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Veterinary Schools

From "Careers in Veterinary Medicine" by Jan Ramer:

"What should you do if you are interested in pursuing a career as a primate veterinarian? Work hard! During undergraduate studies, while doing the prerequisites for veterinary school, students should try to get as much experience with primates as possible. You may take ethology, primatology or physical anthropology courses, volunteer at a zoo or primate facility, or try to get experience with free ranging primates. If you've made it to this page you may have noticed that there are job listings. This is a good place to begin looking for volunteer or paid opportunities. Once accepted to the 4-year veterinary program, it is very important to get good broad general veterinary training in medicine and surgery. Some veterinary schools offer courses or clinics in exotic animal medicine, but few offer training in primate medicine. This experience must be obtained by doing extra projects and/or summer jobs with a primate center or zoo, attending conferences, and through externships at primate facilities."

The following list of veterinary schools results from an email solicitation on the Primate-Science email list by Dr. Janette Wallis.  Dr. Wallis asked the list for vet schools with programs that had "at least a brief focus on primates" and offered an approach to veterinary medicine suited for an individual pursuing a career in primate medicine. Respondents suggested ten different programs which we have listed here with contact information.

If you are planning a career in primate medicine, do not necessarily limit yourself to the schools listed here.  We encourage you to explore veterinary schools in your state or region and ask those institutions if their program could help you pursue a career working with nonhuman primates.

General Comments

  • If the person is really interested in primate medicine, I would recommend a "normal" vet degree and then an internship with one of the primate centers. Specialty training in lab animal medicine is also another option because many primates are used in research settings, so most lab animal vets have a fair amount of primate medicine training, and frequently go on to take special training in primate medicine.
  • In short, I think the student may have to have a short-term goal and a long term one...get a DVM and then go for further training.
  • The nice thing about lab animal medicine is there are formal training programs at various institutions that also pay a decent salary while attending school. As for the holistic approach, I am not sure any program does that too much, simply because of the lack of time to get all the medicine aspects in.
  • One thing you might tell your prospective student is that his/her options for schools which he/she will be able to attend are limited. Most veterinary colleges are state schools. In general, they take the vast majority of students from their own states. Some schools have reserved spots for out of state students, but generally these are students from states that do not have their own veterinary schools.
  • As far as a "holistic" approach, veterinary schools have a wide array of topics which they must cover to maintain their accreditation. Students must prepare for board exams which encompass many species. There is little time other than through externships or electives to cover other material.
  • In the grand scheme of things, primates are a very specialized (if special) group of critters with very specialized needs. If you haven't been interested or trained in these matters, you just won't know about primate behavior, and won't get this training in vet school.
  • All vet schools include training in "Exotics", usually formally as well as maintaining some kind of exotics clinic that interested students run.
  • There are only 26 vet schools in the US, and, of course, any really interested student will forge their own way towards exotics in vet school, much financed and supported program or no.
  • The best vet schools recognize compassion and respect for the complete animal first, in the admissions process, and do not attempt to inculcate it.
  • Which brings us to the center of your question, and the traditional divide between behaviorists and vets which has driven me nuts for years, and which I don't really see a way around. The coursework in vet school is intense and unrelenting for 4 years. Behavior courses are oriented towards the behavior of domestic animals not wild ones, based though it is on their evolutionary histories.
  • And tell them not to lose that respect for the animals, no matter what they end up doing. That's the important thing.