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Employee Profile: Jenessa Gjeltema, DVM, Dipl. ACZM

Categories: Employee of the Month, Keeper Profile, Veterinary Exam

Each month a Zoo staff member is selected as Employee of the Month. The individual selected has gone above and beyond their job description and embodies the core values of Zoo. He or she leads with animal welfare, obsesses over service, works smart with heart, and ultimately leaves the world a better place.

Tiger ExamDr. Jenessa Gjeltema, Associate Veterinarian at the Sacramento Zoo, has repeatedly shown her dedication, passion, and compassion when caring for the Zoo’s animals and making welfare her top priority. She obsesses over the service she provides when tackling all manner of problems from the annual exams to the difficult cases. Her care and compassion doesn’t stop with the animals. It flows over to the keepers as well. She knows that in order to care for the animals, you often have to care for the hearts of the keepers. Her office is always open, and there’s a hug or shoulder if you need one.

Jenessa’s passion for zoological medicine and wildlife conservation first started when she was just 17-years-old after helping with a veterinary research project for orangutans being rehabilitated back into the wild in Indonesia. After triple-majoring in college with degrees in Business and Philosophy, she decided that she wanted to dedicate her career to conservation and zoological medicine. In preparation for applying to veterinary school, she volunteered more than 2,500 hours (that’s over a year’s worth of full-time work!) at a local zoo to help her gain the experience she needed. During veterinary school, she contributed towards conservation efforts for the critically endangered Puerto Rican Crested Toad, by evaluating their native habitat for pollutants. After graduating from veterinary school, she pursued a year-long internship followed by a 3-year long residency for focused training to become a board-certified specialist in Zoological Medicine. Today, Jenessa is an Assistant Professor of Zoological Medicine at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and Associate Veterinarian at the Sacramento Zoo, helping train the next generation of veterinary students and residents in the art of caring for zoological species.

Jenessa understands that the work at the Zoo is a team effort and leads by example and encourages the veterinary team to be their best. Through her actions, encouragement and heart, Dr. Jenessa Gjeltema will leave this world a better place.