November 9, 2006
Punctuated by the occasional howl, hoot and roar of nearby zoo animals, the grand opening of the Sacramento Zoo's new Murray E. Fowler Veterinary Hospital took place November 9, 2006.
The hospital is named in honor of Professor Emeritus Murray E. Fowler, who pioneered zoological and exotic animal medicine at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine several decades ago. He established the first zoo medicine program in 1967, the first in the world, to provide animal health care services to the zoo and other clients. He also developed the zoo residency program that has trained and sent hundreds of zoo medicine specialists to jobs around the globe. Dr. Fowler is an expert in camelids (camels, llamas and alpacas) and veterinary toxicology.
Professor and zoo veterinarian Ray Wack, chief of the Zoo Medicine Service at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, spoke at the gathering, thanking supporters on behalf of the zoo staff—and the animals. "This is a great day!" he said. "The Murray E. Fowler Veterinary Hospital will enable us to provide state-of-the-art care to the fantastic animals at the Sacramento Zoo. In addition, the hospital will enable the guests to learn about the health care that we provide."
As head of the school's zoo medicine residency program, Dr. Wack also explained how the hospital would support the training of the next generation of zoo vets by serving as the "home base" of the program. Current residents spend one year at the zoo to gain advanced experience with a variety of large and small exotic animals.
The executive director of the zoo, Mary Healy, who shepherded the building project since before construction began nearly a year ago, complimented Dr. Wack's planning abilities and credited his attention to detail for bringing the project in under budget.
Sacramento mayor Heather Fargo welcomed all and said, "We know how critical it is to the UC and San Diego Zoo [where residents spend part of their training] to train veterinarians. It is also important for all the animals."
Mayor Fargo added, "The zoo is a significant way to teach children about the rest of the world." Finally, she addressed Dr. Fowler directly. "I'm pleased to be naming this hospital after our good friend, for everything you have done for now and forever."
Dr. Fowler described the naming of the hospital for him as "a humbling experience" after four decades of affiliation with the zoo. He congratulated zoo officials for their vision in building the facility. "I've worked with curators, keepers, directors... All have the well-being of all the animals on their minds." With the "beautiful, functional" veterinary hospital on site, he concluded, "The Sacramento area is going to be the recipient of better animal care."
After the formal remarks, attention turned to the "bandage-cutting" ceremony across the sidewalk leading to the entrance and a guided walk through the one-story building. During the hospital tour, guests noted hydraulic gurneys, a heated surgery table, a built-in wading pool for amphibians, monitors for digital radiographs (x-rays), and other equipment dedicated to the different sizes and types of animal patients. The structure contains examination, quarantine and other holding areas, and a laboratory.
Large windows offer zoo visitors the chance to peek into the different rooms and watch exotic animals being x-rayed, examined and cared for by veterinary staff. For the tour, selected stuffed animal toys "modeled" on the equipment.
Assistant Professor Scott Larsen led tours through exam and treatment rooms. He answered questions about the facilities, equipment and some early procedures—the zoo vet staff had already seen several patients in the clinic before opening day. He commented, "Dr. Fowler has been an inspiration to me. It is a privilege to get to work at the zoo where he started his program in zoo medicine and to be opening a hospital that honors his name."
"It's wonderful to see the fulfillment of Dr. Fowler's dream," said Dr. Jonna Mazet, a former student and current director of the Wildlife Health Center at the school. "He has impacted all the zoo vets in the country, and now he has a permanent legacy."
Zoo officials continued to celebrate the hospital opening with public visits scheduled through the weekend and said that they were looking forward to the arrival in several weeks of some young lions that would be housed temporarily in the new quarantine facility inside the hospital.
More about Dr. Fowler
2001 R. Marlin Perkins Award, Association of Zoos and Aquariums
2002 Animal Welfare Award, American Veterinary Medical Association