ORLANDO, Fla. – From small animals to large ones such as manatees and killer whales, women are at the forefront of making sure that every animal at SeaWorld is healthy and given proper medical care.
"All of us work on every single animal in this park. It's a joy to work with a group of women and it really makes me look forward to coming in to work every single day," Dr. Claire Erlacher-Reid, senior veterinarian at SeaWorld Orlando, said.
Five women make up the A-team of veterinarians.
"The women here are wonderful. They're very passionate women. They are super smart and we all have our strengths and we all compliment each other's weaknesses," Lydia Staggs, another senior veterinarian at the park said.
The vets regularly conduct routine checkups on the animals in addition to performing major surgeries. They are assisted by more than a dozen technicians, who are also women.
"Meeting them, I found them very engaging, and I found a cooperative work environment, so that was the most important thing to me," Dr. Dana Marie Lindemann, one of the newest members of the vet team, said.
Each team member has a unique story. Almost all knew at a young age what they wanted to be.
Dr. Erlacher-Reid was 5 when she discovered she wanted to work with sea animals. Lindemann was 13 years old when she made that life choice.
"When I discovered that you could use veterinary skills to work with animals, especially marine animals, I decided that that was the way to go," Lindemann said.
Dr. Stacy DiRocco 's story is a little different. She had plans of becoming a lawyer. But her love for animals was stronger than her love for the law. After college, DiRocco worked at SeaWorld San Diego.
"I worked very closely with the veterinarians and I absolutely loved the rescue and rehab program and that's what inspired me to go to veterinary school," DiRocco said.
"The clinicians each have such a diverse background on how they came here so they're such a wealth of knowledge," Dr. Molly Martony said.
Martony is currently doing her residency at SeaWorld Orlando. At just 4 years old, her passion was awakened.
"That was a very defining moment in my life. My parents provided me the opportunity to go to SeaWorld as a young child and so that's where I fell in love with dolphins," Martony said.
All of the doctors agreed that the job is rewarding, both for them and the animals.
"We can check their reproductive health. One of the wonderful things about the animals that live here is that they all are trained to participate in their own health care," DiRocco said.
The animals are trained to work with the team so that everyone can succeed.
“They’re trained to give us a blood sample. They’re trained to give us a urine sample or trained for voluntary ultrasound,” Erlacher-Reid said.