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New Collaboration with Zoo and Wilds to Spur Research Through New Residency

Barb WolfeThrough a new residency program created in
partnership with the Wilds and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, students at Ohio State will explore the intersections of
animal health, environmental health and human health – a concept termed “One
Health.” The College of Veterinary Medicine has established a joint
residency program in Ecosystem Health and Conservation Medicine led by Barbara Wolfe, DVM, Ph.D., Dipl. ACZM, associate professor
of Veterinary Preventive Medicine.

Dr. Wolfe, formerly director
of conservation medicine for the Wilds who joined the Ohio State full-time faculty
this summer, is
one of only about 120
veterinarians internationally to be accredited by the American College of
Zoological Medicine (ACZM). She also holds a joint appointment with the School
of Environment & Natural Resources and serves as chief science officer for
the Columbus Zoo and the Wilds. She continues to teach two elective courses in
zoological medicine each year.

The collaboration with the zoo and the
Wilds will open new doors to students. “It opens up the possibility of using
the Wilds as a living laboratory for research through OSU,” Wolfe explained. “It’s
going to expand the opportunity for graduate programs in conservation medicine.”

The new three-year residency program, which
begins in fall of 2014 and requires completion of a DVM degree, will lead to a Master’s degree as well as eligibility to
take the ACZM board exam.  A year of extensive coursework will be
followed by a year each at the Columbus Zoo and the Wilds, for hands-on work in
zoological medicine and pursuit of a Master’s degree research project. One
veterinary resident will be admitted to the program each year.

Offering one of
only 22 ACZM-accredited sites internationally for training in zoological
medicine, the
Wilds is home to 31 rare and
endangered species of wild animals residing on nearly 10,000 acres of reclaimed surface-mined land in
southeastern Ohio. It supports conservation through innovative education,
breeding and research programs. The Wilds recently became affiliated with the
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, one of the top-ranked zoos in the country.

“Students just love the
Wilds,” Wolfe said. “It’s a terrifically magical team of dedicated employees,
fascinating animals and the opportunity to work in a beautiful natural setting.
With Ohio State on board, it’s going to explode,” she said. Some veterinary and
graduate students and postdoctoral fellows will have the opportunity to conduct
research at the Wilds, as will students in the Master of Public Health/
Veterinary Public Health program. The new partnership
also should open the door for Ohio State to obtain grants to conduct environmental
and animal health research, both at the Wilds and around the country, further
expanding capacity for student research involvement.

“As a former coal mine, the Wilds is a
great place to study the effects of environmental disruptions on animal health
and disease ecology,” Wolfe said. Current disease ecology studies are examining
bobcat toxoplasmosis, which can be transmitted to other animals and humans; coyote
neosporosis, a related infection in canines; and the disease transmission between
white tailed deer and cattle. Assisted reproduction efforts at the Wilds have
spawned the world’s
only fourth-generation white rhinos ever born in captivity and the first foals born
through
artificial insemination to a non-domesticated member of the horse family (a wild
donkey known as the Persian onager.) A wide range of other studies are also
underway.

“In order to study wildlife,
it’s important to know how to study them,” Wolfe said. “Zoological medicine is
a piece of that – understanding the diversity of species and their individual
challenges.” Conservation medicine is even broader. 

“Seventy-five percent of emerging
diseases in humans are coming from animals,” Wolfe noted.  “Most of those new diseases are coming from
wildlife.” The diseases, which have long existed among animals, are emerging in
humans, “because human encroachment on wildlife habitat is creating more
intersection between humans and wildlife,” she said. “There are growing needs
for conservation medicine practitioners,” Wolfe noted. Through its new
collaboration and residency program, Ohio State is working to help fill that
need.

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Monday, December 10, 2012 - 2:11pm

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