A faculty member at St. Matthew’s University has been ranked among the top 15 marine veterinary professors by an online educational resource.
Samantha Shields was included in a list compiled by VetTechColleges.com, a website aimed at prospective and current veterinary medicine professionals.
“It was a bit of a surprise,” said Dr. Shields, associate professor of clinical sciences and assistant dean of student affairs at St. Matthew’s. “I was very excited about it.”
Barry Franklin, chief editor of VetTechColleges.com, said the list is meant to promote vets and their respective colleges and to honor their accomplishments. This is the first time the top 15 was compiled in this particular category.
“Dr. Shields was selected as she met the criteria that we chose when we decided to honor vets in this specific niche,” he said. “We usually stick to North America, but we decided to include Dr. Shields since she is so qualified and … many North Americans attend the school.”
The criteria for the list considered marine vets who are involved in research and/or instruction in a college or university environment. It also took into account, in some cases, education level, published academic articles and in-depth research. Several vets on the list are involved with the treatment and rescue of marine and aquatic animals, while others are exploring how environmental stress, toxins and disease affect them.
A Canadian national who joined the faculty at St. Matthew’s in 2007, Dr. Shields is noted for her work in an educational program called MARVET (Marine Veterinary Medicine) and coral reef research. She serves as a faculty adviser to the school’s Coral Reef Research Club, which was formed through the School of Veterinary Medicine, and is dedicated to studying and protecting coral species in and around the Cayman Islands.
MARVET is an international marine workshop program established in 1999 by U.S. veterinarians Raymond J. Tarpley and Christine A. Curry. The nonprofit organization offers introductory courses in marine animal medicine for veterinary students and veterinarians who are interested in the growing field of marine animal health and conservation medicine.
Dr. Tarpley approached Dr. Shields to develop and coordinate the program in Cayman about six years ago. The two-week course is held in July and includes traditional classroom instruction along with hands-on field work. Internationally recognized experts from the areas of marine animal health, welfare and conservation are brought in as instructors.
MARVET Cayman accepts 18 international students, with students from St. Matthew’s eligible to take the course as an elective. Dr. Shields said interest has grown tremendously since its inception.
“We went from a couple of students to around 60 to 70 applicants,” she said. “They come from all over the world – South Africa, U.K. and Asia, as well as the U.S. and Canada.”
She said a growing focus of the program is the emerging field of conservation medicine.
Dr. Shields received her doctor of veterinary medicine from St. George’s University in Grenada and completed her clinical year at the University of Florida in 2004. Prior to joining the faculty at St. Matthew’s, she worked for Hill’s Pet Nutrition. Previously, she worked within the terrestrial and education department at the Cayman Turtle Farm.