By Emily Lenhard

Bartolomeo Gorgoglione, DVM, MSc, PhD, CertAqV, is an internationally recognized scientist who works with stakeholders around the world to enhance and expand aquatic veterinary education opportunities. He is a tenure-track assistant professor in the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation (PDI), as well as the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.


According to Gorgoglione, North American veterinary universities often focus training on traditional pets and agriculture species. But veterinary careers with a fish focus are becoming more appealing due to increasing demand for services in industrial aquaculture, seafood inspection, ornamental aquatic pet care, wildlife management, and biomedical research.

While Gorgoglione spends most of his time discovering and characterizing emerging pathogens, he also fosters aquatics education for veterinary students. He recently reinvented and began teaching the PDI 636 Clerkship in Aquatic Animal Medicine, and he’s shaking things up with a new, redesigned format.

Each morning, the class is introduced to the topic of the day with specialized lectures, given either by the course coordinator or one of many local and international guest lecturers. During the afternoon, students engage in practical learning as individuals, in pairs, or through group activities designed to foster adaptive learning while focusing on the assigned aquatic animal topic of the day.

Dr. Bartolomeo Gorgoglione at Preuss Pets, in Lansing, Michigan, a locally famous pet store with a strong commitment to captive reproduction of many ornamental fish and invertebrates.

“I cover most of the lectures on fish health and pathogens myself, but I bring in other experts to guest lecture about aquatic ecosystem issues, the aquaculture industry, marine mammals, and other topics like bacteria, genetic selection for breeding, zebrafish research—things that fall outside my main expertise and research focus. This spring, I had guest lecturers contributing from literally every continent!

“In each lecture, students learn about fish, the environment in which they live, their pathogens, and what the pathogens may cause. This is fundamental knowledge. Without this, it’s impossible to assign students a case study or give them practical training because most of the veterinary students have never had any teaching about aquatics before.”

Students practice scientific writing by summarizing articles and webinars or solving real case studies to prepare presentations, abstracts, and diagnostic reports. They also get plenty of hands-on time. Laboratory activities train students in fish anatomy, necropsy techniques including internal organ sampling, and anesthesia and biopsy procedures.

“During the last week, we visit a fish hatchery to focus on biosecurity, and we bring fish to MSU. Then, we do a practical lab, where each student practices pharmacology and biopsies. Finally, we have a behind-the-scenes visit at Preuss Pets to learn about the health management and reproduction in captivity of ornamental tropical fish and marine invertebrates.”


Gorgoglione is educating non-MSU students, too. This year, one week of his clerkship was done in a virtual partnership with the University of Pretoria (UP) in South Africa. UP Aquatics Specialist Gillian Taylor, DVM, CertAqV, assigned MSU’s students case studies through Zoom lectures, while UP students attended Gorgoglione’s lectures. The activity provided additional learning opportunities, and is set to continue. Eventually, both partners hope this collaboration may offer great externship opportunities to MSU and UP veterinary students.

“Regardless of the direction within veterinary medicine that each student will individually pursue, the updated knowledge provided by this unique course serves as a valuable source of information to orientate young veterinarians in their career decisions,” Gorgoglione says.

He also is working with professional organizations to promote aquatic veterinary education. Currently, Gorgoglione serves as president of the World Aquatic Veterinary Medical Association (WAVMA) and chairs WAVMA’s Education and Student Committee, which coordinates the WebCEPD program that delivers monthly webinars from leading experts. The committee coordinates the establishment of WAVMA student chapters and fellowship fund disbursement in veterinary universities around the world.

On top of these activities, WAVMA offers the only internationally recognized day-one competencies certification, the Certified Aquatic Veterinarian credentials (CertAqV). WAVMA also is now offering veterinary nurses and technicians the new CertAqVNT title. In addition, WAVMA is partnering with World Veterinary Education in Production Animal Health to establish the new professional certificate in Animal Health: Aquaculture Production.

Gorgoglione stresses that this new certification will be validated by the World Organisation for Animal Health and targeted for any veterinarian involved in sea food production. “We want this certification to be something different, to give an opportunity for anybody in the world,” he says.

All these efforts tie into Gorgoglione’s ultimate goal: to draw people to the aquatic veterinary professions.

“In general, my aim is to attract people to the discipline because it’s under-considered by students, and there’s a critical shortage of veterinarians working with aquatics, despite the high need in the aquaculture industry.”