Interns – Dr. Meurs
- Foundation Research Grants (Hitchings, Dodge, Morris, etc.)
- Externship Opportunities
- See listings posted by WAAZM
- Ask faculty for recommendations
- Ask senior students for recommendations
Students may benefit from attending a zoological medicine conference. Annual meetings to consider include the following. Check websites at end for home pages of these organizations, which have latest information on upcoming meetings.
- Annual Meeting of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians (5-day meeting in October or November)
- International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine (5-day meeting in April or May)
- Wildlife Disease Association (5-day meeting in July or August)
- Association of Avian Veterinarians (4-day meeting in early to mid August, location varies)
- North American Veterinary Conference (6 day meeting in January, Orlando, FL)
- Western Veterinary Conference (6 day meeting in February, Las Vegas, NV)
- WAAZM Club (Wildlife, Avian, Aquatic and Zoo Medicine Club)
- Invertebrate Medicine Club
- Fall Bear Project
- Raptor Labs
- Crissey Zoological Nutrition Symposium
- Turtle Rescue Team
- Wild Carnivore Team
- ZTAU Design Team
- Marine Animal Health Assessments
- Fisheries Day Camp
- Zoo Veterinary Day Camps
Other Useful Information
- Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine
- Journal of Wildlife Disease
- Journal of Reptile Medicine and Surgery
- Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery
- Diseases of Aquatic Organisms
- Journal of Marine Mammal Science
(web sites below)
There are many organizations available to join. It is not important to join them all, but if you are interested in a particular area of zoological medicine it would behoove you to join the main organizations related to your area of interest. It is a good way to know what is going on and often offers opportunities to meet people and make contacts. For example, if you think you want to work with free-ranging wildlife, it would be good to belong to the WDA. If you have an interest in aquatic medicine, it would be good to belong to the IAAAM, etc. Student memberships at very good rates are available from most of these organizations.
- International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine (IAAAM )
- American Fisheries Society (AFS)
- American Association of Zoo Veterinarians (AAZV )
- Wildlife Disease Association (WDA)
- American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians (AAWV)
- Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV)
- Association of Amphibian and Reptile Veterinarians (AARV)
- American Association of Wildlife Rehabilitators (AAWR)
Recommended electronic mailing list
- WDIN WILDLIFE DISEASE NEWS DIGEST to enroll email firstname.lastname@example.org
Useful Internet Sites
- Environmental Medicine Consortium http://emc.ncsu.edu
- Wildlife Disease Association http://wildlifedisease.org/
- International Assoc. for Aquatic Animal Medicine http://iaaam.org/
- American Assoc. of Zoo Vets http://www.aazv.org/
- Federal Wildlife Disease Center http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/
- Alliance of Veterinarians for the Environment http://www.aveweb.org/
- American Zoo and Aquarium Association http://www.aza.org/
- Association of Avian Vets http://www.aav.org/
- Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians http://www.arav.org/
- National Biological Information Infrastructure http://wildlifedisease.nbii.gov/
- National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association http://www.nwrawildlife.org/home.asp
- Association of Avian Veterinarians externship listings http://www.aav.org/externships.htm