Faculty member visits Australia and Indonesia as part of wildlife pathology short course

Dr. Rob Ossiboff is shown presenting a lecture during the Wildlife Pathology Short Course in Indonesia.

Dr. Rob Ossiboff presents a lecture during the Wildlife Pathology Short Course in Indonesia. (Photo by Michelle Dennis)

Dr. Rob Ossiboff, a clinical associate professor and veterinary pathology specialist, recently returned from two weeks abroad in Sydney, Australia and Malang, Indonesia, where he participated in two back-to-back wildlife pathology short courses.

Ossiboff said he felt the long trip was worth the time and energy spent getting there and back, due to the keen enthusiasm and desire to learn he experienced on the part of the trainees he encountered, particularly during the Indonesian component.

Sponsored by the Australian Registry of Wildlife Health, the Davis-Thompson Foundation and other organizations, the first course is hosted in Sydney approximately every five years, with a second portion held in a nearby region. This recent course was the first time the course has been offered since before the pandemic, Ossiboff said. The last time the course was held, the second component of it was held in Thailand.

Ossiboff, whose role was teaching necropsy techniques and reptile diseases, described Malang as “a populist area, not tourist-y.”

A necropsy lab in Indonesia, held as part of the Wildlife Pathology Short Course.

Dr. Rob Ossiboff, center left, helps instruct a group performing necropsies as part of the Wildlife Pathology Short Course.

“The veterinary school there is relatively new, but they have a really talented group of people who are incredibly enthusiastic about wildlife health, and they are really hungry for resources and training,” he said.

Ossiboff was one of five academics, including three from veterinary colleges in the United States, who made the five-hour flight to Malang following the Sydney course. They were among roughly 70 participants, who were hosted by Indonesia’s newest veterinary school in Malang, Universitas Brawijaya. Participants involved in the course had backgrounds that included zoos, rescue centers, animal clinics and commercial companies, in addition to academia.

“In Sydney, there were more presentations relating to One Health issues in Australia, but in Indonesia, we focused more on faculty necropsies of different animals,” Ossiboff said. “We’d do teaching lectures in the morning, followed by case presentations from the folks in Indonesia in the afternoons, where we’d give feedback.”

For example, one person shared about an interesting case that involved a viral infection in a gibbon.

“They thought the infection had come from a human, but it was probably caused by another primate. However, they didn’t have the testing available to confirm this,” Ossiboff said. “Another trainee gave a talk on a sea turtle necropsy where she revealed her findings but also discussed the limitations in what she was able to do.”

The back-and-forth discussions with the visiting team provided an opportunity for validation of efforts and also idea-sharing.

The Indonesian group of short course leaders. (Photo by Andreas Bandang)

The Indonesian group on their final night. (Photo by Andreas Bandang)

“It’s hard, because in Indonesia, you have Sumatran rhinos, which are very endangered, Asian elephants and orangutans. The veterinary pathologists there are in one of the epicenters of biodiversity loss, so it was exciting to go over and share our expertise with them,” Ossiboff said. “They definitely have hardships; for example, they don’t have the refrigeration we are accustomed to. When an animal dies, it’s often two-to-three days before they can do a necropsy on it.”

The area is developing as is the veterinary school there, and the enthusiasm for learning was palpable, Ossiboff added.

“The students put everything they had into this course for an entire week,” Ossiboff said. “One of the participants became very ill on the very last day of the conference, and a student rushed her to the hospital.”

He’s currently in touch with one of the students he met in Indonesia who expressed an eagerness to learn and possibly pursue studies in the United States.

“I’m going to try to help her get a Fulbright Scholarship so she can pursue training in the U.S. and take what she learns back to her region to help build it up,” Ossiboff said. “It’s about capacity building. These short courses and other outreach opportunities are just the kinds of things we in academia need to be doing.”

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