As a part of our “Where Are They Now?” series, we had an e-interview with Dr. Camille (Harris) Hopkins, who was our veterinary intern in 2005 – 2006.
Q: What have you done professionally since leaving the Wildlife Center?
Dr. Camille: Since my veterinary internship in 2006, I’ve trained in Zoological Medicine at Smithsonian’s National Zoo, defended my PhD in Disease Ecology at Virginia Tech, and trained in Arbovirology at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for my PhD.
Q: What’s your current position/organization?
Dr. Camille: Wildlife Disease Coordinator, US Geological Survey (USGS).
Q: What do you do in your current job with regard to wildlife?
Dr. Camille: I oversee the national aquatic and terrestrial wildlife disease portfolio at USGS, and also represent USGS in interagency efforts to respond to wildlife diseases, including zoonotic diseases. I occasionally participate in international discussions and meetings related to wildlife diseases (e.g., bilateral meeting with Japan) and participate in Department of the Interior emergency management activities related to wildlife diseases. I also align the USGS disease portfolio to provide science that supports wildlife disease management as well as species conservation efforts in other Department of the Interior bureaus (e.g., U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, National Park Service, etc).
Q: How did your experience at the Wildlife Center of Virginia help you prepare for or influence your career?
Dr. Camille: My experience at the Center reiterated my passion for free-ranging wildlife medicine. I completed some training in zoo medicine but realized I wanted to return to free-ranging wildlife diseases, so I opted to complete a PhD in disease ecology at Virginia Tech. The PhD, in combination with my wildlife medicine experiences (including the Wildlife Center of Virginia), led to me obtaining a position at USGS headquarters as the Wildlife Disease Coordinator. In this capacity, I have gone from individual animal wildlife medicine to consideration of wildlife diseases that impact wildlife populations with regional, national, or international implications.
Q: Based on your life and professional experiences, what advice would you give students or young professionals interested in wildlife medicine, conservation medicine, or wildlife rehabilitation?
Dr. Camille: Be persistent in following your passion. There will be naysayers but remain steady in following your passion in wildlife medicine, conservation medicine, or wildlife rehabilitation. Get as much experience as you can, including non-veterinary experiences that expose you to wildlife (e.g., volunteer on university disease ecology research projects, participate in wildlife monitoring activities like breeding bird surveys, take wildlife ecology and management classes).
Networking is key in this specialized field, so reach out to subject-matter experts at conferences and keep in touch because they may be able to assist you in your career path. For example, I was offered internships and residencies at places that I had been as a veterinary student.
While in veterinary school, do aim to be a general practitioner. In other words, don’t just focus on exotics. Many wildlife are similar to domesticated species (e.g., wild birds: chicken, wild canids: dogs, wild felids: cats, wild suids: pigs). Also, you never know where your career will take you! I ended up practicing small-animal emergency medicine on the weekends while I worked on my PhD. This led to me joining the U.S. Army Reserves Veterinary Corps and eventually deploying overseas to care for military working dogs.
Dr. Camille in the news:
Western Governors Association panel discussion on livestock and wildlife diseases in the West: