tions arise. Is the job market to accommodate the interests of such students meager, or instead, is it elastic, and able to capitalize on additional inputs of veterinary knowledge and skills? Does society need and will it hire more veterinarians focused on wildlife health, conservation medicine, ecosystem health, and environmental health? Finally, if there are substantial numbers of jobs that would pay acceptable salaries for veterinary medical expertise, how can veterinary students and veterinarians most readily become aware of and prepare for them?
Many North American veterinary students currently enter into DVM programs intent on careers that address the needs of wildlife and conservation medicine. About a third of students currently accepted into the DVM program at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine expressed an interest in wildlife or zoo medicine, a reflection of their identity as part of the “Animal Planet generation” (Jonathan Foreman, University of Illinois, personal communication, 2009).
While about 30% of the students in the DVM program initially volunteer to work in the College’s Wildlife Medical Clinic, at present only about two or three accept zoo- or wildlife-related positions immediately after graduation. This apparent disjunction may result because the novelty of working with wildlife recedes with time, the students are discouraged by faculty members who suggest that job opportunities involving wildlife are exceedingly few, and there are few advertisements for wildlife and ecosystem health specialists. Graduates might be seeking job positions that do not exist—i.e., ones that explicitly call for veterinary expertise—instead of identifying jobs they can fill regardless of the title.
Defining Positions in Wildlife and Ecosystem Health
Most veterinary students were not aware of the field of wildlife and ecosystem health 30 years ago, but student interest has grown dramatically in recent years and some students have created their own programs of study. Few wildlife and ecosystem health jobs are clearly labeled to target veterinarians, there is no job “guarantee” after training, and few are available in academia (Patricia Conrad, University of California at Davis, personal communication, 2008).
Individuals who get training in this field may need to be mobile and persistent. Veterinary graduates who maintain an interest in wildlife and ecosystem health take a number of pathways into the field. Some, for example, take an internship (often in small animal medicine and surgery) and then a residency in zoo medicine to qualify for employment in a zoo. Others decide to focus on the accelerating structural, biotic, and functional changes in environments for the sake of free-ranging wild animals as well as their fellow human beings.
Of course, there are opportunities to involve veterinarians who usually work on domestic animal patients as specialists in pathology, small animal, equine, and food-animal medicine and surgery through collaborative projects that address needs in wildlife health. Such collaborations address a wide array of dis-