In the last 10 years, the field of zoological medicine has seen an expansive broadening into the arenas of free-ranging wildlife, conservation medicine, and ecosystem health. During the spring/summer of 2005, we prepared and disseminated a survey designed to identify training and educational needs for individuals entering the wildlife medicine and ecosystem health fields. Our data revealed that few wildlife veterinarians believe that the training they received in veterinary school adequately prepared them to acquire and succeed in their field. Wildlife veterinarians and their employers ranked mentorship with an experienced wildlife veterinarian, training in leadership and communication, courses and externships in wildlife health, and additional formal training beyond the veterinary degree as important in preparation for success. Employers, wildlife veterinarians, and job seekers alike reported that understanding and maintaining ecosystem health is a key component of the wildlife veterinarian's job description, as it is critical to protecting animal health, including human health. Today's wildlife veterinarians are a new type of transdisciplinary professional; they practice medicine in their communities and hold titles in every level of government and academia. It is time that we integrate ecosystem health into our curricula to nurture and enhance an expansive way of looking at veterinary medicine and to ensure that veterinary graduates are prepared to excel in this new and complex world, in which the health of wildlife, domestic animals, and people are interdependent.
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Educating veterinarians for careers in free-ranging wildlife medicine and ecosystem health