UVP 001: Wildlife Veterinarian and Infectious Disease Researcher Dr. Jonathan Epstein

Jonathan-Epstein-white-nose-syndrome-research-batsI am very excited to announce the launch of The Uncommon Veterinarian Podcast!

This podcast concept was actually my initial idea when I first started thinking about creating some type of online resource for present and future uncommon veterinarians, but I quickly realized I would also need a regular website to provide back-up and other types of content related to the podcast.

My First Guest: Dr. Jonathan Epstein

I decided early on that for my inaugural episode I would try to go for a big name and also someone who had been an inspiration to me personally. Dr. Jonathan Epstein from the EcoHealth Alliance fit the bill perfectly, and he was gracious to accept my request for an interview.

Jonathan-Epstein-Table-MountainDr. Epstein is a world-traveling wildlife veterinarian and infectious disease researcher based in New York City. Like me, he is a graduate of Tufts University’s combined DVM/MPH program, and he was also the first vet student there to graduate with a certificate in International Veterinary Medicine.

He’s been a key player in the epidemiological investigations of several exciting emerging infectious diseases, including Nipah virus, the SARS outbreak, and Ebola virus.

I really admire the way he has been able to create a career that integrates field work with wildlife in exotic locations all over the world, hardcore science published in everything from Emerging Infectious Diseases to Science, and a universally compelling story that has been covered by the National Geographic Channel, 60 Minutes, the BBC, the New York Times, and many other media outlets.


You can keep up with Dr. Epstein on Twitter, and the EcoHealth Alliance also has great updates on Twitter and on their Facebook page.

Links We Mentioned

Dr. Epstein discussed several resources during our conversation.

The Adventures in Veterinary Medicine Program at Tufts University provides potential vet school applicants of all levels with a uniquely broad exposure to the wide world of veterinary medicine.

The EcoHealthNet Research Exchange and Workshop are summer programs funded through the EcoHealth Alliance that provide hands-on infectious disease research training for graduate students from any background, including veterinary students.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Loan Repayment Program gives uncommon veterinarians like Dr. Epstein a way to pay off student loans in exchange for a number of years doing research in the public health field.

Finally, Dr. Epstein discussed the importance of networking and putting yourself out there in order to be successful in his field. You can read more about this idea on my posts about attending a zoo and wildlife medicine conference and a veterinary epidemiology conference in Australia.


What You Will Learn in This Episode

  • how Dr. Epstein got hired for a job that involves living in New York City, traveling all over the world, and tracking down wildlife sources of zoonotic infectious diseases
  • why Dr. Epstein’s undergraduate study abroad program in Australia was so vital to his future educational goals and career path
  • how to pay off your veterinary school student loans without joining the military (like I did)
  • what you need to do as a practicing small animal vet to successfully transition into the public heath or research fields
  • and much more!

The Interview

So here’s what you’ve all been waiting for. You can watch a video of our conversation here, or continue to scroll to the bottom of this post for just the audio podcast itself. At this point I am focusing more on the audio podcast, so check that version out if you want to experience my best efforts with some GarageBand editing, original music from my brother Jonathan, and my best radio personality voice!

You can also download the podcast directly from the iTunes store. This makes it easy to get on your phone or other mobile device for multitasking while driving, working out, taking the dogs out for a walk, etc.

I would love it if you would head into iTunes itself to give it a rating and a little review, as that will help others find it more easily when they search for veterinary-related podcasts.

And finally, The Uncommon Veterinarian Podcast, Episode 001. Thanks for listening, and please share the link to this post with anyone who might be interested. Let me know what you think in the comments!

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12 Responses to “UVP 001: Wildlife Veterinarian and Infectious Disease Researcher Dr. Jonathan Epstein”

  1. daninicole14 February 14, 2013 at 4:53 am #

    That was a very insightful interview!! Thank you both for sharing your experiences! Also, thank you for talking about the less glamerous parts (like the grant writing) of the job. It is so helpful to see both sides (the good and bad) from people currently working in a field that I am thinking of going into.
    I can’t believe all that you covered in one interview! I am glad you typed a little bit of a summary so I can try and wrap my head around it all. Thank you!

    On a side note: I am loving the book, Spillover! I am so glad you had recommended it when you did! I think it is helping me stay busy (and keep myself sane) while waiting on vet school admissions to get back to me!

    • Elliott February 14, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

      Dani, thanks for your encouraging comments! I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. I know I would have loved to find this kind of thing when I was in your shoes, so it’s fun to provide it for others. I agree about the importance of discussing both the good and bad (glamorous vs mundane) in these interviews, and it is something I’m going to make sure I cover with each vet I speak with.

      Yes, traveling to Thailand to teach local vets how to capture bats (like Dr. Epstein was doing last week) sounds awesome, but if someone can’t handle the long afternoons spent working on the application for the grant that made that training possible, then maybe this particular uncommon veterinary career isn’t for them. It’s good to have an honest idea of what a career and life might really be like before investing too much in one direction.

      So glad you’ve liked Spillover! I love David Quammen’s writing style, and of course all the stories and characters are incredibly interesting for me. Good luck with the admissions process — keeping my fingers crossed for you.

  2. Xuan Mai Vo February 14, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

    So glad to see this blog/podcast in existence. Kudos for exposing the world to the multifaceted vet and emphasizing that we too, are on the forefront of global health. Jon is a star example and we are so proud of him! If I could handle writing grants, I might consider spending more time as a faunal remains specialist and ditch clinics altogether.

    • Elliott February 14, 2013 at 11:08 pm #

      Dr. Vo, thanks for your comment! I just checked out your website and it is beautiful — I love the design and simplicity. You seem to have your hand in many different pots as well, and you have me curious about what exactly a “faunal remains specialist” actually means?

  3. Trevor February 16, 2013 at 3:49 am #

    I enjoyed your conversation with Dr. Epstein. He has had some incredible experiences in public health and emerging diseases. I was especially intrigued to hear about his work with lyssavirus in Australia. Just today I received a notice from ProMED concerning a recent human case of lyssavirus. This is only the third human case of lyssavirus since 1996. I admire the research of Dr. Epstein and other infectious disease scientists for their amazing work to protect public health. I look forward to your next podcast!

    • Elliott February 16, 2013 at 11:42 am #

      Hey Trevor, glad you enjoyed the interview! I agree, Jon’s work is pretty impressive and inspiring for those of us interested in using our veterinary training in the global health arena. Kudos to you for already subscribing (and actually reading!) ProMED. I’ve been getting it forever but only recently started paying attention more seriously now that I’m preparing for my board exams this summer.

  4. unavocis February 16, 2013 at 5:45 am #

    First, thank you for your blog, and also for your new jump into podcasting. Since giving up cable a few years ago, and being frugal anyway, I have a _lot_ of podcasts on my iPod at any one time, and am very happy to add yours to the mix.
    Second, thank for sharing so much about your experiences, especially with the military. As a nontraditional student, who already has graduate degrees in fields completely unrelated to veterinary medicine, and who is just now finishing her pre-requisites to apply to vet school, I have been seriously considering applying to the military scholarship program once in vet school. I am also intrigued because you seem to be interested in two interests of mine, wildlife medicine and public health. From the time I decided I *could* go back to school to pursue this goal, I knew I wouldn’t want to work in small animal practice _only_, and through my volunteering I have fallen in love with wildlife rehabilitation and shelter medicine. I am completely open to where my interests may take me, because 2 years ago I wanted to specialize in feline medicine. I would never have guessed I’d be entertaining thoughts of the military or public health as part of my veterinary career! It’s so great to see others who have similar interests. It makes one feel like one is not so alone as all that đŸ™‚
    Keep up the marvelous posts!

    • Elliott February 16, 2013 at 11:50 am #

      So great to hear from you, thanks for stopping by. It sounds like you are definitely ready to join the tribe of uncommon veterinarians, and your past experience and training in other fields will only help you in the pursuit of these goals.

      I’m always surprised by how many people share these combinations of interest in wildlife medicine/conservation and public health. Fortunately for us in the veterinary world, we’re prepared and qualified to dip our feet into both these fields, along with so many others. This was one of the reasons I decided to become a vet rather than a physician or a wildlife biologist (my two other top choices in college): I realized that I could continue to be involved in a much broader variety of issues with my veterinary training.

      And thanks for the affirmation about the podcast. I got in the habit of listening to them back when I was commuting in DC and found it made those long trips sitting in traffic much more enjoyable. Cheers!

  5. bgoodl February 20, 2013 at 6:43 am #

    Loved this podcast. I am interested in pursuing some sort of non-traditional path in veterinary medicine. I just received acceptance to Tufts. I could see myself doing something like this 10 years down the road.

    • Elliott February 20, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

      Awesome! Congrats on getting accepted at Tufts. That’s the biggest hurdle for a lot of potential uncommon vets, so now you’re past that and onto the actual education itself. Have fun!


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