Q&A with Christine
OAVT: Why did you decide to and how did you become a Registered Veterinary Technician?
Christine: My love of animals started me on the path toward my career but I also love helping people help their animals and that was a big driving force as well. Working with animals and their people every day seemed like the most amazing career path to take. I knew it was what I wanted. I did not start out small! I worked at Cornell University’s Large Animal Hospital as my first job in the veterinary field. I had been working in the field for six years when the new registration of veterinary technicians began. Since registration did not exist when I started out, and because of my six years of working experience as a veterinary technician, I was given the opportunity to apply for the registration exam. I took both the oral and written exams and achieved my RVT status. I have been the recipient of the OAVT Award of Merit and the OVMA Award of Merit during my career and have been very proud of being able to represent my profession. I have also given many presentations in high schools to encourage students to consider the veterinary field as a fantastic career choice. I promote the veterinary field at every opportunity. I love that veterinary medicine is always changing and evolving and I have maintained my RVT status with continuing education since 1995.
You have been in the RVT profession for over 20 years. What types of jobs have you had in the sector? What has kept you in the profession?
Christine: As I said, my career started at Cornell University’s Large Animal Hospital in New York where I worked for 5 years. It was a tremendous learning experience and I thrived in that environment. When my husband and I moved back to Canada, I continued in a large animal hospital at first but had the opportunity for a position at a small animal practice and took it. After the first six months there I became the Head Veterinary Technician. I was there for 5 years and then we moved again and I was hired as the Head Veterinary Technician at a small animal practice in Kitchener. I also took on the role of Hospital Manager at that clinic.
I tell people all the time, I would never be in any other profession. I love being in the veterinary field, it is ever changing and challenging, it is a constant learning experience and I love working with animals and their people every day. It is never dull and it is always rewarding.
OAVT: How do you balance both your position as a Hospital Manager in a clinic and your position as the Executive Director of the Canadian Animal Assistance Team, a national Canadian charity?
It can be tough at times, I want to ensure I give my all to both my roles and sometimes that means giving a lot of my personal time up. However, I love both roles, I love being involved on a daily basis in a veterinary hospital and I believe in the Canadian Animal Assistance Team (CAAT) and what we do so I work constantly to find the balance and find some family time in there.
OAVT: Tell us a little more about CAAT. What is it all about? How did you first get involved?
Christine: CAAT is a registered Canadian charity whose mission is to improve the health and welfare of domestic animals in areas that have little or no access to veterinary services. Our goal is to provide spay/neuter and vaccination services to these animals to improve their quality of life and decrease the number of animals that are homeless and thus improve animal welfare.
My involvement started after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005. After being involved in the animal relief effort there I knew I wanted to volunteer my skills and time somehow on an ongoing basis. Coincidently, the Canadian Animal Assistance Team had just been formed and myself and fellow RVT, Annette Pecak, joined forced and formed the Ontario Chapter of CAAT and became involved in the spay/neuter projects immediately.
By 2008, I was elected to be the Executive Director of the national charity and have been doing it ever since.
OAVT: What are some of your responsibilities as Executive Director? What do you love about the job?
Christine: As Executive Director I do everything from grant writing, budgets, reports, media work to connecting with community leaders who are asking for assistance and partnering with them to organize a project in their community. Once the community has been chosen, I work with all the details of planning a project - choosing a team, arranging transportation, meals, accommodation for the team, arrange for a local facility to work in, etc. Once the project time arrives, myself or one of my team leaders go with the team to the community and set up a MASH style field hospital to start work right in the community and deliver the spay/neuter and vaccination services needed. I also do all the follow-up work to determine if the community needs us back the next year or not. Our goal is to establish a self-sustaining population control within the community (by-laws, education, etc.) but it can take 3-5 years of annual visits to get to that point.
I love being able to provide pets and their people with the option of these services that they would not have otherwise. It is very fulfilling to know you made a difference to that family and that pet. I love working with like-minded veterinarians, registered veterinary technicians, and assistants that have a common goal and work together to make it happen.
Another amazing part about the projects is that despite working in an often very remote location, with team members you may have just met, staying in sometimes crowded accommodations, working long, hard hours in less than ideal conditions you find out that those like-minded individuals are the most open, smiling, accommodating, hard working, giving people you could ever meet. They become good friends in a very short while and most cannot wait to do it again.
OAVT: CAAT is a registered charity, is there anything other RVTs can do to help? Why would you encourage them to get involved?
Why become involved? For a lot of the reasons I listed about why I love it.