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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

A challenging career laboratory animal medicine

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.

A challenging career laboratory animal medicine


  • 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…