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A Challenging Career: Laboratory Animal Medicine. “Rodents, and Monkeys, and Hares, Oh My!” Name of LA vet presenting. Clinical Veterinary Medicine. Clinicians (small, large, mixed) may feel a call to a new type of career challenge.

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a challenging career laboratory animal medicine

A Challenging Career: Laboratory Animal Medicine

“Rodents, and Monkeys, and Hares, Oh My!”

Name of LA vet presenting

clinical veterinary medicine
Clinical Veterinary Medicine
  • Clinicians (small, large, mixed) may feel a call to a new type of career challenge.
  • Lab Animal field not understood well because vet curricula doesn’t present much on this career option.
  • Never too late – may enter 20+yrs
  • Join me on a walk through this exciting career option!
laboratory animal medicine
Laboratory Animal Medicine
  • High demand
  • Diverse jobs
  • Good pay
  • Flexible hours
  • Specialty Boards (not required/encouraged)
    • American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine (ACLAM)
  • American Association for Laboratory Animal Practitioners (ASLAP)
training route
Training Route
  • Commonly – enter career through a postdoctoral “residency” training program.
    • Clinical focus: learn LAM & administration of running an animal research program.
    • Research focus (NIH): may pursue an MS or PhD
    • Combination program: learn lab animal medicine, administration and research.
finding a training program
Finding a Training Program
  • Visit the ASLAP web site


  • Visit the ACLAM web site


  • Talk to a lab animal vet
  • Do an externship…more info later.
salary for lam trainees
Salary for LAM Trainees
  • Postdoctoral training stipends
    • 08 NIH scale starts at $39,264 – for no experience but increase ~2-3K for each prior year of health-related training experience.
    • Non-NIH residency stipends may be higher.
  • Insurance varies with program.
  • Travel money varies for C.E. meetings.
  • May receive funds for graduate degree.
  • Veterinary school loan payments may be deferred.
where are these training programs
Where are these training* programs?

* ACLAM approved programs; Size of program varies from 1-2 trainees up to 10-12 trainees!

  • Typically 2-12 weeks
  • Usually summer programs but can be throughout the year.
  • Flexible experience depending on interest.
  • Room and board may be covered (depends on program).
  • May receive a small stipend for living expenses.
  • Where?
    • academia –
      • LAM training programs
      • Academic medical centers – medical schools, graduate schools
    • biotechnology & pharmaceutical companies
    • NIH, USDA
    • National Primate Research Centers (8)
  • Visit the ACLAM web site


experience route
Experience Route
  • Part-time LAM job – good way to start.
    • Many options at small colleges, contract labs
  • Full-time lab animal job – ready to plunge.
    • Be ready to spend a lot of time reading & learning to become a proficient LAM vet.
  • CAUTION: Always best to have an experienced LAM mentor to learn from!
experience route cont
Experience Route (cont.)
  • Must get involved in C.E. for best learning:
    • American Assoc. for Lab Anim. Sci. (AALAS)
    • American Coll. Of Lab Anim Med (ACLAM)
    • American Soc of Lab Animal Practitioners (ASLAP)
    • Local branch AALAS meetings
    • Public Responsibility in Med & Research (PRIM&R)
    • IACUC 101 training
    • American Veterinary Medical Assoc. (LAM session)
    • Others – focus on surgery or research interests

2011 salary range: for all lab animal vets: $68K – $500K

2011 Salary Range for ACLAM Diplomates, all employers

0-5 yrs: $81 – 258K

5-10 yrs: $53-$500K

2011 Salary Range for non-ACLAM vets, all employers

0-5 yrs: $68-122K

5-10 yrs: $66-203K

lab animal work
Lab Animal Work
  • Extremely varied depending on program
    • Large University
      • Large diversity of species – mice to monkeys
      • Research areas span broad base
      • Many LAM vets and techs to work with/learn from.
    • Small College
      • May be rodent only or few species
      • May be only one area of research – neuroscience
      • May work alone as consulting vet
lab animal work1
Lab Animal Work
  • Extremely varied depending on program
    • Large Pharmaceutical Company
      • Large diversity of species
      • Research areas focused on drug/device discovery
      • Many LAM vets and techs to work with/learn from.
    • Small Contract Laboratory
      • May be rodent only or few species
      • Research depends on client base – toxicology, etc
      • May work alone or with one other vet
department structures
Department Structures
  • Dept of LAM or Bioresources
    • Lab animal veterinarians, technicians, animal care staff.
    • Provide care for animals and manage animal program: housing, feeding, costs, equipment.
    • May assist with animal study technical support.
  • Department of Comparative Medicine
    • Similar but may have stronger focus on providing veterinarians & technicians to participate in collaborative research or lead research projects.
lam bioresources
  • Director – usually an ACLAM Diplomate
  • Operations/Animal Care Staff – oversee animal care program – daily observations, husbandry, environmental monitoring.
  • Veterinary Staff – provide health care, preventative medicine program, technical and surgical support.
  • Run a high quality lab animal program in support of good science/investigator research needs.
comparative medicine
Comparative Medicine
  • “One world, one health, one medicine.”
  • A field of study concentrating on similarities and differences between veterinary medicine and human medicine.
  • Study of biology and diseases of animals to improve human and animal health.
  • Departments often support clinical care, daily husbandry operations and research collaboration.
diverse career opportunities
Diverse career opportunities
  • Clinical Veterinary Medicine
  • Administration
  • Research
  • Public Health – MPH
  • Teaching and Training
  • Pathology
  • Surgery
  • Regulatory oversight (IACUC)
  • Public education to thwart animal activism
clinical veterinary medicine1
Clinical Veterinary Medicine
  • Provides health care for variety of species.
  • Expertise in model development & review of research protocols for animal welfare.
  • Provides technical support for research – x-rays, ultrasound, biopsy sampling.
  • No 2 days are alike!

Attending veterinarian = USDA term for vet with authority for animal care and use program.

  • Director, Associate Director, Surgical Director, Vice President for Research…
  • Manages budget and staffing issues.
  • May write grants for enhancing the program or equipment purchases.
  • Liaison to senior management to ensure support for optimal animal program.
  • Rare/no clinical work, lots of management!
  • Veterinarians may head research projects - veterinary training enhances research!
  • Independent or Collaborative research
  • Tremendous diversity of research
    • Infectious disease, physiology, biology, reproduction, surgery, cancer biology, pharmaceutics, neuroscience, biomedical instrumentation, toxicology,…
teaching training
Teaching & Training
  • LAM vets needed to teach in veterinary schools, veterinary technician schools, graduate programs.
  • Veterinarians can serve as trainers for other veterinary residents, graduate students, research staff, animal care staff.
  • A well-developed training program is an essential part of a good lab animal program.
  • Lab animal vets may become dual boarded in pathology which enables them to work in a toxicology group to diagnose toxic effects from drugs.
  • Pathologists that understand lab animal diseases and species/strain differences, will add strength to a lab animal program.
surgery postop care
Surgery & Postop Care
  • Veterinarians with a love of surgery, anesthesia, analgesia can have a challenging career in lab animal programs to develop surgical programs and teach research staff (esp. rodent surgery!)
  • MDs doing surgery on animals can be a problem (don’t recognize species differences) – Vets doing surgery on people is illegal!
  • Surgical vets add excellence, depth & diversity to a lab animal program.
regulatory oversight
Regulatory Oversight
  • Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) is mandated by USDA regulations & PHS.
  • Must include a veterinarian w/ LAM exp.
  • Responsible for reviewing and approving all animal use protocols.
  • Review animal program/facilities ea. 6 months.
  • Responsible for investigating animal concerns.
  • Veterinary leadership enhances animal welfare.


  • Animals are also provided enrichment in the form of exercise, toys, music, group housing, videos and other food treats.
alternatives 3rs
Alternatives (3Rs)
  • 3Rs = Reduce, Refine, Replace
    • Reduction of animal numbers
      • Better statistics, less redundancy.
    • Refinement of animal models
      • Less invasive, less pain/distress.
    • Replacement of animal models
      • Cell culture, computer modeling, etc.
what species will i work with
What Species Will I Work With?
  • Depends on type of program
  • ~95% of research animals are rats/mice.
    • Rodents, genetically-engineered.
  • ~5% other species
    • Domestic species (dogs, ferrets, pigs).
    • Non-human primates (NHPs - OW vs. NW).
    • Exotics – woodchucks, bats, fish, amphibians, reptiles, etc.
  • May work at large NHP facility – one of eight National Primate Research Centers.
lam versus private practice
LAM versus Private Practice
  • Clientele - pet owner vs. scientist – different issues.
  • Individual care vs. herd health – depends on study, some rare & valuable strains/species.
  • Diagnostics – pursue if you have time, money, tools – write up interesting cases.
  • Hours / Schedule – usually less weekend work!
  • Tools – ultrasounds, MRIs, endoscopy, varies widely.
  • No two days are alike!
how s the job market
How’s the job market?
  • Steady; continuing demand for LAM vets
  • Future looks bright
  • Opportunities are varied & exciting; need for diverse skills and experience!
where are the jobs
Where are the jobs?
  • Anywhere biomedical research is performed
    • Academia – both large and small programs
    • Pharmaceutical Companies
    • Biotech Companies
    • Hospitals
    • Government-Military-NIH
    • Public health
  • Throughout the US / world
salaries show me the money
Salaries: “Show me the Money!”
  • Starting $43-$93K* (varies w/ program, experience, boards)
  • Avg. starting salary for academia and/or industry jobs in 2005 w/ 0-5 yrs exp.=
    • 71K (non boarded),
    • 90K (boarded)
  • Residency Salaries
    • Start ~ $37K – no experience
  • Consulting to supplement income.

* Info based on 2005 ACLAM/ASLAP Salary Survey

comparative medicine and public outreach
Comparative Medicine and Public Outreach
  • A lot of misinformation is spread about animal research.
  • Public surveys reveal that majority of Americans support the need for animal research – but support is declining.
  • Public does not realize the many benefits of animal research to both people and animals.
  • Public does not always know that animals are treated humanely and with great respect.
raise your hand if
Raise your hand if….
  • You have ever been vaccinated
  • You have ever taken a medication
  • You have ever had surgery/hospital stay
  • You have ever had thyroid disease
  • You have ever donated/received blood
  • You know someone who has diabetes
  • You know someone with cancer
  • You know someone with other diseases…

Direct Benefits from Animal Research

medical advances
Medical Advances
  • Examples of medical advances from animal research:
    • Vaccines against polio, measles, and smallpox;
    • Open-heart surgery, coronary bypass, valves
    • Diabetes therapies

“Iron lung used for polio victims, 1956”

animals benefit too
Animals Benefit Too!!!

Maggie: Breast cancer survivor

Pookie: Living with diabetes

Buddy: After his heart surgery

Lucy: After her kidney transplant

highlights of this career
Highlights of this career…
  • Exciting/diverse career - improving both animal & human lives.
  • Steady demand, good positions available for range of experience & skills.
  • Lucrative– good pay/benefits.
  • Neat tools – always new challenges.
  • Great environment – flexible hours.
  • Great colleagues…