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Dr. Amber ‘settling in’ as Clinic Director at CROW

By Staff | Sep 8, 2010

Dr. Amber McNamara checks on the health of a sandwich tern last week at CROW.

Although it has been nearly a decade since she first stepped through the doors at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation Of Wildlife (CROW), Dr. Amber McNamara is slowly getting used to her new title as Clinic Director, which she ascended to last month following the departure of former director Dr. PJ Deitschel in July.

But despite a few minor bumps in the road, the transition that the longtime veterinarian is slowly adjusting to gets easier with each passing day, and with every successful animal release.

"I’m settling in here pretty well," said McNamara, who is simply called "Dr. Amber" by her friends and fellow colleagues. "The transition has been a challenge… there’s been a lot of emotions swirling around. But people have been very supportive of me. They just want what is best for the animals."

McNamara recognized that CROW wasn’t just another veterinary internship opportunity when she first arrived on Sanibel back in 2001 as a student from Purdue University. She spent six weeks at CROW that summer, and immediately knew that caring for wildlife would ultimately be her calling.

"I thought (CROW) was just amazing," she recalled. "The compassion of everyone I worked with, from the volunteers on up to Dr. PJ, was something that opened my eyes. Everybody was really into patient care."

Dr. Amber checks the tern's wings for injury.

What made CROW even more unique, she added, was the variety of species that was being cared for on a daily basis.

"After I saw that going on here, I really dived into my work," said McNamara. "I threw myself into wildlife care and rehabilitation, and Dr. PJ definitely encouraged me to follow my dreams."

In 2003, Dr. Amber returned to CROW and was made a full-time associate veterinary specialist in 2005.

Under Deitschel’s tutelage, McNamara honed her wildlife care skills, eventually enrolling in the Chi Institute, where licensed veterinarians master traditional Chinese medicine skills — including veterinary acupuncture — and Chinese herbal medicine.

"Going from a traditional veterinary school and Western medicines to using Eastern medicines and herbs was a complete 180 degree turn for me," said McNamara. "Using the Chi methods, you are trying to heal the whole body, not just the injury. You give the animal the tools they need to heal themselves, and they tend to do remarkably well."

Dr. Amber McNamara updates the hospital's treatment board.

Dr. Amber’s day usually begins around 6:30 a.m. when she arrives at CROW. First on the agenda is to feed any of the baby animals at the hospital, since younger patients tend to feed more often. Then, she and other staff members and volunteers are given their assignments, starting with the most urgent cases.

Between 9:30 and 10 a.m., the group goes on patient rounds, checking each patient and delivering food and medicines. Following rounds, CROW will receive new animal patients from their courier, which picks up sick or injured wildlife from throughout Lee County and the Southwest Florida region.

But almost as much as Dr. Amber cares about the treatment, recovery and release of CROW’s patients is how much she cares about the facility’s student internship program, where she got her start.

"These students are just like me… I’ve been in their shoes," McNamara said. "I teach them everything that I’ve learned here. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn about caring for wildlife, something that’s unique that they might not learn anywhere else. I think it’s important to teach as many people as possible about our mission."

CROW provides high quality medical care in its clinic to more than 4,000 patients annually, representing over 200 different wildlife species. In addition to providing medical care at its clinic, CROW strives to prevent injuries to wildlife through a variety of educational programs in its Healing Winds Visitor Education Center and in the community with programs designed to teach people to care for and care about our native wildlife populations.

Checking an opossum for injuries, Dr. Amber consults with CROW senior rehabilitator Nikki Talianko.

To learn more about CROW, visit www.crowclinc.org or the Healing Winds Visitor Education Center, located at 3883 Sanibel-Captiva Road. Current hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 472-3644 for additional details.


The opossum, found in Naples and brought to CROW last week, is given fluids by Dr. Amber.