Are Our Professional Expectations for Captive and Free-Ranging Wildlife Veterinarians Eliminating the Possibility for Healthy Work-Life Balance?
Wildlife Health Center, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, Life Health Center, Davis, CA, USA
Today’s zoo veterinarian is a new type of transdisciplinary professional; they practice medicine in their communities and hold titles in every level of government and academia. The field of zoological medicine has seen an expansive broadening into the arenas of public education, conservation medicine, and ecosystem health. With this change, we have seen an ever-higher bar being set for the skill sets expected of veterinarians. To succeed today, wildlife veterinarians need to be knowledgeable about more than the physiology of animals; he/she has to have a basic understanding of the natural history, niche, behavior, nutrition, and disease of all of the species potentially under his/her care. In addition, these veterinarians must have everyday common sense, non-technical skills, a general awareness of how the world works, and recognition that how we choose to live our lives impacts the environments in which we live. Are these expectations for an all-knowing and ever-capable veterinarian compatible with work-life balance? Can we attain professional excellence without losing ourselves? Why do we want this zoological medicine career if it possibly eliminates our chances for personal happiness and financial security? As a community, we have the power to enable each other and adjust expectations without compromising excellence.
Jonna Mazet is a wife and mother of two teenaged daughters, as well as a professor and director of the Wildlife Health Center in the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis. She is a wildlife epidemiologist active in investigating ecosystem health problems involving the interactions of wildlife, domestic animals, and humans. She teaches Conservation Biology, Epidemiology, and Policy and Communication in the veterinary and MPVM curricula at UC Davis and mentors wildlife conservation graduate students.