Training the next generation in wildlife health diagnostics

SCWDS is a special unit within the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine and welcomes third and fourth year veterinary students to participate in a wildlife diagnostics-focused externship. Our externship program is a great opportunity for veterinary students to gain experience in wildlife disease diagnostics and pathology. Limited opportunities to assist in field investigations or wildlife research are also rarely available. Externships typically range from three to six weeks, based on schedule availability.

Please contact Patricia Flaherty for further information.

SCWDS Externship program info and common questions

About the program

Purpose / Objectives of the Externship

The primary purpose of the externship is to provide training for veterinary students in wildlife mortality and disease investigations, with emphasis on diagnostic testing and necropsy. Students will gain exposure to how disease investigations are conducted and learn how wildlife veterinarians and agencies collaborate to diagnose and study diseases in free-ranging wildlife populations. Students will learn about common and uncommon causes of morbidity and mortality in these populations.

Treatment of individual wild animals for illnesses or injuries is NOT an aspect of this externship.

Externship Activities

The majority of the externship is spent with the SCWDS Diagnostic Service, assisting in investigating causes of death in a variety of wildlife species, the majority of which are mammalian and avian. This includes activities such as performing necropsies, collecting and processing diagnostic samples, presenting cases at rounds, and writing portions of diagnostic reports.

In addition, all SCWDS externs write and present several, small externship projects focused on wildlife health, in line with the mission of SCWDS and the interests of our state and federal agency partners. Topics are generally chosen soon after the extern’s arrival and culminate in short, weekly oral presentations and written project at the end of the externship. The student will also be expected to respond to questions pertaining to assigned study materials and daily cases.

Although often limited, when field experiences are available, participation will be required. The externship program is a team-teaching effort, and the extern will be assigned to various staff members during the program.

Externs are also encouraged to interact with SCWDS faculty, staff, and graduate students, as well as neighboring Dept. of Pathology, as motivated by their own professional interests and goals.


Students in good academic standing from an AVMA accredited college of veterinary medicine from the USA or Canada are eligible to apply for the externship, which will take place during their clinical year. This may occur during their third or fourth year, depending on their school’s clinical year structure. Students must take a necropsy rotation OR demonstrate significant necropsy experience prior to the start date of their externship, which should be made clear in application materials. Externs are accepted throughout the school year on but dates often fill up approximately a year ahead so applicants are encouraged to apply early. Typically, the majority of the externship time will have only one student at a time, but occasional week-long overlap with other externs may occur during busy periods.

How to apply

Externship programs should be arranged at least 8-12 months in advance of the desired starting date. However, earlier applications may be necessary for busy times of the year. Students should apply by sending:

  • A one-page letter of intent to Patricia Flaherty
    • This should include demonstration of interest in wildlife health, mention of relevant experience, and how you think this externship will help you with your future career goals or interests.
  • A general resume/CV
  • A letter sent from the academic dean of the veterinary college indicating approval of the externship

Once the applicant has been accepted, SCWDS staff will reach out with available dates for the externship. If required by the extern’s institution, externs are responsible for contacting their academic dean or curriculum coordinators, filling out as much of the program form as possible, and sending it to SCWDS for completion on our end as soon as possible.

Please allow as much time as possible for application processing and scheduling of externship dates, as time slots fill in, and UGA College of Veterinary Medicine also requires early scheduling.

Final enrollment

Once an invitation for an externship is extended, the student is responsible for making appropriate arrangements for enrollment at the extern’s college. Students cannot participate in the SCWDS externship program during their between-term break or “free time” without special permission. A faculty member from the veterinary college of origin should be designated as responsible for the conduct of the extern. Externship participants must have their own health insurance.

Housing and living expenses

Information on housing will be provided by the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine externship coordinator after externship dates are secured.


Most veterinary schools/colleges require that a student is evaluated during the externship. If that is the case with your school, please bring your evaluation forms and requirements with you and ensure that all forms are completed prior to the completion of the externship by meeting with the externship coordinator. Forms will not be completed after a student has departed.

Formal tests will not be given. The externship coordinator, in consultation with other SCWDS staff members, will evaluate you in the format provided by the veterinary college of origin. Strong consideration will be given to work participation, demonstration of academic capability, and on the ability of the student to project a professional image.

We’re UGA Vet Med, and our

passion powers our commitment.