Meet Dr. Mike Murray
Director of Veterinary Services
Describe your job here at the Aquarium.
My job in the broadest terms is: I am the veterinarian. I have the responsibility for the animal health care program for our institution. There are a whole series of other little ancillary duties, but the primary one is animal health care.
What experience or skills do you need to work in this field?
First, you have to have a veterinary degree, so a DVM or a VMD or the United Kingdom equivalent (they've got a different set of initials they use). You have to have a license to practice in the state of California. You have to have a DEA certificate from the Department of Justice, and you have to be accredited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"If you want to get to my position...go work in a dog and cat practice so you can gain confidence. It's scary to be a veterinarian!"
What did you study?
I went to Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Once you graduate veterinary school, you have the training theoretically to treat all species but one (and that one species is human). But realistically there's a whole set of studies you have to do after your DVM degree on aquatic animals, conservation medicine and wildlife medicine. You learn traditional veterinary medicine, and then after that four-year program you have other things you have to study.
What do you like most about your job?
There are a lot of things I like about it. It's a very dynamic job—there are a lot of different animals, a lot of different problems. It's the nature of the animals and the challenge as a veterinarian. It's what we do, why we do it, and the people we do it with. I get to work with some of the most amazing people that I could ever think of. It truly is a big family here.
What's your advice for students interested in your career?
If you want to get to my position, after you've gotten your degree and the licenses and all the rest of it, the direction I would suggest folks take is to go work in a dog and cat practice so you can gain confidence. It's scary to be a veterinarian! Gain experience for a couple years, then go back to a veterinary school or to a large aquarium, do a residency program, which is a very formal two to three-year training program specifically focused on aquatic animal medicine. If you're really into it at that point you can consider taking what's called the "zoo boards" through the American College of Zoological Medicine to be a specialist in zoologic medicine.
Do you have a favorite animal?
I don't. My favorite ones are the healthy ones, and the most important one is the one right in front of me. They're all very important and very special to me for a variety of different reasons, from the cantankerous sea otters to the sea stars. I'm fascinated by all of them.
What is the strangest animal you've worked with?
Probably the cephalopods. The way they function is just so different. Everything from the way they move oxygen around to the way they breed, their life span, how they handle energy, their nervous system—they're really odd balls.