Meet Chris Celentano, Zoo veterinary intern

Q| Tell us a little about yourself:

A| My name is Chris Celentano. I am a fourth-year veterinary student at Virginia Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. I am 25 years old and am from Connecticut.

Q| When did you decide you wanted to become a veterinarian?

A| I have known that I wanted to be a veterinarian for most of my life. When I was about eight years old, I officially decided (before that I was torn between veterinarian and pediatrician).

Q| What is involved in becoming a veterinarian?

A| It takes a lot of work to get into the veterinary medicine profession. A number of core science classes are necessary to get into veterinary school. Experience working/shadowing at vet practices also helps. Once accepted, vet school itself is a four-year program after college. At my school, this includes three years of intense classroom work with some laboratory/practical work, followed by one year of clinical experience, both working at the animal hospital attached to the school, as well as some external veterinary experiences. In our fourth year, we also take a national exam. Once this and the school year are completed, we are officially veterinarians. From there we can go straight into practice or can do internships/residencies to specialize, just as in human medicine.

Q| Why did you decide on the zoo track of vet med?

A| I’ve known since I was young that I wanted to work as a zoo veterinarian. The idea of being able to help all different types of animals (both directly through medicine on zoo animals, as well as through the conservation aspects of the zoo) is what drew me towards it. I did not want to work only on dogs and cats or just horses. I did not want to be limited to the animals I help. Also there is a unique appeal to never knowing what animal you will work within a day.

Q| You mentioned experiences at other zoos–what sets your Virginia Zoo internship apart from others?

A| Every experience is different, so there are many things that set this internship apart. The biggest thing for me has to be how flexible everyone here was to letting me come. This allowed me to come here for two internships, both at different times. This has given me the chance to see a more diverse case load and has let me both learn and experience more than I have elsewhere. Between my rotations I gained more knowledge and have been able to use that to do more hands-on work then I had elsewhere.

Q| What is your favorite animal?

A| This is a hard one. In general, I have always liked big cats. From there it is hard to choose—maybe the snow leopard.

Q| Can you tell us about your first experience working on a zoo animal? What was it?

A| Prior to my fourth year of veterinary school I had shadowed at zoos, so I was able to see different things. The first time I truly worked on an animal was during my first rotation of my fourth year here at the Virginia Zoo. The first case I worked on was a wallaby baby. I helped bottle feed her and took care of her regularly while here for those three weeks. You have no idea how rewarding it was to come back for this second rotation 10 months later to see how well she is doing now.

Q| Where do you see yourself in five years?

A| Ultimately I am open to anything in this profession, but I often hope that in five years I will have gotten a zoo medicine residency and will either be doing that or working as a full-time zoo veterinarian.