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WITCC vet program gains recognition

By Staff | Dec 1, 2015

GREG STRONG, division chair for career/technical education at Western Iowa Tech Community College, confers with Laurie Schweitzberger, WITCC economic development specialist, on the college’s veterinarian assistant program.

SIOUX CITY – Kay Keenan is quick to credit her love of animals with growing up on a Winside, Nebraska farm.

She said her two part-time jobs offer her the best of two worlds.

As a veterinary technician at Siouxland Animal Hospital and adjunct professor in the assistant veterinarian program at Western Iowa Tech Community College, Keenan said the positions allow her to inspire those with similar professional interests to follow in her path.

“I feel very fortunate in being able to do this through helping students at all stages of their lives,” Keenan said, “be they beginning or non-traditional students.”

Keenan is a seven-year adjunct instructor with an Eastern Wyoming College associates degree in veterinary technology. She has been with Siouxland for 16 years.

KAY KEENAN is a veterinary technician with the Siouxland Animal Hospital, and an adjunct professor for the assistant veterinarian program at Western Iowa Tech Community College. Keenan, grooming Miss Kitty, said the WITCC job offers her an opportunity to inspire others into the animal care profession.

“I enjoy the bond that exists between people and their pets,” Keenan said, “and the dedication as well that exists between those within the livestock industry in caring for their animals.”

She credits Siouxland veterinarian Dr. Steven Merritt for introducing her to the teaching opportunities at WITCC and his continuing support of the program. It gives her opportunity to share the series of animal care options available to students completing WITCC’s one-year diploma program, which is now in its ninth year.

“In sharing the long-term benefits of the program, students may later decide to take additional steps in a career in other areas of veterinary medicine,” she said.

Keenan said her prospective face-to-face student career presentations as an adjunct instructor substantiate what Greg Strong, division chair of WITCC’s career and technical education, said is a growing need within rural counties in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.

“Veterinarians, as are doctors, are getting harder and harder to find at the present time,” Strong said, “especially in rural areas as well as in some urban locations.

“If these areas can employ veterinary assistants, it can be a big help within these areas. Compare, if you will, to how a nurse assists a doctor with all the things that must be done within the medical field.

“Our one-year graduates are, we believe, prepared to help out in a number of ways within a veterinary clinic – anywhere from reception work to helping out with some surgery along the way, intake of animals, medication assistance and post-treatment transitioning care procedures between animal owners and their pets.”

More males applying

Strong said his department is seeing increased interest in male students coming into what has previously been a female dominated curriculum.

“The increase in household pets apparent today is a factor in the growing need for additional help in the field of veterinary medicine helping to keep smaller clinics going,” Strong said.

Also coming to the forefront are positions within larger livestock operations scattered across the Midwest, he said.

He’s enthusiastic in planning new programs within the assistant’s curriculum and sees potential diversity.

“As with many other programs within the college, this program can change rapidly,” he said, ” and we look to instructors like Keenan and our advisory board to help us keep pace with what is needed.

“We really depend on our program partners – vet clinic veterinarians, those people in animal care and humane society organizations, agricultural services and related businesses – to assist us.”

He and Keenan agree the initial assistant’s diploma is a definite possible stepping stone within the animal care field. Starting with basic animal boarding and grooming, it could lead to responsibilities upward to a degree in veterinary medicine.

That, in turn, may provide additional advancement into jobs within government, food safety and inspection, education, research and zoology.

Keenan said she enjoys assisting graduates now working in several local animal care facilities and in strengthening aspects of the current program.

Among potential programs being considered is a two-year veterinary technician curriculum.

Darin Moeller, WITCC dean of instruction, said no definite timetable exists for this at present, which is dependent on community economic work force data, partnership interest and student impact.

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