An Exotic Career for a Vet

Judilee Marrow ’02 cares for patients of all sizes, shapes and species. As the only vet
at Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek, Mich.—and one of two board-certified zoological
veterinarians in the state for five years—she treated exotic animals such as giraffes, zebras, monkeys, cheetahs and kangaroos. “I have the best job in the world,” she says. “I went through a lot of schooling to do something daily I absolutely love.” She now works at the Houston Zoo in Texas.

A biology major with a chemistry minor, Judilee earned her veterinary degree at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. After one-year internships in Chicago (small animal medicine and surgery) and at Kansas State University (zoological pets, wildlife and zoo animals), she completed a prestigious residency in zoological medicine at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C. She then began the rigorous process of earning American College of Zoological Medicine board certification, publishing numerous scientific papers and passing a two-day examination. Her research ranges from resistance to antibiotics in wild raptors to vaccine strategies for endangered Asian deer to preserving cheetah sperm.

A typical day at Binder Park began at 7 a.m. in meetings with zookeepers to review the condition of sick animals. In her clinic, she examined patients, taking samples and blood work as necessary. More challenging tasks included pulling teeth, especially from creatures like bears. She checked on animals in the park and in the 433-acre preserve where free-ranging waterfowl and other species such as endangered turtles and butterflies find sanctuary. “A good
portion of our zoo is dedicated to natural spaces, and we do everything we can to get to our patients, hiking through the brush and swamps.”

Judilee grew up 15 minutes away from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, Calif., and decided at a young age to become a vet. Ironically, she took her board exam at the wild animal park in 2015. Marine biology classes at Westmont with Beth Horvath sparked an interest in aquatic animals, but she decided to broaden her studies once she started vet school. Her background with marine invertebrates helped her diagnose parasites in sick clams and help cure them during her residency at the National Zoo.

As a college student, Judilee served as an intern at the Santa Barbara Zoo. “Binder Park offers one of the better internship programs for zookeepers, and trains vet and vet tech students,” she says. “I liked working with them and paying it forward because so many people invested in my career and helped me be where I am today.”

Westmont’s liberal arts curriculum, strong science program and small classes provided the education she wanted and prepared her for her career. As a bonus, she competed with the track and field team for four years in discus, hammer and javelin despite being a non-contender. She still keeps in touch with Coach Russell Smelley.

Judilee met her husband, Rob Henry, through his work for an ASPCA poison-control hotline. They enjoy reading, hiking, cooking and gardening together.

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