Playful teasing leads to a deliberate decision
Animal Health Technology (AHT) instructor Pauline Chow looks on as Chris Smith keeps Angus calm while being vaccinated. Smith and his classmates are getting the skills needed to work in a variety of settings.
Chris Smith's foray into working with animals started as a joke, but ended up leading to a promising career.
As a teen, Smith mocked a friend who worked at an aquarium after she complained about dealing with the many children there. Determined to prove it was easy, he took a job and ended up staying at the aquarium for two years. But not because of the kids - rather, he enjoyed working with the animals.
"It was completely accidental," says Smith. Although he worked jobs in different fields, his passion for animal welfare persisted. Eventually, he took the step of enrolling in the Animal Health Technology (AHT) Program at Douglas.
AHT provided exactly what he wanted, in an ideal location. University wasn't an option as, "I hate sitting and being still," he says. Learning with a cohort in a hands-on program has proven a perfect fit, says Smith.
"The practical aspects and applications of the Animal Health Technology Program balance well with the academics. It is something I considered doing for a few years. So when Douglas College opened a program I signed up," says Smith.
Douglas offers the only program of its kind in Metro Vancouver. And the need for skilled animal health technologists is growing, says AHT Coordinator Diane Boyle.
"The face of the profession is changing. There is a lot more available in diagnostics which has lead to an advance in veterinary medical techniques," says Boyle.
"Skilled animal health technicians are worth their weight in gold. They help vets become more efficient," she adds.
Smith, who is involved with the BCSPCA and the Wildlife Rescue Association in Metro Vancouver, has seen first-hand how crucial that hands-on experience is.
"A biologist and animal health technologist are needed in that kind of setting," he says.
Graduates of the AHT Program can work in a wide range of settings, not just veterinary clinics and hospitals. Career options also include dairy, breeding and large animal settings, animal shelters, wildlife parks, zoos and aquariums and research facilities.
There's much more to the profession than simply loving animals. Students must have a strong background in science and basic math skills. They should also be motivated self-starters with a good combination of animal and people skills, says Boyle.
"It's a highly skilled job with a lot of responsibility," says Boyle, noting that students should be able to handle a rigorous academic course-load.
"You're not just working with animals, but you have to deal with people too. You have to work with them even when you disagree with them or don't like the way they treat their animals," Smith adds.
Animal Health Technology
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