Dr. Donald Neiffer Named Chief Veterinarian at the Smithsonian's National Zoo

Dr. Donald Neiffer has been named chief veterinarian of the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C., effective Oct. 20. Neiffer most recently worked as head veterinarian at The Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio. Previous to that, he was the veterinary operations manager for Walt Disney World's Animal Programs in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. beginning November 1998.

As chief veterinarian, he oversees the health care of the National Zoo's entire animal collection. He coordinates and directs all medical operations and ensures sound veterinary medical practices in addition to supervising zoo veterinary staff. He also leads and conducts clinical and conservation research and training programs within the Zoo's Department of Animal Health. Neiffer succeeds Suzan Murray, who served as the National Zoo's chief veterinarian beginning April 2001. Murray will lead the new Smithsonian Wildlife Health initiative on global health and wildlife diseases.

We are thrilled to have Dr. Neiffer join our team, said Dennis Kelly, director of the National Zoo. His deep experience and work across veterinary and conservation fields will grow the National Zoo's stellar work in the area of animal-care services.

While at the Wilds, an affiliate of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Neiffer served as the director of conservation medicine, supervising the Conservation Medicine Department with clinical, educational and research responsibilities.

In his 16 years as veterinary operations manager for Walt Disney World's Animal Programs, Neiffer's duties were split between clinical and managerial responsibilities. He implemented preventative health-care programs, oversaw collaborative and independent research and managed medical cases. To promote sound veterinary services, he trained and consulted staff on diet and husbandry needs. At Walt Disney World and associate facilities, he managed animal health-related programs and supervised department staff. Neiffer also served as committee member of the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund and Disney's Animal Programs Internal Conservation Fund. He is currently enrolled in the University of Florida's Master of Health Science–One Health Concentration program in the Department of Environmental and Global Health Department in the College of Public Health and Health Professions.

Before his position at the Wilds and Walt Disney, Neiffer held positions at the Pittsburgh Zoo and the National Aviary in Pittsburgh. Neiffer studied at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine, receiving his veterinary medicine doctorate in 1992. He completed externships and training programs at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Bronx Zoo, University of Florida and Marine Biological Laboratory. In 2005, he earned his board certification in zoological medicine from the American College of Zoological Medicine. This is a noteworthy achievement as only 11 percent of vets become board certified in a specialty. He is also a certified veterinary acupuncturist by the Chi Institute of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine.

The National Zoo is home to about 1,800 animals representing 300 different species. The Department of Animal Health's mission is to provide the best clinical veterinary care to the animals at the Zoo while being international leaders in investigating health and disease processes in animals in captivity and in the wild. During the past three decades, the Zoo has led the field of zoological medicine by promoting three critical elements of zoological medicine: clinical medicine, training, and research.

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Photo credit: Connor Mallon, Smithsonian's National Zoo