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Neiffer, Don

Chief Veterinarian

Positions

Dr. Neiffer has over 30 yrs experience in zoological medicine, working with both captive and free-ranging wildlife as well as aquatic species including fish and marine mammals. Dr. Neiffer's professional interests and areas of expertise include in-situ related species and environmental health assessments, taking part in sustainable conservation projects/programs, One-health programs with a conservation component, disease transmission at the wildlife/human/livestock interface, developing anesthetic protocols, fish medicine, hoof-stock medicine, soft tissue surgery, and teaching.

Geographic Focus

Professional Biography

  • As chief veterinarian at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, Dr. Donald Neiffer oversees, coordinates, and directs all clinical medicine and pathology operations to ensure sound veterinary practices. He also conducts clinical and conservation research and training programs.  

    Dr. Neiffer is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Wildlife Health Sciences department, which provides clinical medicine and pathology services for the animal collections at the National Zoo and pathology services for the animal collection at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia. As the department head, Dr. Neiffer directs his team’s efforts at maintaining a preventative health care program, quarantine program, and pathology program, including the Zoo’s Elephant Herpes Virus Laboratory. Dr. Neiffer’s team also offers post-graduate training programs for both clinical medicine and anatomical pathology residents, as well as senior veterinary students.

    In addition, Dr. Neiffer facilitates and takes part in research, conservation, and training programs, both within the U.S. and internationally. Currently, Dr. Neiffer is involved with three field conservation programs.  In the Chaco region of Paraguay, Dr. Neiffer works with partners on the conservation of lowland tapir and Chacoan peccary in an ecosystem undergoing the highest rate of deforestation on the planet.  In Argentina, Dr. Neiffer works with partners including artisanal fishermen on efforts to limit by-catch of Franciscana dolphin during fishing activities.  Lastly, Dr. Neiffer has partnered with staff from Kruger National Park to investigate the role of warthogs in disease transmission at the wildlife/human/livestock interface. Building on this experience, the team is developing a prospective 3-year project investigating the role and effect of endemic bovine mycobacteriosis (tuberculosis) on lion population dynamics and ecosystem health in the park.  Where education and training are concerned, Dr. Neiffer has most recently shared best practices and knowledge with several U.S. veterinary schools, regional medical schools, and a partner zoological institution in Paraguay.  He plays an active role in mentoring and teaching the zoo’s residents and veterinary preceptors as well. Dr. Neiffer also serves as an associate editor for the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine.

    Prior to coming to the Zoo, Dr. Neiffer gained over 20 years of experience at other accredited zoological institutions. For more than 15 years, Dr. Neiffer worked as the veterinary operations manager for Walt Disney World’s Animal Programs in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, and its associated facilities in Hawaii and the Bahamas. In this role, he implemented preventative health care programs, oversaw research, managed medical cases, and trained and consulted with staff on diet and husbandry needs. He also served as a committee member for the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund and Disney’s Animal Programs Internal Conservation Fund. He previously held positions at the Pittsburgh Zoo, the National Aviary, and The Wilds, an affiliate of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

    Dr. Neiffer earned his Bachelor of Science in biology from Millersville University and his doctorate in veterinary medicine (V.M.D.) from the University of Pennsylvania. He earned his board certification in zoological medicine from the American College of Zoological Medicine, and he is certified in veterinary acupuncture through the Chi Institute of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine.

    In 2017, Dr. Neiffer earned his Master of Health Sciences in One Health from the University of Florida's Department of Environmental and Global Health, College of Public Health and Health Professions. His program culminated with an independent study, "A retrospective study of selected disease seroprevalence and relationships in free-ranging warthog (Phacochoerus africanus) populations in South Africa: Implications for disease transmission at the human/livestock/wildlife interface." 

    Dr. Neiffer's professional interests include in-situ related species and environmental health assessments, taking part in sustainable conservation projects/programs, disease transmission at the wildlife/human/livestock interface, developing anesthetic protocols, soft tissue surgery and teaching.