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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.

Recent/Current Number of Zoological Medicine Focused Students

Advisors

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.

Wildlife Medicine

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

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
VMB 976 Radiology
VMB 977 Anesthesia
VMP 977 Necropsy
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
VMP 979 Epidemiology
VMC 940 Theriogenology
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.

Other Experiences

Employment opportunities/externships/funding

Funding

Conferences

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.

Extracurricular activities

Other Useful Information

Recommended journals

Recommended memberships

(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.

Recommended electronic mailing list

Useful Internet Sites