After completing her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Elena Behnke began to work as the Director and Field Clinician for the Georgia Poultry Laboratory Network. However, she immediately recognized a greater need for specialization in her field of poultry health. Behnke took on the challenge and began searching for a rigorous degree program with opportunities for career advancement that would help her successfully pass the the Board exam for the American College of Poultry Veterinarians. Ultimately, she chose to earn her Master’s in Avian Health Medicine (MAHM) from the University of Georgia, an online degree originally developed in collaboration with the University of Melbourne.
“I chose the program because of the excellent reputation of both schools,” explains Behnke. “The program was very attractive to me because I knew that I did not want to forfeit a job that I loved while taking time off to earn a Master’s. The way that the MAHM was structured allowed me to incorporate my on the job real-life experiences and diagnostic cases in both field and lab settings with my online studies.”
Behnke was able to form close relationships with students from across the globe during her time in the avian health master’s program, as well as UGA professors. “My UGA professors were supportive... In particular, I appreciated Dr. Charles Hofacre serving as my major professor to help me craft a practical thesis project,” she says. Behnke keeps in touch with her colleagues through email and meeting up at poultry industry meetings when possible.
Behnke continues to stay involved with the University of Georgia as an alumna, following her graduation in December 2011. She is a member of the GVMA Board of Directors, helping to mentor veterinary students. She has also served on panels to provide tips on achieving a good work-life balance, resume writing, and non-traditional career options for veterinary students.
For those who are interested in pursuing an online MAHM degree, Behnke has this advice: “Online learning can be a great option for people who want to continue working while earning a degree. If the person is highly focused and self-motivated, I would encourage him or her to investigate and go for it. The experience has enriched my career.”
Elena Behnke now works as a Veterinary Medical Officer for the USDA, serving as Veterinary Coordinator for the National Poultry Improvement Plan. She resides in Gainesville, GA with her husband and six pets. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, traveling, crocheting, and photography.