Veterinary school and primate medicine
One primate-oriented career option is veterinary medicine. There's not a lot of
private practice with nonhuman primates (cats & dogs tend to pay the bills in that
sector) but zoos, research institutions, and a few field sites/conservation NGOs have
needs for veterinarians who know something about primates.
First off, check out Careers in Primatology: Veterinary Schools which has contact
information for a number of schools.
Here is another good information source, which in fact provided the background for
the page listed above. It is from a Feb. 2001 Primate-Science posting by Janette Wallis
(who solicited opinions on Primate-Science). From here out, it's Janette talking
[except for a couple of [NOTE:s].
I've provided here: the top five schools mentioned by respondents
(number in parentheses is the number of "votes" received); list of
"honorable mentions"; selected comments regarding the top five
programs; and some general advice offered by respondents about
veterinary programs .
"Top Five" Veterinary Schools that are "primate-friendly":
[NOTE: the numbers of 'votes' are small, so
take these with a grain of salt; this is a grainy snapshot of some
opinions in 2001, no more, no less.]
1. University of California, Davis (10)
2. Louisiana State University (5)
3. Florida University (4)
4. University of Wisconsin (3)
5. Tufts University (3)
University of Georgia
Colorado State University
University of North Carolina
University of Missouri
- Offers a course in primate medicine and a clinical rotation at
the Primate Center. A student could spend 4 weeks or more in
- I guess I'd have to nominate UC Davis as #1 on the strength of
the primate center and access to other departments that have
- UCD VMTH has a course in primate medicine, as an option, in
addition to other primate content courses. Also the Primate center
there is an accessible resource for vet students providing both
work related and other hands on experience associated educational
opportunities with four species of non-human primates. They also
have a residency in primate medicine for post-graduates.
- UC Davis has a primate medicine class that is offered to 3rd
year veterinary students. They also have the California Regional
Primate Research Center (CRPRC) on campus. The Center offers part
time technician jobs (full time over the summer) to veterinary
students with expanded case responsibility as students progress in
their experience and education. CRPRC is also the only primate
center that has a residency program in primate medicine.
- With alliances with two of the countries largest primate
centers, LSU would be a good choice - lots of possible independent
studies possible. I know that New Iberia Research Ctr. does
lectures for one of the courses every year. We have an established
preceptor program here at Tulane RPRC.
- The vet school at LSU in Baton Rouge has a collaborative
arrangement with the Tulane Primate Center where some students
come and spend time at the Center. Kind of an internship. Not real
sure how long the term is but I do know that they sit in on the
IACUC review sessions. There are also a lot of nonhuman primates
at Southwest Louisiana and they may also have some arrangement
with the vet school.
- Although it does not offer training specific for primates, LSU
has excellent optional exotic animal training with opportunities
to work with primates in both a zoo and research setting. There is
also a brief primate medicine section taught in the third year.
There will likely be very little about environmental/ecological
issues at any vet school unless they relate specifically to the
practice of veterinary medicine.
- Louisiana State University has had a very strong lab and
exotic animal program, sending typically 10% or so of graduates
into lab animal specialty. It is within 1 hour's drive of the
Tulane primate center and the USL primate
center, and has had good working relationships with both.
- I cannot speak to how good a program is available at the
University of Florida, but they do have a wildlife program and
they do see more exotic species than many other programs simply
because of the proximity of things like Sea World, Disney World,
and Silver Springs, all of which have many exotic species.
- Florida does have a "tracking" program that lets the student
decide many of the courses they take. The last 2 years are
definable by the student, within certain guidelines. For example,
there is a wildlife track provided.
- Tufts does not have a primate course but they have probably
one of the most flexible curriculums of all the vet
schools. The last 14 months of school are clinics and the student
can do whatever they want with a portion of that clinical year. If
you really try, you can have up to about 18 weeks to go and do
whatever you want. So my point is that if a student wanted to
dedicate a lot of their clinical year working with primates, they
could easily do so at Tufts. Also Tufts had a very large and
organized International Vet Med Program.
- Tufts is one I've heard good things about. I'm 99% positive
they have a certified animal behaviorist program--so there is
exposure to something besides the medical aspects of veterinary
care. In addition, it is my understanding that they do not do
terminal surgeries and procedures to train the students (i.e. they
don't operate on a dog just to operate, and then euthanize the
dog.) To get a more in depth education students may want to do and
internship followed by a residency in exotic animal medicinečthere
are programs like this for veterinary specialties much like human
- If you are looking for a progressive school with concentration
in environmental issues.....check out Tufts at www.tufts.edu/vet. We have the center for
conservation medicine, the wildlife clinic, international
programs, exotics, and the center for animals and public policy.
- [NOTE: This is just my (Jim Moore's)
impression, but several of the people I have run into doing vet
medicine in the field, especially at the junction of humans and
nonhumans -- e.g., comparative parasite studies of human and
nonhuman primates at a locality -- have been from Tufts; seems to
be good place for such "unconventional" research."]
- Although no one provided any details about Wisconsin, three
people mentioned it as a likely choice - as it's associated with a
primate center. One noteworthy comment: "Since they have both
cows and primates there, some people probably learn to appreciate
- 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
- And tell them not to lose that respect for the animals, no
matter what they end up doing. That's the important thing.
Again, I want to thank all who responded to my request. I know
this information (and whatever may be added) will help a number of
students planning a future in primate medicine.
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