As a part of our “Where Are They Now?” series, we had an e-interview with Dr. Madis Leivits, who was our Intern for Veterinary Diagnostics in 2009 – 2010.
Q: What have you done professionally since leaving the Wildlife Center?
Madis: When I was young, there was a children’s show about a wolf named Kriimsilm, who had nine professions which he presented in the episodes. I like to draw a parallel with that wolf -- having nine professions/jobs, plus the tenth is hunger, as there’s no time to eat.
In a small country [Estonia], you end up doing many things as there are not enough people, nor resources. So I think it’s safe to say that I’ve been busy. I’ve done a wide range of wildlife activities which led me to receive the “Veterinarian of the Year 2015” award from the Estonian Veterinary Society for my work toward wildlife medicine in Estonia. But if I have to name three important things I’ve been working on, it would have to be sharing the problem of lead in hunting ammunition to the general public, developing a wildlife medicine course at my university for the veterinary curriculum, and being a good father for my two children (yes, that’s a professional skill that needs active involvement).
Q: What’s your current position/organization?
Madis: Currently I’m a veterinarian and a Ph.D. student at the Estonian University of Life Sciences, expert-veterinarian at Estonian Fund for Nature, and I own/run a small veterinary service specialized in consultations.
Q: What do you do in your current job with regard to wildlife?
Madis: On a daily basis, I do clinical work on wildlife patients and manage the wildlife in the clinic, teach and supervise veterinary students, write and execute grant proposals for research, provide some forensic expertise, and do outreach to the general public as well as lobbying for a better world.
Q: How did your experience at the Wildlife Center of Virginia help you prepare for or influence your career?
Madis: I think the biggest thing was that a random boy from an unknown country was picked for the internship in a state-of-the-art wildlife hospital … that’s a huge gamble, but can be a very important boost for a person, if he uses it in the correct direction.
The atmosphere, supervision, and opportunities from positively minded colleagues was a huge gain. I’m very happy that I was not only trained on clinical skills; the plan from Dave and Ed was to have me involved in all aspects of “organization ecology”, as the skillset of only practicing good medicine is not efficient in the long run, especially when you are in a developing region.
And, it did not end with the year-long internship at the Center – I have been in close contact with the staff after I came back to Estonia. It’s been especially nice to see my Virginia family in person even if it happens not very often. So, it’s hard to say where I would be if I wouldn’t have been in Virginia. I hope that WCV will continue to take the chance on people from around the world and thus have a positive global impact.
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?
Madis: I think you must be heavily motivated and have a realistic vision what you are aiming for. Often it’s painted wrongly in our imagination that wildlife professionals do not have to work with people and can cuddle around with cute fluffy animals all day. It’s actually vice versa – less contact with animals than other clinical vets and more work with the public as they usually make your work possible.
Nobody can jump with one leap to the top, you must make achievable steps on your way. This will allow you to monitor your progress and motivate you as you are accomplishing your goals. Find a “wing” underneath you so you can learn and develop yourself. In medicine, it’s still the best to learn from the master of this profession.
And the most important – be a good person, help when you can, don’t do bad to others while competing for goals, and don’t forget your close ones. At the end of the day, you need those special people around you (even when sometimes they are physically far away).
Madis in the news: