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Women Are at the Cutting Edge of Veterinary Technology

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Austin Woman’s pawtributing writer digs up the details on Austin’s growing vet-tech program.

By Lucy J. Phillips, Photo by Hannah J. Phillips

Dear Lucy,

Have you ever been afraid of visiting the veterinarian? Sometimes I jump in the car, excited that we’re headed to the park, only to cower when my human pulls up at the clinic. It smells funny in there. What are all those noisy machines? Are they going to stick me with something? Are they going to thrust their hands into my slobbery muzzle and expect me not to bite? Will I even get a treat? How did you overcome your fears of all those pokes and prods during your vet visits?

Faithfully yours, Cautious Corgi

Dear Cautious Corgi,

You are not alone! Many a brave pup has tucked her tail between her legs en route to the vet, and it’s especially disappointing if you think you’re headed to the park. Since I spent my first few months of puppyhood in the shelter with the good people of Austin Pets Alive!, I’m a little more accustomed to the scary noises and machines. More importantly, APA! is proof that humans are only trying to help keep me happy, which means keeping me healthy. That’s always helpful to keep in mind when they check your ears and teeth and perform other not-so-fun procedures. Plus, there’s always a treat coming your way if you stay calm.

One of the coolest resources Austin Pets Alive! provides is a list of local veterinarians that offer your first appointment for free when you adopt from APA! That’s how I started visiting Lake Austin Boulevard Animal Hospital. And I have always really appreciated the extra mile they go with their care. (Once, when I was a small fry, I ate part of a foam mattress because it was fun to chew. My vet took care of me and then called the next day to make sure I was still doing OK. How thoughtful is that?)

Another thing that’s always kept me calm at the vet is knowing the staff is caring and extremely well-trained. I had a few issues with allergies last winter (It’s true: Dogs are not immune to Austin pollen!), so I’ve recently become very friendly with one of our vet techs, Kat Eakens. During my last visit, I learned Kat graduated from Austin Community College, which was recently accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

I decided to dig a little deeper, connecting with Dr. Kerry Coombs, the department chair of the new veterinary-technology program at the ACC campus in Elgin, Texas. I learned from him veterinary technology is one of the fastest-growing fields in health sciences, responsible for creating more than 10,000 human jobs in Texas! As if that weren’t cool enough, the doc also shared that this quickly growing field is predominantly female-driven. In fact, of three graduating groups since theElgin program launched in 2014, only two students have been male, which must be why I’m surrounded by so many great ladies like Kat at LABAH.

In addition to all those female graduates, Coombs says most of his staff at ACC is comprised of women too, which means women are at the cutting edge of technological developments in the field.

“As in all fields of medicine,” Coombs says, “technology has changed the way we provide medical care.”

Examples include simple but important changes like converting to electronic medical records, and even bigger improvements like the use of digital radiography and telemedicine, whereby specialists can now make diagnoses on the phone thanks to transmitted data.

The two-year program at ACC in Elgin started offering classes in 2014 and was accredited in 2016. Graduates from the program go on to take national exams and fulfill state requirements to work at vet clinics like LABAH.

So, the next time you get a little nervous, just remember you’re in good hands! It’s exciting to see how the field is changing thanks to programs like ACC’s that improve the prospects for women in the field and allow us pups to get the best care possible.Also, those folks are really great at giving belly rubs!

Love, Lucy

If you have a dog-related question for Lucy, reach out and follow her on Instagram @asklucydog.

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