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Donald L. Neiffer, VMD, CVA, DACZM, MHS (One Health)

Chief Veterinarian

As chief veterinarian the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, Dr. Donald Neiffer oversees, coordinates, and directs all clinical medicine and pathology operations to ensure sound veterinary practices. He also conducts clinical and conservation research and training programs.  

Dr. Neiffer is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the department of wildlife health sciences, which provides clinical medicine and pathology services for the animal collections at the Zoo and pathology services for the animal collection at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia. As the department head, Dr. Neiffer directs his team’s efforts at maintaining a preventative health care program, quarantine program, and pathology program, including the Zoo’s Elephant Herpes Virus Laboratory. Dr. Neiffer’s team also offers post-graduate training programs for both clinical medicine and anatomical pathology residents, as well as senior veterinary students.

In addition, Dr. Neiffer facilitates and takes part in research, conservation, and training programs, both within the U.S. and internationally. Currently, Dr. Neiffer is partnered with other individuals in a program aimed at Andean bear conservation in the Machu Picchu region of Peru. He is also developing a project with South African colleagues that investigates the role of warthogs in disease transmission at the wildlife/human/livestock interface, which is a common scenario in an increasingly shrinking natural landscape. 

Prior to coming to the Zoo, Dr. Neiffer gained over 20 years of experience at other accredited zoological institutions. For more than 15 years, Dr. Neiffer worked as the veterinary operations manager for Walt Disney World’s Animal Programs in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, and its associated facilities in Hawaii and the Bahamas. In this role, he implemented preventative health care programs, oversaw research, managed medical cases, and trained and consulted with staff on diet and husbandry needs. He also served as a committee member for the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund and Disney’s Animal Programs Internal Conservation Fund. He previously held positions at the Pittsburgh Zoo, the National Aviary, and The Wilds, an affiliate of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Dr. Neiffer earned his Bachelor of Science in biology from Millersville University and his doctorate in veterinary medicine from the University of Pennsylvania. He earned his board certification in zoological medicine from the American College of Zoological Medicine, and he is certified in veterinary acupuncture through the Chi Institute of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine.

In 2017, Dr. Neiffer earned his Master of Health Sciences in One Health from the University of Florid'as Department of Environmental and Global Health, College of Public Health and Health Professions. His program culminated with an independent study, "A retrospective study of selected disease seroprevalence and relationships in free-ranging warthog (Phacochoerus africanus) populations in South Africa: Implications for disease transmission at the human/livestock/wildlife interface." 

Dr. Neiffer's professional interests include in-situ related species and environmental health assessments, disease transmission at the wildlife/human/livestock interface, developing anesthetic protocols, soft tissue surgery and teaching.