Animals of the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo are fortunate to claim Dr. Joe Smith as their veterinarian. Smith believes zoos “connect people to animals and natural areas that they will likely never get to see in the wild. Only by connecting people, educating them and inspiring them to care will we have any hope to preserve the natural wonders of this planet,” he said. That passion for conservation and wild animals has earned him the title of director of animal health at our favorite pick on the “Top Ten Zoos in the nation” list.
Smith owes a large part of his passion to the support of his mother and his wife. His mother, a single mom, worked multiple jobs to give her sons good educations and a stable home. And now Amy, his wife, follows that example by backing Smith’s “crazy dream of zoo medicine.” Smith boasts that he always “wins” with his son, Jacob, on take-your-childto- work day; best job ever, huh?
This “crazy dream” was born in Baton Rouge, La., where Smith joined the Baton Rouge Zoo’s Explorer program and fell in love with zoos and veterinary medicine at an early age. He earned his undergraduate and veterinary degrees from Louisiana State University before finding his home in the Midwest. The Fort Wayne’s Children’s Zoo gained his interest in 2003 and now looks to him for veterinary care for more than 1,000 animals, the zoo’s commissary and animal nutrition program, research and conservation program, behavior management program, animal records and aquarium exhibits.
“ The great thing about my job,” he said, “is that no two days are ever the same. Ever.” Smith relies on an associate veterinarian and support staff to assist him with the care of the abundance of exotic animals and readily admits he “couldn’t do it without them!” His days are packed with per forming procedures, sometimes in public view of zoo onlookers, and giving lectures for a variety of audiences. Smith uses each opportunity to educate guests and “fulfill the zoo’s mission of connecting kids and animals and inspiring them to care,” he said.
Dr. Joe Smith’s passion and success is a testament to the value of a mother’s love and a wife’s dedication; with the right support a man may flourish and further all he touches. We have one lucky zoo