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Large animal technicians have huge responsibility
By Patti Drapala
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Preparing large animal patients for evaluation, treatment and care is a huge responsibility.
Four technicians at Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine assume that role each day. Their ability to mobilize veterinary personnel helps the college maintain a high level of service and outreach.
With more than 40 years combined service, Becky Harrison, Linda Jackson, Dana Miller and Terri Snead work in areas of animal medicine as varied as their personalities. Harrison is a population medicine technician at the Morgan Freeman Equine Reproduction Research Unit, and Miller has the same position with the Food Animal Clinic. Jackson and Snead work in the Field Services Unit where Jackson is an assistant and Snead serves as a production medicine technician.
The four coordinate veterinary functions that help the medical staff manage their caseloads. These jobs include farm visit and ambulatory scheduling, equipment maintenance, medical records and billing management, and medical care assistance.
Dr. Richard Hopper, professor of large animal reproduction, or theriogenology, said the four are dedicated professionals who make his role as their primary supervisor an enjoyable interaction.
“If a problem arises, I ask them how they think it should be handled,” he said. “They work things out in a way that works best for our group. They appreciate that I don't micromanage the process, and they, in turn, feel invested in the outcome.”
Hopper said that by performing their duties with poise and finesse, the four women raise the confidence of veterinary students learning to deal with both predictable and unexpected changes in animal behavior resulting from medical intervention.
“Because these individuals demonstrate animal handling to our veterinary students, the students can move, calm and restrain the patients more safely as we care for them,” he said.
Harrison's goal for the equine unit is to keep clients happy and horses comfortable. She is responsible for scheduling artificial insemination, embryo transfer and other reproductive procedures that clients request. She must determine what supplies are needed and the method of preparation to further conception.
“In a normal day, I may set up numerous shipments of horse semen all over the country,” she said. “I have learned much about overnight mail and airlines.”
Jackson handles the logistics of off-campus visits by personnel in the Field Services Unit. If travel is necessary, she checks the field service vehicles, restocks depleted supplies, and schedules maintenance for vehicles and equipment. Additionally, Jackson books travel schedules for veterinarians, support staff and students assigned to a field call.
“I enjoy watching students as they get involved with treating animals in hopes of getting them well,” she said. “The students get so excited when they see an animal recover, and they learn to act humanely as veterinarians to prevent further suffering.”
When food animals, such as beef and dairy cattle, are admitted to the Food Animal Clinic, Miller is often the first person on the scene. After talking with a client, she schedules the visit and makes sure veterinary staff will be available when the animal arrives. At times Miller is asked to assist with the examination.
“I learn something new from every clinician I work with, which is one of the things I like most about this job,” she said. “The clients are some of the best and most interesting people to work with also.”
Conduit for Care…
There are instances on the job when Snead functions as the go-between for veterinarians on campus and clients in the field. Many clients rely on her ability to brief medical personnel working the case for the first time. The opportunity to help gives Snead great satisfaction.
“One day we may deal with a sick calf brought to the hospital, and the next day we may work 300 cows out in the field,” she said. “I enjoy interacting with our production animal clients because they have a true respect for the land and their animals.”
Contact: Dr. Richard Hopper (662) 325-3432