Ten years, 1,440 one-minute segments and approximately 400 live episodes later, Animal Airwaves — an award-winning, nationally syndicated public radio program sponsored by the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine — is still going strong.
A collaboration between the college’s hospital and Gainesville’s public radio affiliate, WUFT-FM, the two-part program features one-minute daily segments relating to animal health, along with an hourlong in-studio or prerecorded show featuring UF veterinary medical experts that airs on Friday afternoons. Communications staff from UF Health work with station personnel to manage logistics, from script production to scheduling to recording for broadcast across the North Central Florida region and beyond.
The program, which started airing in the spring of 2011, is unique among veterinary colleges nationwide in terms of its breadth, duration and reach.
“When we started Animal Airwaves, our goal was to develop an effective way of delivering meaningful information as a way of educating the public about pet health but also to reinforce the importance of pet owners’ relationship with their veterinarian,” said Dana Zimmel, D.V.M., who conceived of the program soon after becoming chief of staff at the UF Veterinary Hospitals in 2010.
“Our faculty really enjoy doing the live shows,” said Zimmel, now the college’s interim dean. “I’m always hearing from people who say the content of the shows and the short modules are both entertaining and educational. In addition to encouraging pet owners to better care for their animals and promoting the profession of veterinary medicine, the program allows us to remind listeners that the UF Veterinary Hospitals and our faculty are here for them as a resource if they need us.”
Twelve new segments packed with information about animal health issues and tips for pet owners air each month. Live shows feature UF Veterinary Hospital faculty, and occasionally staff, sharing updates on topic ranging from pet nutrition and behavior to the latest in cancer treatment, common pet emergencies, research breakthroughs and careers in veterinary medicine.
In 2014, the program received the highest honor in the Association of American Medical College’s 2014 Group on Institutional Advancement awards competition — the Awards for Excellence. The GIA awards recognize the most creative and effective approaches used to promote academic medicine in the United States through alumni, development, public affairs, public relations, marketing and communications.
Judges of the competition called the program “a creative approach to problem-solving, with good documentation” and “delightful to listen to, professionally produced, with just the right, light touch, music and animal sounds.”
Although the coronavirus pandemic has meant more prerecorded Animal Airwaves-Live shows this year in accordance with health and safety guidelines, WUFT producer Dana Hill, the show’s host since its inception, said he has conducted interviews live in the studio each week for most of the program’s history.
“I really look forward to bringing our guests back into the studio when conditions allow, but even in phone interviews, there is no shortage of enthusiasm on the part of our speakers,” Hill said.
While the Animal Airwaves-Live episodes air only in the North Central Florida primary coverage area, the one-minute modules air internationally on the Armed Forces Network, which reaches military bases worldwide; nationally on Utah Public Radio; and statewide on WFSU-FM as well as in the North Central Florida primary coverage area.