Lifelong Learning (and Continuing Education)
As a veterinarian, a scientist, and honestly a human, I consider myself a lifelong learner. I believe in constantly asking questions, seeking answers, and asking myself, “how can I do better?” Not to mention, the California State Veterinary Medical Board thinks so too. Licensed veterinarians in the state of California are required to obtain 36 hours of continuing education every two years in order to keep their skills and knowledge up to date. Unfortunately, the average veterinary conference focused on small animals, horses or livestock (albeit interesting) is not always the most relevant to the day-to-day work of a wildlife veterinarian.
I’ve been a member of the Wildlife Disease Association (WDA) since 2010, when I first joined as a student. Since then, I’ve found a home surrounded by like-minded wildlife professionals (who I now consider friends) and a great source of lifelong learning (and continuing education). The WDA was established in 1952 with the mission to “promote healthy wildlife and ecosystems, biodiversity conservation, and environmentally sustainable solutions to One Health challenges.” Today it is made up of over 1,500 members from 70 countries across the world. Membership is open to all wildlife professionals (not just veterinarians), and places a heavy emphasis on supporting students. Side note – if you are a student reading this I highly recommend getting involved in the WDA!
Each year the WDA hosts an annual scientific conference, which last month I had the privilege to attend in Athens, Georgia. Despite the humidity, this was a perfect location to host the annual conference as it is home to the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine and the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS), a world-renowned program that provides wildlife disease expertise, diagnostic capacity, and research infrastructure to state wildlife agencies in the Southeast United States.
Over seven days, the conference hosted workshops, poster presentations, scientific talks, and of course fun social events. I had the opportunity to give a scientific talk myself and share some of the work that we do at the Oiled Wildlife Care Network. Those of you who follow this blog can probably guess the topic I chose – the Tanzanite Beavers! I truly enjoyed presenting on lessons learned from the Tanzanite spill to a broader audience and appreciated the support of my colleagues from the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center in attendance (including our Director, and fellow wildlife veterinarian, Mike).
Beyond the continuing education credits, I networked with colleagues, gained knowledge to make myself a better wildlife veterinarian, and was just generally inspired by the incredible work being done to conserve wildlife species across the globe. I’m already counting down the days to the conference next year! Doesn’t hurt that it’s in Australia…