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Staffer at AAHA-accredited practice wins American Humane Hero Veterinary Nurse award

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(Angel Martin, winner of the 2019 American Humanes Hero Veterinary Nurse Award. Photo © William Twitty)

Angel Martin, LVT, a veterinary technician at AAHA-accredited Russell Ridge Animal Hospital in Lawrenceville, Georgia, was honored with the 2019 American Humane Hero Veterinary Nurse Award.

Martin was honored for her continued dedication to going above and beyond her call of duty to save countless pets—not only through the outstanding caliber of her regular work at the hospital, but for her work with Russell Ridge’s Companion Animal Rescue and Emergency (CARE) Fund, the hospital’s 501(c)3 charitable fund for helping animals in need.

Martin was nominated for the award by Shari Cahill, director of the Silver Comet Animal Welfare Alliance, an animal-welfare organization that works with shelters and rescue groups in rural Georgia.

Martin was an integral part in helping animals who have been saved by the CARE Fund, including a bloodhound with an advanced mammary tumor given days to live and a dog who suffered a bullet wound to his head; both cases were brought to her attention by Cahill.

In addition to her day-to-day role at Russell Ridge Animal Hospital, Martin has helped organize an annual 5K event to grow contributions for the CARE Fund, hosted a pet pictures with Santa event, and maintained the practice’s active social media presence.

Martin’s been with Russell Ridge for 9 years, and a veterinary technician for 12. Russell Ridge is the second AAHA-accredited practice she’s worked at. That’s no coincidence—Martin said when she graduated, she specifically went looking for a job at an accredited practice. “In [the LVT] program I went through, the program director was very big into AAHA. She instilled in us that it was a gold standard of veterinary practice.”

Russell Ridge cofounder Brad Miller, DVM, says Martin came up through the ranks at Russell Ridge and today more or less functions as the hospital’s operations manager. She’s also the primary force behind the CARE Fund. “She was instrumental in getting that off the ground,” Miller said. Miller says Martin is very dedicated, not only to the practice and the clients but to the staff and the community, too. “She’s the whole package.”

Among her other fundraising ideas, Martin came up with a CARE Fund t-shirt. That t-shirt helped save a dog’s life.

Cahill was at a public event where Martin was working a table doing outreach for the hospital. Cahill liked the t-shirt, bought one, then promptly forgot about it.

She remembered it months later after close to a dozen hospitals turned her down when she was seeking medical help for Pauline, an eight-year-old bloodhound with advanced mammary tumors. Not that Cahill was surprised by the lack of interest. “In a shelter where healthy animals are difficult to place, a senior dog with major medical needs becomes basically impossible [to rehome],” Cahill said.

Then she remembered the t-shirt.

“I don't even know what made me think of it,” she said, “But I went digging around in my laundry to find it.” As soon as did and had the name of the hospital in hand, she called and explained Pauline’s situation to Martin. “She said, ‘Yeah, we’ll be glad to help.’”

Cahill found that t-shirt in the proverbial nick of time—when Russell Ridge agreed to take her case, Pauline was literally within hours of being euthanized.

“In animal rescue, we almost always deal with bad news,” Cahill said. “So when we have an opportunity to celebrate good news, we take it.”

“One of the biggest challenges of being a veterinary nurse is that people don't necessarily realize that we have gone to school and that we are educated, licensed professionals,” Martin says. “They just assume they can walk into a practice off the street and do the same job.”

Martin says that peoples’ reaction to the award has been interesting: “People walk into the practice and say, ‘Oh, you’re the celebrity nurse.’” Martin laughs. “I go, ‘Yeah that’s me, straight out of Hollywood.’”

The American Humane Hero Dog Awards are presented by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation and Zoetis, and were broadcast nationally on Hallmark Channel last month.