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Dr. Jean Eye assists vet tech students Jennifer Ornelas (center) and Kayla Chaikin (right) in Cedar Valley College’s small animal facility.

​Contact: Ann Hatch

For immediate release — Jan. 30, 2019

(DALLAS) — They all have pets. They all love animals. They all want to become veterinary technicians to help large, small and exotic creatures lead healthy lives. Veterinary technology students at Cedar Valley College have compassionate hearts and the dedication it takes to be part of a veterinary team, whether they work in the Dallas-Fort Worth area or learn online with the support of veterinary practices across the U.S.

Megan Whitsell, who already works for a veterinary clinic in Dallas, said, “Veterinary technology isn’t just a job. It’s part of your soul. It becomes a part of who you are, and the program at Cedar Valley allows you to get better so that you can help your patients. We care about them. It’s a lifestyle choice.”

The vet tech program at Cedar Valley College started in 1978 and has been accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association since that time. “Then we launched our online program in 1998, with help from the American Animal Hospital Association, which also accredits our hospital facility,” said Kelly Black, DVM, who directs the program. “We currently have 450 online students and 150 who attend classes on campus. Those totals reflect combined numbers for associate degree and certificate students.”

Both programs are fully accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Committee for Veterinary Technician Education and Activities. CVC’s on-campus program is the third-oldest program in the U.S.

He added, “We require our students to work with both large and small animals — and they have a chance to handle many animals at Cedar Valley. We have our own farm on campus for large animals as well as a small animal facility so that students get the hands-on experience they need. And we spay and neuter cats and dogs from nearby animal shelters for two reasons: to help the shelter and to teach our students how to assist with those procedures.”

Beyond “Animal Planet”

CVC vet tech students learn how to become a valuable part of a veterinary team. Doing basic physical examinations; learning handling and restraint procedures for large animals; giving vaccinations; and learning basic surgical techniques so that vet techs can assist with surgery are only a few of the skills taught by faculty.

Aspiring vet techs also learn to perform medical tests under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian to help treat animals’ illnesses and injuries, including: helping with monitoring patients under anesthesia and assisting in animal surgeries; sterilizing and maintaining equipment and instruments; performing lab tests to help treat and diagnose animals; and preparing vaccines and serums.

Vet techs work in a variety of locations, such as veterinary hospitals and clinics; animal shelters and humane societies; college and university veterinary programs and teaching hospitals; zoos and animal parks; large-scale ranching operations; and others.

Cedar Valley College ranch manager Mark Wilson and vet tech student Sheila Vargas work with Molly, one of several horses at the college.

During their rotation in the large animal facility, CVC students participate in three labs each week, and they alternate working with horses, cattle, goats and pigs. They also learn how to draw blood, deworm and start IV catheters. A grooming lab is part of the curriculum, too.

Miguel Popoca, who enjoys the fish he owns and wants to work with exotics eventually, said, “You get the best view right here in the lab. Instructors walk you through the procedures, and we can ask questions on the spot.”

Popoca has been interested in animals since he was young — “I watched animal shows (on TV) when I was little” — and said that students learn from each other, too. He plans to work at a zoo or animal sanctuary where he can pursue his specialty.

Sheila Vargas, who also watched “Animal Planet” when she was younger and is interested in exotics as well, said she became interested in veterinary technology because she was inspired by “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Erwin and his dedication to animal conservation.

“After I earn my associate degree in veterinary technology from Cedar Valley, I plan to work first and then transfer to Texas A&M University, most likely, so that I can earn a bachelor’s degree in zoology,” said Vargas, who owns a dog and a cockatiel.

Megan Medina, whose pets include a chocolate Lab, Corgi “mutt” and two cats, also is a fan of “Animal Planet.” She started riding horses at age 5, and those early experiences with large and small animals led her to the vet tech program at Cedar Valley. “I want to do this — to help animals,” Medina said.

Vargas, Popoca, Medina and Whitsell (who has pets, too — a Lab and “multiple cats”) all agree that the best part of the vet tech program at Cedar Valley College is “the hands-on experience we get with animals.”

Whitsell added, “The online program is great, but I appreciate the hands-on experience with faculty who are here to help. I learn so much in the labs and our classrooms. Students in our classes are at all different levels of learning, but everyone works together. It’s a team effort.”

Popoca agreed. “We learn from each other,” he said, “and we have fun moments together. It makes you want to come back, and it really helps to talk to other members of the class.” Medina added, “Talking to each other helps bring down stress levels, too.”

A Challenging Profession

Veterinary technology students love working with animals. They are valued members of a veterinary team, and they also experience some of the challenges and joys that are an integral part of the profession.

CVC students agreed that euthanasia is the toughest part of the job. “It’s hard, and you try not to get attached. You can’t wear your heart on your sleeve — you have to help the patients,” they all said. They also hope that clients and their pets begin to better understand the value and level of care that their animals receive — and to acknowledge those facts, plus the dedication of veterinarians and vet techs alike.

Networking with and texting each other help the students deal with any stress they face. They keep in touch outside of class, and they also network with others who have finished the program and are working in the field. They all know their role is important in delivering quality care to their patients.

“I have seen the veterinary and human sides of medicine — my mom is a nurse — and we know that veterinary care isn’t a luxury. Veterinary medicine is advanced, and we would like our clients to understand the level of care that we deliver to their animals,” said Medina.

In addition to their classes and labs, vet tech students at Cedar Valley also participate in community events, vaccination clinics (with the ASPCA), spay and neuter bus/mobile clinics (with the North Texas SPCA) and other programs.

Many CVC vet tech students earn associate degrees or certificates and choose to work in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. CareerOneStop, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, projects, for Texas, that veterinary technologists and technicians earn an hourly rate of $13.87; an annual salary of $28,840; and have a projected job growth of 31% through 2024.

For more information, contact Dr. Kelly Black at Cedar Valley College by email at or by phone at 972-860-8164.

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