UD graduate Acciacca serves as military veterinarian at Camp Lejeune

August 26, 2013 under CANR News

Rachel Acciacca serves as a military veterinarianBefore enrolling at the University of Delaware, Rachel Acciacca knew that she wanted to accomplish two things in her professional life — serve the nation in the military and become a veterinarian. Once she heard about the Army Veterinary Corps, she knew her path was set.

Acciacca, a Veterinary Corps officer in the U.S. Army, was a UD Honors Program student who studied animal science as a pre-veterinary major in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR). She also minored in biology and completed four years in Army ROTC.

At CANR, Capt. Acciacca served as an Ag Ambassador, was a member of Sigma Alpha and assisted with Ag Day. She was also a member of the women’s ice hockey club team and rode and trained horses and competed in eventing, an equestrian sport that involves dressage, cross-country and show jumping.

After being commissioned as a second lieutenant out of ROTC and receiving an educational delay to postpone her active duty service obligation until after veterinary school, Acciacca earned her doctor of veterinary medicine degree from North Carolina State University in 2011.

Following graduation, she was assigned to the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, and after completing her internship she was assigned to her current position as branch chief of Veterinary Services at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C.

As a military veterinarian, she provides around the clock emergency, medical, and surgical support to the military working dogs (MWDs) throughout coastal North Carolina. “I am responsible for ensuring that these MWDs are medically fit for short-notice deployment, and managing their routine preventive care,” said Acciacca. “I am also responsible for managing our veterinary treatment facility, which provides routine veterinary care for service members’ privately owned animals.”

Acciacca said that she also provides veterinary support to the base horse stables and works closely with the installation’s public health and preventive medicine teams on issues such as “disease control, rabies prevention and control, animal control, and epidemiological studies.”

Being an Army veterinarian is not simply limited to taking care of animals, as Acciacca explained there are many facets to the job.

“Military veterinarians need to be prepared to manage and respond to an extremely wide variety of mission requirements, environments and unpredictable situations,” she said. “You may get tasked with developing an agricultural support mission in a developing country, respond to a food-borne disease outbreak in your area of operations, develop casualty evacuation procedures, or respond to a foreign animal disease risk.”

In her role as branch chief at Camp Lejeune, her overall mission is to lead and supervise military and civilian staff.

“I oversee our unit’s training and mission readiness to ensure that all soldiers are competent in the basic soldier skills and their job-specific tasks. Our veterinary services mission here at Camp Lejeune has two main categories — veterinary medical services and public health and veterinary food inspection and quality assurance for the surrounding installations.”

Their food inspection and quality assurance mission involves inspecting all sustenance that is delivered and sold on base to ensure that it is wholesome and safe for the consumers.

While Acciacca has no set day-to-day routine, as each day presents its own unique challenges, she does try to dedicate one day a week to privately owned animal surgeries, two days a week to military working dog medicine and surgery, and a day to handle managerial and branch leadership issues.

The soldiers of Camp Lejeune veterinary services also dedicate one day a week to training to ensure they stay up-to-date on general military skills such as marksmanship, land navigation, leadership skills, and resiliency training.

Experience at UD

Acciacca said she enjoyed her time at UD, and said that CANR helped set her on the road to success. “The close-knit community at CANR was very supportive and encouraging,” she said. “I still remember individual professors who went out of their way to support me and prepare me for veterinary school. Everyone there was always so approachable, and I truly felt that they were dedicated to seeing me succeed.”

For any UD students currently interested in applying to veterinary school after graduation, Acciacca said, “Don’t ever doubt your ability to become a veterinarian — if you want it badly enough, you will make it happen. Work hard, seek out many different types of animal or veterinary-related experience you can, and keep your mind open. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a blast and I wouldn’t trade my job for anything.”

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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Diamond combines military background with veterinary passion

February 8, 2012 under CANR News

Growing up in a military family, University of Delaware graduate Danielle Diamond always told her parents — specifically her father, who had a career in the Navy — that she would join ROTC if it weren’t for her love of animals and her interest in veterinary medicine. Now, as she serves as a military veterinarian stationed in England, Diamond gets to experience the best of both worlds.

Diamond, who graduated from UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources in 2005, said she was first made aware of the opportunity to combine the two fields through the Army Health Professions Scholarship Program, which she discovered while attending the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

She said that the program is “a bit like the ROTC program.  I received a two-year scholarship and owed back three years of active duty service once I graduated.  I completed vet school, was commissioned as a captain in the United States Army and pretty much put a uniform on for the first time on June 1, 2009.”

Diamond is now serving as the officer in charge of the veterinary treatment facility at the Royal Air Force (RAF) Feltwell facility, and she explained that there are many facets to her job as a veterinarian in the military.

“Our primary concern is the military working dogs.  I oversee two kennels here with roughly 20 dogs.  We provide their routine and emergency care,” said Diamond, explaining that she also examines the animals that are owned by military personnel or retirees, administering preventive medicines to the animals — such as vaccines, flea and tick control — and spaying and neutering the animals.

Though her main focus is the military working dogs, Diamond helps out with food audits, as well, making sure the food and water that is distributed to the military base is safe to consume. She also works closely with the public health department to manage potential rabies cases, although she notes that the United Kingdom is considered “rabies-free.”

Because she works at “the only veterinary treatment facility in the U.K. for military members” other than pricey private practices, Diamond explained that she makes quarterly trips to three neighboring military bases to look at their animals. She and her staff also go to child development centers to monitor the health of their pets, and volunteer with scouting and school-age groups to “expand animal awareness and provide education.”

Of all her duties, Diamond said that working with the military working dogs is her favorite part of the job. “Those dogs are at the top of my priority list, 24/7.  When anything happens with one of those dogs, from vaccines to an emergency surgery, I’m the one who will be called in to handle it.”

Keeping the dogs in top physical form is key to their success, as Diamond explains that if a dog is sick or misses a routine veterinarian appointment, that dog is not going to work out as well or could even “miss out on the opportunity to deploy.”

Diamond said that watching the dogs work together as a team is “an awesome thing.  It’s especially rewarding when you see some of these young enlisted folks come in and take responsibility for their dog and work out the kinks in their performance.  Those dogs and their handlers save lives, and I want those dogs that are patrolling for drugs or explosives to be at their best physical being in order to keep our American military members safe at all times.”

In the end, Diamond says that what matters most to her is making sure that her patients stay healthy and alert. “It doesn’t matter if that dog’s job is making a small, safe base even safer or joining a Navy SEAL team to take down a bad guy like Osama Bin Laden — I want to be able to say I did the best job at keeping that dog healthy and capable of doing a great job.”

Time at UD

Before she even realized that she could combine her military background with her interest in veterinary medicine, Diamond was an undergraduate in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Diamond graduated from UD in 2005, with a bachelor of science degree in animal science, and a concentration in pre-veterinary medicine and minors in wildlife conservation and biological sciences.

Diamond was an active Ag Ambassador, a program with which she wanted to get involved after being shown around the campus by an ambassador when she visited UD as a high school student.

“When I came and interviewed at UD, I spent a day there with an Ag Ambassador and I got to go to some classes and spend some time out on the farm, and that kind of sealed the deal for me when I was going to visit schools, because it was such an interpersonal relationship and I really got to see the school and talk to somebody one on one,” Diamond said.

She added that once she became an Ag Ambassador, she was heavily involved with the program, “I did a lot of events when I was there. I think we had to do four events a semester and I think I did about 75 by the time I graduated.”

Besides the fond memories of working with Karen Aniunas, director in University Development and an instructor in CANR, and the Ag Ambassadors, Diamond recalls fondly traveling to New Zealand during a Winter Session study abroad trip with Lesa Griffiths, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, and working with Limin Kung, professor of animal and food sciences, in the Ruminant Nutrition Lab. “Dr. Kung took me on for a research lab position to earn some extra money, linked me up to a local large animal veterinarian to gain experience, and ultimately became my adviser and a good friend.”

She encourages current UD students to go out and get involved in both the campus and the community. “There are a ton of opportunities both on the campus as well as at your fingertips, as Delaware is a very agricultural state,” Diamond said. “It will benefit you, your school, and the community.”

Diamond does have one regret, however, and that is graduating before the UDairy Creamery opened for business.

“I just want to make it known that I’m a bitter alumni in that the UD Creamery opened after I had graduated!” Diamond joked, adding that she made the mistake of one day perusing the UDairy Creamery menu on the website and longed for a taste. “Guess I need to plan a visit back…”

Article by Adam Thomas

This article was originally published on UDaily

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