After leading the Gorilla Doctors in-country veterinary team from 2009 to 2011, Dr. Jan is currently en route to Rwanda to serve once again as our Regional Veterinary Manager. During her first two-year stint as the RVM, Dr. Jan led dozens of health interventions in wild gorilla groups, oversaw the treatment of seven new gorilla orphans, and helped facilitate the move of two mountain and six Grauer’s gorilla orphans from Rwanda to DRC. 

In between packing, preparing, and saying her goodbyes, Dr. Jan took some time to write a brief blog for us about her impending return to Africa:

Dr. Jan with orphan Grauer’s gorilla Shamavu in DRC in October 2011.

“I’m going back to Africa tomorrow. The past 2 weeks of my life have been an emotional roller coaster ride, and a bit surreal as I prepare for this next chapter in my life.  Two weeks ago I cleaned out my office at the Indianapolis Zoo, where I have been a clinical veterinarian for 14 years.  Ending that chapter was bittersweet – I leave animals I have known since their birth, wonderful and dedicated keepers who have become close friends, and a hospital staff that has become family.  The going away parties were very touching, and fun (there may have been karaoke involved…).  My photo session with Aurora was nothing less than fantastic (she is one of my all time favorite animal friends)!  Turning in my keys and saying goodbye to the hospital folks was emotional.  

Dr. Jan with one of her favorite animal friends, Aurora, at the Indianapolis Zoo.

Now I turn my energies to this next chapter  – I am soooo excited and honored to be returning to serve Gorilla Doctors again! I am proud to join our team of international veterinarians and support staff that works so very hard in sometimes very challenging conditions to save gorilla lives.  In this work I found my professional passion, which is why, during a family meeting some months ago, my fantastic, supportive and loving family told me to go for it!  So I’m packing my bags (much more efficiently this time around), consolidating computer files, taking care of business around the house (Dave the cat got his teeth cleaned, much to his dismay)… I’ve been having a wonderful time visiting with extended family for Thanksgiving, putting up our Christmas decorations at home with my husband and kids, and even playing a little in the snow that blasted through Indiana!

Dr. Jan, at home with her family.

I’ve been on the phone for long periods of time making sure I have all the documents necessary to bring my little Kinigi dog Amahirwe back to Rwanda with me – thank you Jean Felix for getting the import permit!  It will be fun watching her as she explores the place that was her home for the first 2 years of her life, and so nice to have her there with me again.  

Ama, loaded up in her crate and ready to fly back to Rwanda with Dr. Jan.

So we drive up to Chicago tomorrow to board our flight to Kigali.  I can’t wait to see everyone again, and jump back into the work of Gorilla Doctors.  I am so excited to be returning, to work with my wonderful African colleagues, to see the forest and gorillas again, and to help make a difference.  I am so very lucky to have such a supportive family and to have the opportunity to live my dream, not only once, but twice.”

On behalf of the entire Gorilla Doctors team, welcome back Dr. Jan! 

Dr. Jan Ramer examines an orphan infant gorilla at the Senkwekwe Center.

Dr. Jan with Dr. Jean Felix (left) and Dr. Eddy (right).

Dr. Jan conducting a routine health check of a wild mountain gorilla group.


  1. maria says:

    I wish you the best on your return to the Gorilla doctors team!!!

  2. Lisa Teague says:

    Yay! Very happy for you (and for the gorillas!)

  3. Great news! I'm looking forward to more updates on the transition as you settle back into life there in Rwanda.

  4. Kriss Griffiths Holm says:

    You inspire me Dr. Jan. I am so happy and honored to have worked with you. Good luck

  5. Izzy Hirji says:

    Go Jan!!! So excited that you have followed your passion into this next phase of your life. You are an inspiration to so many who strive to make a difference in the world. Sending lots of love and support!!

  6. geia martin says:

    ur so going to heaven!! xoxoox

  7. Dave Hilsheimer says:

    Jan… Altho' we haven's seen each other since you graduated too many years ago, again, congratulations to you on following your dream and serving as an example to all. Life is so much more than a suburban home and a flashy car. You, my friend, are an example to everyone everywhere. Thank goodness you have a supportive family and, especially, a supportive husband. Bob and the kids must be very proud!

  8. Faye says:

    I remember Dr. Jan! This is good news. I remember sitting in front of my computer, drinking coffee and being so engrossed in her storytelling style and detailed reports that I felt I was sitting in the forest with her and the rest of the tracking team. Welcome back.

  9. qcheryl says:

    Beautiful news! I look forward to reading some interesting reports as Dr. Jan is a wonderful storyteller and a pretty terrific Gorilla Doc, too! Hope you stayed in shape! 🙂

  10. Judith Avery says:

    Great news ! There was something about Dr. Jan ………………WOW

  11. Ian Redmond says:

    Just couldn't keep away, hey Jan? Good to learn of your return – see you next time I pass through!

  12. Thats the way to go Jane, you look happy doing this work with the gorillas. God bless your conservation efforts.

  13. Amy Shima says:

    Congratulations, Jan!!! It's wonderful to hear that you'll be back attending to the gorillas.