Practitioner Updates

Faculty Spotlight: Samantha Sander, DVM, DACZM

Dr. Samantha Sander

Tell us about your background and interests.

Dr. Samantha SanderI received both my undergraduate and veterinary degrees from the University of Illinois. I completed a small animal internship in Connecticut before returning to the University of Illinois for a zoo specialty internship. I completed my residency in zoo medicine at the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C. Thereafter, I served as an associate veterinarian at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore before joining the faculty at the University of Illinois in 2018. I am interested in wildlife rehabilitation, conservation medicine, and zoo medicine.

What brought you to Illinois?

I grew up in Illinois, so the opportunity to join the faculty at the University of Illinois is a bit like coming home. I am excited to be a part of the amazing zoo and wildlife faculty here as this program continues to grow. The opportunities at Illinois to conduct research, participate in public outreach, and engage in student teaching for exotic and zoo medicine are unparalleled and truly make this campus special!

Tell us about a favorite case of yours.

One case that will always be near and dear to my heart involved a giraffe calf with suspected hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and failure of passive transfer. The calf required around-the-clock care, significant out-of-the-box thinking, and was a huge collaborative effort between animal care staff, veterinary staff, and consultations with outside specialists in the human medicine, veterinary medicine, and zoo husbandry fields. While the giraffe did have to be euthanized eventually, the efforts put forth in his case were an astounding example of what can be done through determination and passion. The case also went viral on social media and news outlets around the world, which added a unique aspect to his care that was unexpected. The support displayed by the public throughout this case as well as the passion and ardor displayed by all of the staff and specialists working on the case helped remind us all of the significance of zoos and the impact they can have.

What most excites you about your job?

I enjoy the unpredictability inherent to zoo and wildlife medicine. The diversity of species, uniqueness of cases, and the problem solving necessary to adapt “traditional” approaches to nontraditional species is both exciting and challenging!

What would you like veterinarians to know about your service area/field?

While treating zoo and wildlife patients does have its challenges and idiosyncrasies, the general approach to cases with these species is no different from that used for more familiar domestic animals. The zoo and exotics service at the University of Illinois is a fantastic resource available to any veterinarian, whether they have an established exotics practice, are looking to expand their current practice, or are unexpectedly presented with an unfamiliar species. We want to help with these cases, and you as a veterinarian know more than you may realize about how to manage them!

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I enjoy going to concerts, rock climbing, watching movies, and spending time outside with my husband and pets: two dogs, two cats, and two leopard geckos.