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Sathya Chinnadurai

Ethnicity:

South Asian (Indian-American)

Current position: 

Director of Animal Health

Current facility:

Saint Louis Zoo

Year zoo career began:

2006

Sathya is the Director of Animal Health at the Saint Louis Zoo where he serves as the department supervisor and spends about 20% of his time on clinical veterinary medicine. Sathya works with a team of three other clinical veterinarians, a veterinary pathologist, four veterinary technicians, animal quarantine and administrative support staff. As Director, he serves as an advocate for his department and works with Animal Health and Animal Care staff to provide the highest quality, evidence-based medicine for the animals at the Saint Louis Zoo.

Sathya was born in Saint Louis and grew up going to the Saint Louis Zoo with his family whenever he could. He has always had a strong interest in animals and medicine, but veterinary medicine was not a common career choice for Indian Americans and Sathya was encouraged to pursue “real medicine” like many of his peers. He went through high school with the intent of attending a college with a strong pre-medical program but realized in his first year of college that human medicine was not for him. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with an emphasis on ecology and began looking into conservation medicine.

Sathya attended the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine from 2001 to 2005 because it was his home state school, even though it had no training program for zoo or wildlife medicine. He gained experience through externships and stayed at Mizzou to complete a post-grad internship and a Master’s in Wildlife Biology from 2005 to 2006. He moved to North Carolina State University to complete a three-year residency in Zoological Medicine between 2006 and 2009, after which he completed a residency in Anesthesiology, also at NCSU. Sathya then became a Clinical Instructor in Zoo Medicine at UC Davis veterinary school while working as a staff veterinarian at the Sacramento Zoo. In 2013, Sathya moved back to the Midwest when he began a position as a Staff Veterinarian at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. In 2019, Sathya began his current position at the Saint Louis Zoo.

Sathya’s favorite part of his job is facilitating growth and development in his teammates and students; he loves teaching someone else how to do something, especially when they come up with ways that they both could do the task better. He finds that many people are surprised that zoo veterinarians go through extensive specialty training after veterinary school and are still confronted with novel “first-time” cases every day. Sathya advises aspiring zoo veterinarians to not get tunnel vision when setting goals. There are many careers in the zoo field, so don’t be so set on one endpoint that you miss an opportunity that is a better fit for you. Sathya’s favorite animal is the okapi, as he finds that such a large and distinct animal was “hidden” for so long is truly amazing.