The Assiniboine Park Zoo offers a unique veterinary internship in Canada, contributing to the competitive and challenging field of zoo medicine. The veterinary internship program at the zoo offers early-career veterinarians with 1 to 2 years of experience the opportunity to master skills in zoo and wildlife medicine. We aim to educate and support individuals with a demonstrated interest in this field.
The collaborative efforts of the team and the commitment to animal welfare make the experience truly special.
Dr. Monica, the veterinary intern at the Assiniboine Park Zoo for the 2023-2024 year, and Dr. Charlene, our Director of Animal Health and Nutrition here at the Zoo, shared about this unique opportunity.
What does a veterinary intern do?
Dr. Monica: As a veterinary intern, you're involved with the entire vet team and all of their activities throughout the day. There's a lot of hands-on work, including helping with treatments, various surgeries, diagnostics, and research.
What interests you about zoo medicine?
M: Zoo medicine goes beyond treating individual animals; it involves species conservation and research to advance the field. The focus is on contributing to the greater good and restoring wild populations.
Can you share some experiences from your time here?
M: I’ve had the opportunity to work with various species, from ruminants like takin and bighorn sheep to larger animals like polar bears. Each day is unpredictable, presenting new challenges and learning experiences.
What's it like transitioning between treating different species?
M: It's a little chaotic, and you never know what to expect throughout the day. Flexibility and being ready for anything are crucial in this field. The variety of species keeps the work interesting and rewarding.
Why would you recommend veterinary medicine?
M: Veterinary medicine is rewarding not only for saving animals but also for building relationships with their owners. In zoo medicine, the focus on species conservation and advancing the field adds an extra layer of fulfillment.
Why is having a vet intern program important?
Dr. Charlene: There are limited facilities in Canada and North America with such programs. We value education and see this as an opportunity to give back.
Each veterinarian comes to us at a different stage in their career, with unique personalities and backgrounds. We aim to help them advance their knowledge and experience in zoo and wildlife medicine.
What are your favourite aspects of mentoring new zoo medicine vets?
C: I enjoy focusing on pathology, as many veterinarians may not have a strong background in this area. Teaching interns pathology enhances their skills and knowledge for their future careers.
What unique experiences can the zoo offer interns?
C: The zoo setting is vastly different from regular veterinary practice. Interns learn to be adaptable and stay current with evolving knowledge in various topics. The wide range of species, from fish to large mammals, challenges interns to be open-minded and engaged in continuous learning.
Where have you seen past interns go in their careers?
C: Past interns have pursued diverse paths worldwide, including residency programs, working as wildlife vets, conservation efforts, and managing zoo collections.
We are excited to see where Monica goes in her career! She is an excellent intern with a considerable amount of experience. She excels in medicine and surgery but stands out in connecting with animals behaviorally due to her background in behaviour and training. Her ability to make meaningful connections with animals adds a unique aspect to our daily work, and I believe she will carry this skill throughout her entire career.
The Assiniboine Park Zoo is pleased to offer this dynamic internship to offer early-career veterinarians an opportunity to experience the fulfilling nature of zoo medicine, showcasing the challenges and rewards of working with a variety of animal species.