North Carolina Wildlife Medicine Symposium brings together professionals and students for day of continued education and networking

Like all disciplines within the medical field, wildlife medicine is constantly evolving, changing, and updating, making continued education and professional development an invaluable part of being a wildlife medicine practitioner. As leaders in the fields of Wildlife Biology and Wildlife Rehabilitation, Lees-McRae strives to be a hub of wildlife medicine education, not just for students earning their bachelor's degrees, but also for professionals who are seeking to continue developing their skills and knowledge.

The college’s annual North Carolina Wildlife Medicine Symposium, a professional wildlife medicine conference, provides practitioners with an opportunity to network, sharpen their skills, and stay on the cutting edge of the field of wildlife medicine. On Friday, July 28, Lees-McRae hosted this day-long conference for the fifth time, featuring speakers who are experts in their field, and were able to speak to the year’s theme, “Back to Basics.”

“We’ve had some different focus areas throughout the years, and this year we kind of brought it back to the basics of learning about some of the really fundamental components of wildlife medicine,” Veterinarian and Assistant Professor of Biology Amber McNamara said. “This year we’re really opening it up to people who may be new to wildlife medicine, or perhaps they’re getting back into it, or a practitioner who sees dogs and cats but they’re thinking, ‘wow, these people keep bringing me wildlife, I need to know what to do.’”

Although the conference has always been open to Lees-McRae students studying Pre-Veterinary Medicine, Wildlife Biology, and Wildlife Rehabilitation, for the first time in 2023 the event was geared toward students from any college or university who are currently studying a related field, making it the perfect time to return to the basics of the discipline. McNamara said these students were offered a discounted fee in order to give them an opportunity to experience a professional conference and network with fellow wildlife medicine practitioners.

Getting an inside look at these kinds of events is important not only for the educational and networking opportunities they present to students, but also because registered veterinarians and veterinary technicians are legally required to participate in continued education efforts throughout their career. This is because of the ever-evolving and ever-progressing nature of medicine, but also because it provides opportunities to learn from others and foster new skills.

By opening the symposium up to student attendees, it provides an invaluable look into the professional world of wildlife medicine before students graduate, giving them a leg up in the field. Junior Jack Colby, who is studying Wildlife Biology with a specialization in Wildlife Rehabilitation, attended the conference for the first time this year, an experience he said gave him additional insight into both the theoretical and practical knowledge he has gained so far throughout his undergraduate career.

“There’s always something to learn, and there are always so many different approaches to everything, especially in the medical field where the outcome really matters,” Colby said. “It was really interesting to see how different vets approach the species I work with now.”

Despite the overarching focus of going “back to basics,” this year’s schedule covered a wide range of wildlife medicine topics, and shared perspectives from practitioners in a variety of professions. Deputy State Public Health Veterinarian Erica Berl shared her expertise on zoonotic disease surveillance and control through her talk, “Rabies in North Carolina: Prevention, Control, and Epidemiology.” Dan Johnson—senior veterinarian, and founder of the state’s first all-exotics veterinary practice, Avian and Exotic Animal Care—provided his insight into the world of exotic pet, fish, wildlife, and zoo species care with his talk, “Wildlife Cases Encountered in Clinical Practice.”

Colby said that hearing these presentations gave him unique perspectives and information on some of the topics he has learned in class, as well as informed him about entirely new topics. This is one of the most important aspects of a professional symposium, because practitioners have the opportunity to compare notes, learn from each other, and develop new ideas and ways of thinking. While staying current and constantly improving is particularly important for practicing professionals with patients who rely on them, Colby said this is also an important opportunity for students who want to stay on the top of their game.

“I think it’s one of your jobs as a student to be as curious as you can about what you’re studying. Part of that involves really diving into what you’re doing, and the symposium was a really good way to dive into the professional side of wildlife medicine and wildlife rehabilitation,” Colby said. “For students who are at all on the fence about wildlife medicine or wildlife rehabilitation, this acted as a good window into that world. It was a good opportunity to learn some new things, to network, to interact with veterinarians and fellow students, and just overall an experience that adds to the bolus of information you should have as a student.”

In addition to providing a valuable continued education experience for the practitioners and students participating, the North Carolina Wildlife Medicine Symposium also serves to show off the great research and education going on right here at Lees-McRae. The college’s Wildlife Biology, Wildlife Rehabilitation, and Pre-Veterinary Medicine programs, as well as the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, are given the opportunity to shine when professionals at the top of their game learn more about them by coming to campus.

“This event highlights the fact that we want to stay in front of this networking opportunity, and bring together experts in the field,” McNamara said. “It’s great bringing together these experts and providing community education, but at the same time it does highlight the programs that we have. Now that we have two veterinarians on staff, I think that elevates it even further, and really demonstrates that we’re leading the charge.”

Learn more about the speakers from this year’s North Carolina Wildlife Medicine Symposium

By Maya JarrellAugust 04, 2023