CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait –
How many zoo veterinarians are in the Army Reserve? No, this isn’t the start of a joke. There happens to be one in Kuwait, Capt. Christine Bui, 64A, Field Services Veterinarian, deployed with the 993th Medical Detachment (Veterinary Services) (MDVS)
Bui has a unique background in zoo/exotic medicine. Prior to deciding to become a veterinarian, Bui was a zoo keeper at the Sacramento Zoo, in California. “All of my veterinary experience prior to and after completing vet school was treating and caring for a traditional zoo collection. Although I am not formally considered a board certified specialist, since I have not completed a residency, it's the specialty of veterinary medicine I'm truly passionate about and love; it makes me happy,” said Bui.
As a civilian exotics veterinarian, you never know when duty will call, even in Kuwait. Bui has been working with the Kuwait Ministry of Defense to assist in equine cases and developed a relationship with the Kuwait Zoo to offer similar consultations. The Kuwait Zoo invited Bui to assess the newly acquired male lion cub, named Tammar.
The cub initially presented for left front leg lameness. “On palpation you couldn't feel anything drastically abnormal, but you could see a visible lameness at a walk, trot, and run. The Kuwait Zoo vet then transported Tammar to a local veterinary practice to take images of his leg. The Kuwait Zoo then sent me the images to confirm the diagnosis of a fractured radius,” Bui said.
Treatment for Tammar was to restrict his activity. “There is absolutely no way to keep a splint in place on a growing lion cub. Most zoo animals would not tolerate any sort of immobilization of their limbs. They can easily get out of a bandage and then ingest it, causing a gastrointestinal foreign body,” Bui said.
It has been several weeks now since Tammar’s diagnosis and he is doing great! “The last time I saw him was July 9th. His lameness is barely visible now. He still has no discomfort on palpation of his limb. He's growing really fast. I had recommended the zoo vet to retake radiographs on him before he gets too big and they can't fit him on the radiology table or into the vehicle. The zoo is in the process of introducing him to another young male lion, about 1.5 years old, and eventually the goal is to have them be housed together,” said Bui.
If you were just here to read about Tammar, thank you. If you want to learn what brought a zoo keeper to the Army Reserve and Kuwait, keep on reading.
Like many before her, Bui wanted to be a part of something bigger and better than herself, saying, “I wanted to serve and protect our country. With my knowledge and experience, I love to share, collaborate, and provide that educational piece. However, this subspecialty of veterinary medicine is such a niche. Finding veterinarians who are skilled, educated, and have the proper staff and equipment is vital in treating exotics. We're hard to find, but we exist!”
Bui has been in theater for four months, but her work with treating exotic animals in theater started prior to her deployment, while she was back home in Colorado. “When my organic unit, the 994th MDVS was in theater in 2020-2021, my colleagues would contact me frequently with exotics questions. I would provide guidance with drug doses, husbandry care, diagnostics and treatments plans. I also interpreted diagnostics for them too. I guided them in providing care and performing the diagnostics for a falcon they saw at Camp Buehring,” Bui said.
Leveraging skills and experiences is one unique way Army Reserve medicine separates itself. “I love the fact that my civilian education and experience can bring a whole new niche of veterinary medicine to the US Army; it truly is unique and I always want to do more for our Country and the MDVS,” Bui proudly said.