It’s Better Where It’s Wetter: Pre-Vet Alumnus Oversees Fish Health
Interview and writing completed with Larissa Holmes ’17
When most people think of veterinarians they think of the person who vaccinates a new pet or prescribes flea and heart-worm medication. According to Stephen Reichley ’09, alumnus of Findlay’s Pre-Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science Program and director of fish health for Clear Springs Foods Inc., clinicians like these make up only one facet of veterinary medicine.
“Vets are involved in almost every sector of society and impact not only animal health but also human and environmental health,” he said. The sector Reichley took an interest in is known as aquaculture, a term for the raising of fish or aquatic animals, which he first learned about in veterinary school. His first internship in the field came through a connection he made at University of Findlay with classmate, Brandon Forshey, now the assistant professor of animal science, attending veterinarian and director of pre-veterinary medicine at the University. Forshey’s father, Tony, continues to serve as the state veterinarian for Ohio’s Department of Agriculture. He hired Reichley as an intern for ODA and helped him become involved in aquatic veterinary medicine. Reichley learned all he could about the field and completed externships around the world, not only working with fish but also with other animals managed as a larger population.
“In many respects, managing fish is very similar to managing terrestrial animals,” he said. He works closely with veterinarians involved in swine and poultry production. “All of these systems are different from clinical companion animal practice in that we focus on population health. With good data collection and reporting systems, we are able to see trends that allow us to make management decisions to provide the optimal health and welfare for the animals under our care.”
At Clear Springs Foods, the largest producer of freshwater rainbow trout in the world, Reichley is responsible for the health and welfare of all the fish in the brood, nursery and grow-out facilities. He had served as an extern there in 2012 and will work full time for the company after completing his Ph.D. this spring, focusing on aquatic animal health, at Mississippi State University. “It is my responsibility to ensure the fish are healthy and happy from eggs to adult,” he said. In addition to internal and external collaborative research, he works to develop comprehensive health and biosecurity management programs while managing and expanding health management teams at each facility. “I also ensure we are producing food products that are safe, nutritious and wholesome for our customers.”
Reichley hopes to bring awareness to the role of aquatic veterinarians to more people, especially veterinary medicine students, through his involvement in research in the field. “I love being able to show in a very small way this is a realistic career and help educate veterinary students about aquatic animal health and the opportunities and challenges it encompasses.” He often has the opportunity to interact with aspiring veterinarians to pass on his thoughts. “I particularly enjoy interacting with veterinary students who I find out are UF grads. It’s great to have that strong and instant Findlay connection and hear about their time at UF.”
Reichley had the chance to meet a number of Findlay students when he made a trip back to his alma mater last fall. He visited with friends and faculty as well as sat in on an animal handling class at the University’s Beckett Animal Science Center. “I will forever be indebted to UF for the tremendous influence it had on my life and for the substantial foundation it laid for a very personally and professionally rewarding career.” Reichley appreciated the family-like atmosphere at Findlay and the close interaction with faculty. “The critical thinking skills I learned at the University of Findlay equipped me to continue my education in veterinary school and graduate school. This skill set, along with the many other skills instilled in me at UF, have helped tremendously during my advanced degrees and in my current position.”
While at UF, Reichley served as resident advisor and resident director, an experience he said, “had a tremendous impact on my acceptance into veterinary school and taught me many skill sets that I use today. In addition to time management, interpersonal communication and supervisory skills I developed during my time as an RD, the interactions I had with University faculty, staff and administration substantially improved my professional communication skills.”
Laying a foundation at Findlay allowed Reichley to build upon his experiences in veterinary school and graduate school and led him to a career that he truly enjoys and values. “One of the exciting aspects that drew me to aquatic animal health is that we are still learning much about the aquatic species with which we work and the environment in which they live. While tremendous advances have occurred over the past decades, we continue to advance our understanding of this environment,” he said. “Aquatic veterinarians are uniquely situated at the intersection of animal, environmental and human health.”