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A little bit of history: Doc Simmons looks back 50 years to the start of what is now the largest set of wildlife species data worldwide

The contributions of Dr. Lee Simmons (Doc) began well before the first American Association of Zoo Veterinarians (AAZV) meeting 50 years ago, and will no doubt continue on for many years to come. In all his years as a devoted veterinarian, I am not sure if Doc ever missed an AAZV meeting with his zoo and aquarium colleagues!  So when asked to share some memories at last fall’s 50-year anniversary AAZV conference, Doc told a story about those early meetings. 

Doc recalled that after the scientific presentations were over, the clinicians would gather in the hotel and have case rounds with trusted colleagues from around the region.  They would share medical histories and clinical conditions, and pull out pages of lab reports to compare notes in hopes of gaining insight on a challenging case.  At this time, there were no reference data available for exotic species, so interpretation of test results was quite difficult. 

At the end of one evening session, a man emerged from the periphery of the room.  It was Dr. Ulysses Seal from Minnesota. He offered to take the test results the veterinarians had brought, and also volunteered to receive and run additional blood samples for the next year, if the doctors would give him permission to collate the results and attempt to generate some meaningful reference ranges from that data. 

The next year, Uly delivered on his pledge.  He analyzed samples and generated a range of expected results for what I believe were about nine species.  Then he announced that none of it would mean anything if we didn’t have a database to manage animal inventory data and facilitate data sharing.  With their endorsement, Uly went on to create International Species Information System, which we now know as Species360. 

Dr. Lee Simmons (Doc) with Dr. Nogge, Nate Flesness, Karen Sausman, John DeJose, John Knowles, and Dr. Rabb, serve as the first Species360 Board of Trustees

That group of doctors saw what Uly predicted.  That working together, we can learn and advance more quickly than we can alone.  Under the guidance of Species360’s Nate Flesness and Dr. Andrew Teare, the original aggregated data concept has advanced into four unique global resources for zoological medicine. Anesthesia summaries, Drug Usage Extracts, and the Morbidity and Mortality Analysis resources were released in 2016.  The Expected Test Results resource was released in 2017 and to date offers reference data to support vets interpreting lab results for more than 1000 species. 

Today, Species360 members are adding over 1700 test results every single day, and have generated more than 50,000 new reference intervals since Expected Test Results was released in Sept 2017.  Thank you to all the ZIMS for Medical users who are contributing data to build these global resources, and to Dr. Simmons for reminding us where we began which very often inspires where we are going.

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