Be The Model® Alumni

Finding their way through opportunities and mentorship at Ohio State

jimmy johnson

Jimmy Johnson, DVM’12, MS, CertAqV, Diplomate ACZM, and Stephen Reichley, DVM ‘13, PhD, CertAqV, both credit the Career Areas of Emphasis (CAE) in the curriculum at Ohio State’s College of Veterinary Medicine for setting them up for success in their specialized areas of interest. The CAEs began with the class of 2012, and when Reichley entered his fourth year, Johnson, who had been in his shoes just one year prior, was well-positioned to create a successful and meaningful CAE experience by mentoring Reichley. Reichley would, in turn, mentor Johnson to become a Certified Aquatic Veterinarian in the World Aquatic Veterinary Medical Association.

Both have since built successful and impactful careers as leaders in their fields and continue to pay it forward by mentoring future generations of Ohio State veterinarians.

Always fascinated by animals and wildlife, Jimmy Johnson, DVM’12, MS, CertAqV, DACZM, had a strong interest in healthcare and medicine from an early age. What solidified his path in pursuing his DVM was shadowing the veterinarians at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. That experience sparked his interest in becoming a Board-Certified Specialist in Zoological Medicine™, a journey that led him to his current role as Head Veterinarian at the Denver Zoo.

Drawn to The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine through his experience volunteering in the Veterinary Medical Center during his undergraduate years, Johnson valued the college’s reputation as
a top-ranked national veterinary program. He soon discovered that the support and opportunities tailored to his interests would solidify his path in Zoological Medicine.

“Every day of my veterinary education at Ohio State’s College of Veterinary Medicine was impactful, learning from such enthusiastic and accomplished faculty eager to share their expertise,” said Johnson. “The college's dedication to its students and the profession by investing in training opportunities and professional growth was inspiring to me. As one of the few students interested in becoming a zoo and wildlife veterinarian, the college supported me and sought
out opportunities where I could gain the necessary experience and training to be a competitive applicant for internship and residency programs in zoological medicine,” Johnson said.

Thanks to Ohio State’s CAE curriculum, Johnson was able to travel abroad to Thailand for a clinical clerkship in elephant and wildlife medicine, working in collaboration with the veterinary program at Chiang Mai University, the Thai Elephant Conservation Center, the Chiang Mai Zoo and Chiang Mai Night Safari. He noted how impactful it was to gain abundant experience with elephants and wildlife as well as a broadened perspective on the practice of veterinary medicine internationally.

In addition, Johnson said that the college’s support of pursuing clinical externship opportunities at different zoos, aquariums, and wildlife centers during his clinical rotations expanded his scope and further solidified his decision to pursue his

Jimmy Johnson at the Denver Zoo.


“My education at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine not only developed me as a capable clinician, but the academic rigor in the veterinary curriculum prepared me well for both my specialty training and graduate degree program,” said Johnson. “In addition, the ambitious standards in professionalism and quality of medicine instilled in me during my time there prepared me as both a clinical veterinarian and a leader in my organization,” Johnson said.

As the Head Veterinarian at Denver Zoological Foundation, Johnson oversees the Animal Health Department at the Denver Zoo. Previously, he has held clinical veterinarian positions at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Zoo Miami and Saint Louis Zoo. As an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Ohio State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Johnson serves as a mentor to veterinary students interested in zoological medicine and delivers lectures in a variety of courses. Over the past few years, he has hosted lectures for Ohio State’s College of Veterinary Medicine Zoo Club’s reptile medicine symposium.

“It is so rewarding to me to help inspire the next generation of veterinarians, especially at my alma mater,” said Johnson. “I benefited from wonderful mentorship and opportunities in the field that helped me on my career path and I’m so excited to continue to give back and help provide that mentorship to current veterinary students.”

Stephen Reichley, DVM ‘13, PhD, CertAqV, first developed an interest in veterinary medicine at the barn where he rode horses. He occasionally helped the equine veterinarian and gradually started paying closer attention to what he was doing.

Born and raised in Ohio, Reichley had the goal of becoming a Buckeye since developing his interest in veterinary medicine. He knew that Ohio State’s strong reputation and excellent curriculum made it a natural top choice, but after visiting the college, Reichley recalls the interaction between faculty and students and the small, family-like atmosphere is what made him feel at home. He knew that Ohio State would be the place for him to thrive.

Stephen Reichley

After graduating from Ohio State, Reichley moved to Mississippi State University to pursue a PhD in aquatic animal health. Upon completing that program, he became the first full-time veterinarian employed by Clear Springs Foods, which was the largest producer of rainbow trout in the U.S.

Reichley had completed an externship at Clear Springs during his DVM program at Ohio State as part of the Career Areas of Emphasis (CAE). He emphasizes that without the opportunity to connect with leadership at Clear Springs through his CAE, he likely would not have had the opportunity to join the company.

“The CAE at Ohio State provided me invaluable hands-on, real-world experiences,” said Reichley. “Given the non-traditional interest I developed during my DVM program, the individualized CAE allowed me to explore my interest and expand my professional network and skill sets. Because of the CAE, I visited five countries and four states, gaining tremendous experience. This increased the diversity of my experience and has set me apart in my field,” Reichley said.

Currently serving as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pathobiology and Population Medicine at Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Reichley recalls a moment during his DVM program at Ohio State that led him down a non-traditional path.

“I was attending a lecture during my time at Ohio State by Dr. Luke Heider on consumer issues related to agriculture in our epidemiology course. About halfway through his presentation, a slide with the word ‘aquaculture’ appeared. I remember being intrigued, never having heard that term,” said Reichley. “Interested in this new concept, I researched aquaculture, reading everything I could get my hands on. That turned into many externships and changed the trajectory of my life,” Reichley said. 

Richley at fish farm with students
Stephen Reichley with students. 

Reichley served on Ohio State’s College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Society Board of Trustees from 2015-2018 and currently serves as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine. He also serves as the Associate Director of the MSU Global Center for Aquatic Health and Food Security and the Deputy Director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish.

Providing mentorship to Ohio State students interested in aquatic veterinary medicine, Reichley delivers lectures in various courses and speaks to student organizations. He has also lectured and taught labs in the annual Food Animal Medicine Student Symposium hosted at the college.

“Staying connected with Ohio State’s College of Veterinary Medicine means the world to me,” said Reichley. “The college is full of passionate and dedicated faculty, staff, and students. I continue to learn a great deal from all of them and enjoy being able to give back as much as I can, even despite the distance,” Reichley said.

Success stories like these exemplify the importance of our goal to implement an innovative curriculum that emphasizes early and frequent clinical experience and critical thinking to prepare career-ready graduates and lifelong learners for multiple career paths.