physicals and vaccinations from
Northeast students so they are prepared
for adoption. If something unique is
found during a physical, “we use that as
a learning experience,” Cooper says.
The program also runs a low-cost
spay/neuter program for animals
adopted from its partner shelters, and
in its surgery lab “we utilize that patient
and provide a steep discount.”
Getting animals adoption-ready also
is a practice at Mesa Community College
(MCC) in Arizona. The college is able to
have a resident teaching colony thanks
to an agreement with a local animal
shelter. Each August, dogs and cats need-
ing homes are brought to the college,
where they live for nine months with the
resident rabbits, rats and other creatures.
In that time period, students are the
main care givers for the rescues. The
animals are microchipped, spayed or
neutered and given vaccines. Occasionally
there are surgeries done or dental
treatments performed to get the animals
healthy. There are even behavioral projects, like teaching dogs to walk on leashes.
At the end of the spring semester,
those in the vet tech program help find
the furry friends forever-homes. It’s not
uncommon for students to adopt one of
the animals in their care.
“We give back to the community by
servicing rescue pets,” MCC Program
Director Dr. Kimberly Focht says.
Students also work with animals in
a variety of other situations through the
four internships they are required to
complete in different fields (small animal
practice, large animal practice, emergency medicine and specialty medicine).
TREATING THE HUMAN
Of course, those in veterinary medicine
must also be able to work with humans.
Students in MCC’s vet tech program
take a class in office management,
which includes working on customer
“Technicians are on the front line.
They’re often the first person who sees
the owner and the pet,” Focht says. “They
need to be able to assess human behavior.
Particularly because when a human
brings a pet to the vet, it’s typically a
Adding to the stress is that animals
can’t exactly verbalize what’s ailing them.
“We’re dealing with live patients who
cannot tell you what’s wrong with them.
It’s almost equivalent to neo-natal or
pediatric medicine,” says Dr. Lara Vaughn,
a doctor of veterinary medicine and pro-
gram chair for veterinary technology at
Athens Technical College (ATC) in Georgia.
“The inability of the animal to verbally
tell you what is wrong with them makes it
more challenging to make a diagnosis.”
ATC has had an accredited vet tech
program since 2001. The program fills an
important need in the state. On-the-job
training used to be sufficient in Georgia
for vet techs. Now, anyone employed in
that role must be credentialed and hold
a valid license in the state, in addition
to passing the Veterinary Technician
National Exam (V TNE). The Georgia
State Board of Veterinary Medicine
approached the Technical College System
of Georgia to create vet tech programs.
“They knew the job market would be
deficient in those credentials,” Vaughn says.
The program remains highly in
demand. On average, 35-45 people apply
each fall for 20 competitive-admission
spots. Much of the learning takes place
in a new facility on campus with up-to-date equipment to keep pace with the
changing technology. Like Northeast and
MCC, ATC’s program also is accredited
by the AVMA-Committee on Veterinary
Technician Education and Activities.
To ensure students get necessary
hands-on training, ATC has a memorandum of understanding with the
University of Georgia (UGA). It’s a
mutually beneficial partnership, says
Vaughn, because it allows future vet
techs and future veterinarians to learn
to work side-by-side. ATC students
spend their last semester at UGA’s
College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM)
doing rotations with doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) students.
As the field grows and clinics use
more technology, veterinarians rely
more on vet techs.
“It’s getting impossible for a veteri-
narian to be the one doing everything,”
Vaughn says. P h