The Juggling Act: Role of Zoo Veterinary Managers in Clinical Practice
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2019
Lauren L. Howard1, DVM, DACZM; Michael J. Adkesson2, DVM, DACZM, DECZM (Zoo Health Management); Gwen E. Myers3, DVM; Ellen Bronson4, med vet, DACZM; Ginger L. Sturgeon5, DVM; Jennifer D’Agostino6, DVM, DACZM; Allison D. Tuttle7, DVM, DACZM; Meg Sutherland-Smith8, DVM, DACZM; Christopher J. Bonar9, VMD, DACZM; Donald L. Janssen10, DVM, DACZM
1San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Escondido, CA, USA; 2Chicago Zoological Society, Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield, IL, USA; 3Zoo Miami, Miami, FL, USA; 4Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, Baltimore, MD, USA; 5Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, Pittsburgh, PA, USA; 6Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden, Oklahoma City, OK, USA; 7Mystic Aquarium, Mystic, CT, USA; 8San Diego Zoo, San Diego, CA, USA; 9Dallas Zoo, Dallas, TX, USA; 10San Diego Zoo Global (retired), San Diego, CA, USA


Many zoo veterinarians have upper managerial or supervisory roles while still serving in a clinical capacity. This combination can be challenging due to competing priorities of planned medical procedures, emergent medical cases, managerial responsibilities, and expectations for senior zoo staff level duties.

The purpose of our study was to identify challenges that veterinary managers face in their current roles, and to compare reported priorities among veterinary managers, their direct veterinary reports, and curators. Anonymous, electronic surveys were sent to veterinary managers (n=18, 89% response rate), their direct veterinary reports (n=42, 48% response rate), and their institution’s curators (n=73, 38% response rate), representing 18 zoological institutions in North America.

Veterinary managers identified the following activities as being easily manageable: interdepartmental communication, intra-departmental needs, creating value for the department, and administrative tasks. Veterinary managers identified the following activities as being challenging to accomplish: managing clinical cases, finding time to focus on big-picture ideas and personal development.

Interdepartmental communication was in the top one or two priorities identified for veterinary managers by all three work groups. Institutional development was prioritized highly by managers and veterinary direct reports, yet managers acknowledged that they spend little of their time focusing on this task. Conservation projects and/or research/publications were prioritized very low by veterinary managers. Identification of the most common challenges veterinary managers face across institutions, and comparison of the perceptions of the three different working groups, will help align zoo professionals towards common institutional and personal goals.


The authors thank all the veterinarians and curators who participated in this survey, your time and thoughtful comments were very much appreciated! We would also like to thank Adine Nicolson, American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Director of Development, for her work on creating this survey, and reporting the survey results.


Speaker Information
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Lauren L. Howard, DVM, DACZM
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Escondido, CA, USA

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