2017 Year in Review: Dr. Alexa Ortiz, Veterinary Intern

It’s time to look back on 2017! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2017 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

My time here at the Center began in the middle of the year as the new six-month veterinary intern. Being a new graduate of veterinary school in May, I was very nervous to start my internship but also filled with excitement, because wildlife medicine has always been my true passion. Since starting the position, my confidence and ability to manage cases has grown tremendously. I feel as though the past six months have flown by and I am sad to be leaving in early January 2018.

There were so many “firsts” for me that stand out in my memory, it is difficult to pick only one patient or case that was my favorite: my first solo orthopedic wing surgery on a Cooper’s Hawk … completing my first femoral head osteotomy surgery on a Raven … caring for my first successful Bald Eagle (#17-2469) from admission to release … my first solo Black Bear admission (“Double Orange”) … tranquilizing a Black Bear on my own … my first adult bobcat admission and case management … participating in my first deer fawn round-up and release … and mastering the ophthalmic exam on birds of prey was quite the feeling of accomplishment. I also presented at my first professional conference by giving an hour-long presentation on turtle shell repair at the “Call of the Wild” conference.


If I had to pick only one favorite memory, I’d have to pick the cutest turtle patient we had all year --  Eastern Mud Turtle #17-1576 – since turtles are my favorite species to work with. This turtle presented to us after it was found near a dog. There was evidence of possible injuries from the dog (the turtle’s shell was chewed) along with signs of severe pneumonia. We treated the turtle with two different antibiotics and pain medications. Eastern Mud Turtles are mainly an aquatic species but are sometimes terrestrial. They have a rounded shell and a more prominent nose than other turtle species. We rarely receive this species at the clinic (only two in the last six years) so it was a special treat to work with this species. This patient was very feisty and had quite the big personality (it was the only turtle to bite me the entire time I was here at the clinic). The recovery was slow for this turtle but we were able to clear the pneumonia after about six weeks. Ultimately, we ended up releasing him/her before the summer was over and I know the patient was more than ready to leave us at that time.

I am going to miss this place and the patients but I am so thankful for all of the experiences I have received and great friendships and connections I have made here at the Center. It has truly been a life-changing experience and one I will never forget. Thank you to Critter Nation and all of the supporters of the Wildlife Center of Virginia. Happy Holidays!

--Dr. Alexa

Check out all of our year-in-review posts!