The rewarding challenges of a zoo chief veterinarian

Downtown Charlotte, NC

Jb Minter, DVM, MS, DACZM, explains what makes zoo medicine challenging and how different species pose unique obstacles

Jb Minter, DVM, MS, DACZM, director of Animal Health at the North Carolina Zoo, told dvm360 in an interview, about the most challenging species to work with and some of his favorites. He also explained how, as a director at the North Carolina Zoo, he can work in multiple areas of the profession.

Below is a partial transcript.

Jb Minter, DVM, MS, DACZM: Some of the ones that are a little bit the most complicated are actually some of the the either the largest or the smallest. So when I got a 2g dart frog—so this is something that's about the size of your little pinky finger—and you're trying to do a workup on that, that's extremely difficult because a lot of the diagnostic tools that we would have don't work. I can barely get a blood sample from a 2g dart frog without exsanguinating it. So those little, subtle differences make those animals very complicated. The same thing goes true if we start bringing the size of the animal up. So, if I start working with an elephant diagnostically, I can't do a lot. I mean, they're well-trained, we can get, obviously, get a blood sample from an elephant, and you can usually do that with the animal wake. But radiographs really don't work. You can potentially get some radiographs of the distal periphery, so limbs, toes, things like that. But if you wanted to get a full chest radiograph, it doesn't work. You can't. There's no radiograph machine that can go that far, or shoot through that much tissue.

Obviously, I practice medicine, I'm a veterinarian, but on the flip side of that, some of the other things that we do really depends on the size of the zoo that you're working in, where you may wear different hats. And some of those may be still within the medicine aspect; we act as a nutritionist. But some of the things that stepped outside of the field that most people don't do is I helped with exhibit design. Obviously, I'm a big teacher. I work in West Africa, probably about 2 to 3 months out of the year working with elephants in West Africa. So those are the big aspects of the reason that this job to me is I mean, I can't complain. I love my job. It's one of the greatest jobs in the world.

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