ECZM/ACZM Residency (ZHM) in Toronto, Canada
06 March 2017
I am in the second year of my residency in the joint programme between the Toronto Zoo and the Ontario Veterinary College/University of Guelph in Canada. The residency, supervised by Chris Dutton, is accredited by both the American (ACZM) and European (ECZM) Colleges of Zoological Medicine, meaning that graduates who complete the publication requirements are eligible to apply for examination to become recognised specialists (‘Diplomats’) in zoological medicine in both North America and Europe.
The 3-year residency combines clinical and pathology duties at the Toronto Zoo with a post-professional degree, the Doctor of Veterinary Science (DVSc), which provides advanced training and research on an applied clinical problem at the doctoral level and requires the defense of a thesis. We are encouraged to choose a thesis topic that fits our special interests, and past residents have defended original research projects on subjects such as chameleon reproduction, regulation of iron storage in bats, and avian bornavirus infection in waterfowl.
As a large animal veterinarian with an interest in wildlife and hoofstock medicine, I chose cervid babesiosis: a tick-borne protozoal disease that is emerging in reindeer and elk in northern latitudes as global climate change alters the distribution of insect vectors. My research combines field work with cervids and migratory birds to investigate disease prevalence in Ontario and the epidemiology of tick-pathogen dispersal, as well as a pharmacokinetic study of the anti-protozoal drug imidocarb in white-tailed deer in order to validate this as a treatment option for cervids with clinical babesiosis.
The Toronto Zoo animal population includes over 500 species of mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates. There is a strong focus on endangered Canadian species, and the veterinary team is closely involved with conservation and breeding programmes for the eastern Massasauga rattlesnake, black-footed ferret, eastern loggerhead shrike, and Vancouver Island marmot. Ongoing collaborative conservation research projects that I have been involved with include using assisted reproductive technologies in wood bison, and measuring body composition in polar bears.
I am blessed with the most wonderful and supportive mentors in the Toronto Zoo’s wildlife health branch: Chris Dutton (Dip ACZM/ECZM), Pauline Delnatte (Dip ACZM/ECZM) and Simon Hollamby (Dip ACZM). The transition from being an ambulatory farm animal vet in rural New Zealand to the diversity of zoological medicine wasn’t easy, but with their guidance I’m finally finding my feet and feeling comfortable treating non-mammalian species! Along with the Copenhagen residents Kathryn Perrin and Eva Maria Greunz I was trained in zoological gross and histopathology by Dale Smith at the University of Guelph, and I feel very fortunate that the ACZM/ECZM residents were able to benefit from her nearly 30 years of expertise in zoo pathology before her retirement in 2016.
There’s no such thing as a typical day in this residency; in my first 18 months I’ve performed emergency surgeries on lions and jaguars, learned how to safely handle venomous snakes, prepared lectures for veterinary students on elephant footcare at a sanctuary in Thailand, and spent many hours in the post mortem room and staring down a microscope trying to solve diagnostic puzzles. It’s been a steep learning curve but the residency has taught me to be a better clinician, pathologist, and researcher. Zoological medicine is a huge and varied discipline, with an amazing international community of veterinary colleagues, and it’s so exciting to see the ECZM (ZHM) specialty open up new residency programmes in Europe and North America.
Ellie Milnes MA VetMB MANZCVS (Medicine of Dairy Cattle) MRCVS
Foot trimming a Himalayan yak under anaesthesia