Vet Teams IRL: Monika R. Wood, CVT, VTS-LAM (Research Anesthetist), RLAT
One of my very good friends is a fantastic lawyer in Philadelphia named Tony. He is funny and smart. He is the reason I love a good Sunday gravy and the reason I ended up moving from the Florida Keys to this East Coast city. (Oh, girl, we do not have enough time for that story!)
But along the way I found out the only reason Tony was even in existence and able to visit the Florida Keys in 2005 was because of a cardiac surgery he had in 1984 that fixed a broken heart valve.
What the heck does this have to do with vet med, Tasha???
Well, if it wasn’t for research being done on cardiac surgery at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the talented veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and animal caretakers there, Tony and many others like him wouldn’t have had a fighting chance.
Despite your feelings about translational research, we can’t deny that major advancements and treatments for diseases such diabetes, cancer, and HIV have been made possible by animal models —and veterinary technicians are an integral part of the research team, always advocating for the best animal care.
In this edition of Vet Teams IRL, we talk with Monika Wood—a certified veterinary technician with a specialty in lab animal medicine—about taking the research road in your career.
Tasha McNerney (TMc): When did you first know a career in veterinary technology was for you?
Monika Wood (MW): It was nearly 16 years ago when I was an uncredentialed tech. I was in the middle of doing a dental prophy on a dog when the vet I was working with said that the techs he used to work with did dental cleanings on monkeys.
He also mentioned that vet techs could take care of zoo animals and work in research for both companies and the government. The only caveat was that I had to become certified/ licensed. Since job security was my focus at that time, I thought it was the right thing to pursue. I don’t regret it!
TMc: So, I know we hear about it in school, but what kinds of opportunities are there really for techs within the research realm?
MW: Oh, plenty! A veterinary technician can obtain their VTS through the Academy of Laboratory Animal Veterinary Technicians and Nurses (ALAVTN). There are a few categories within the academy that veterinary technicians could choose to specialize in:
- Research clinical nursing: (Traditional and nontraditional): A veterinary technician spending 70% of their time providing project support and general veterinary care to research animals.
- Research surgeon: A veterinary technician who spends 70% of their time performing surgical procedures and provides veterinary care to research animals.
- Research anesthetist: A person who spends 70% of their time providing anesthesia and analgesia support to research animals.
There is also the Academy of Surgical Research where techs could explore and further their education. Techs could choose to work at the National Institutes of Health (government), universities, or biomedical research facilities. Many, many options!
TMc: When folks think of a job in vet med, they always picture the traditional clinic setting. Why does a job in research fulfill your career goals?
MW: I feel this field allows me to be an advocate for animals without client financial constraints. I love the challenge of balancing study needs with gold-standard animal care. I also love elevating the standards of care for complex surgical models by incorporating multimodal anesthesia and analgesia.
It helps that I have an incredible team of veterinary and animal care professionals who are also willing to learn and elevate the standards of care. My job wouldn’t be what it is without my amazing team!
TMc: Where do you see the future of our profession (veterinary technology) heading?
MW: The future of our profession is limitless. Like I stated previously, this profession has a decent amount of job security. The issue that I see for the future is title protection. Until governing bodies agree to protect the title of “veterinary technician,” the public will never understand the hard work and dedication it takes to get credentialed.
Photos courtesy of Monika Wood
Tasha McNerney BS, CVT, CVPP, VTS (Anesthesia and Analgesia) is a certified veterinary technician and certified veterinary pain practitioner who works closely with the IVAPM to educate the public about animal pain awareness. McNerney has authored numerous articles on anesthesia and analgesia topics for veterinary professionals and pet owners.
Disclaimer: The views expressed, and topics discussed, in any NEWStat column or article are intended to inform, educate, or entertain, and do not represent an official position by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) or its Board of Directors.