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Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium Loses Veterinarian Dr. Holly Reed

Reed, the heart and soul of the zoo’s veterinary department for 17 years, died Saturday.

(Editor's note: I just got this sad piece of news from Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium)

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium veterinarian Dr. Holly Reed died Saturday.

Reed was the heart and soul of the zoo’s veterinary department for 17 years, and she left an indelible imprint on the Animal Health Care facility, which was built in 2003.

It’s not just an environmentally friendly, state-of-the-art animal hospital, said former chief zoo veterinarian Dr. Brian Joseph. “Dr. Holly” insisted it be both an easy-to-use and pleasant space for humans, too. And she set about seeing to hundreds of people-friendly details – from easily opened and functional drawers to eye-pleasing wall colors and artwork to soothe the soul.

Her attention to even small elements of the animal hospital was symbolic of her overriding dedication to both the health of the animals in her care and the well-being of the humans in her life – family, friends and coworkers, said Joseph, a friend and colleague for more than three decades.

Joseph, who now works in California, hired Reed to work at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in 1995.

Reed served as associate veterinarian from 1995 to 2000; head veterinarian from 2001 to 2006; and part-time veterinarian from 2007 through this year.

Her excellence and passion were widely revered, and she was a highly respected member of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians.

“For all of us in the vet department, she was our mentor and cherished friend,” said Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium veterinarians Dr. Karen Wolf and Dr. Allison Case. “She was an inspiration to countless students and other colleagues in the profession.”

In addition to her day-to-day work with an astonishing array of zoo and aquarium animals from small creatures like rats to huge Asian elephants, Reed was a passionate and tireless Species Survival Plan® adviser for both polar bears and red wolves, said zoo general curator Karen Goodrowe Beck.

“She looked upon being a zoo veterinarian as a privilege,” Goodrowe Beck said. “She took delight in working with animals, and she always worked collaboratively with zoo staff members in creating care and treatment plans.”

Beyond being a gifted clinician and surgeon, compassionate animal caregiver and talented mentor to zoo staff, Reed “was the most thoughtful and giving person I’ve ever known,” Goodrowe Beck said.

If Holly Reed knew someone was hurting and needed comfort or was struggling with a task, she’d stop her own work or put her own burdens aside to help, many coworkers said.

In professional zoological and veterinary circles around the nation, Reed stood out for her considerable knowledge and homework, thoughtful approach to problem-solving and commitment to conservation, said Gary Geddes, director of the Zoological and Environmental Education Division of Metro Parks Tacoma.

It wasn’t unusual for someone he didn’t know to approach him at a conference to talk about Reed and her extraordinary dedication and service, Geddes said. “She really stood out. People thought a lot of her in our profession.”

In July, Reed took an Association of Zoos & Aquariums inspection team through the Animal Health Care facility as they did their five-year review of the zoo.

The zoological staff and facility subsequently received praise in the AZA accreditation report on the zoo.

“Dr. Holly was a role model for young women in science,” zoo deputy director John Houck said.

She also was an example of how to live fully and graciously, many coworkers said.

“She had a great sense of humor,” said Will Waddell, the zoo’s Red Wolf Program coordinator, who also manages the nationwide red wolf Species Survival Plan. “She was deeply committed to advancing veterinary care for red wolves. She wasn’t afraid to get into the trenches. She loved what she did.”

A memorial service is scheduled at 2 p.m. Dec. 1 at University Presbyterian Church, 4540 15th Ave N.E., Seattle.

Reed’s family suggests contributions in her honor to Camp Side-By-Side at University Presbyterian Church a camp for children with cancer and their families. She worked with the organization for 12 years. Or to The Zoo Society Conservation Fund at Point Defiance Zoo& Aquarium, 5400 N. Pearl St., Tacoma, WA 98407; home for her  passion as a zoo veterinarian.

Tracy Campion November 29, 2012 at 03:37 AM
Holly was a dear friend. Her loss is profound, indeed. She approached her illness with the same grace that she approached her life: With warmth, with an incredible lightness, and with unwavering concern for the welfare of others. I was so very fortunate to have met her.

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