Meet Our New Veterinarian
Q&A with Dr. Elizabeth Arnett-Chinn. (We like to call her Dr. Lizzy!)
Did you always know that you wanted to be a zoo veterinarian?
I’ve wanted to be a zoo veterinarian since I was in the sixth grade and went to the San Diego Wild Animal Park on vacation with my family.
What is your background and how did you end up here at the Buttonwood Park Zoo?
I grew up in Northern California and graduated with a Bachelor of Science from the University of California, Davis and then received my DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) from Kansas State University. After veterinary school I did a small animal rotating internship in Sacramento, California, an aquatic internship at the National Aquarium, Baltimore, and a two year internship through the University of Florida working with zoo animals as well as marine mammals and aquatic medicine in the Tampa Bay area. I’ve loved the Northeast ever since I volunteered at the New England Aquarium while in veterinary school. When I saw a zoo in this area was hiring I had to apply. I immediately fell in love with the small town feel of the zoo and the amazing collection.
What kind of education and training would a person need to become a zoo veterinarian?
In order to specialize in zoo medicine you need a four year college degree, four years of veterinary school and then zoo internships after veterinary school. It’s a long process but totally worth it in the end!
What is a “typical” day like for you?
A typical day for me is to walk around the zoo with my technician in the morning, check on any active cases we have, and get updates from the zoo keepers. After that we look at any animals that the zoo keepers think might not be feeling well and start treatments. From there you never know what the day may hold! I might end up doing an eye exam on a seal, surgery on a bird, or vaccinating an otter.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The thing I enjoy most about my job is the diversity of animals I get to work with. There are very few careers where you can start the day working with a bird, move on to an elephant exam, and finish the day working with some fish.
What’s something that people would be surprised to know about a zoo veterinarian’s job?
I think the one thing most people are surprised by is how much schooling and time it takes to become a zoo veterinarian. One thing people are often surprised by is that I am not only a general practitioner; I am also a dentist, optometrist, pharmacist, surgeon, and ear nose and throat doctor for these animals.
If you were to give advice to students in high school who were interested in this field, what would you tell them?
I would tell them to study really hard, get good grades, and volunteer with animals or at zoos and aquariums as much as possible.
What is your favorite amazing animal fact?
My favorite amazing animal fact is that the manatee’s closest relatives are the elephant and the hyrax (a small herbivorous mammal found in Africa).