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Conscientious, sensitive, and ethical

  • Sarah Penn, Janice Parrow, Rosemary Klass, Amy Giannoble

    Conscientious, sensitive, and ethical

    Veterinary technicians share their stories

    Sarah Penn (top left), Janice Parrow (top right), Amy Giannoble (bottom left),  Rosemary Klass (bottom right)

At the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine’s (CVM) Veterinary Medical Center (VMC), veterinary technicians outnumber clinicians by more than two to one. The 132 certified veterinary technicians and senior veterinary technicians help deliver the high-quality, leading-edge care the VMC has to offer and keep the hospital moving forward in preserving animal welfare.

Sara Penn with a horse
Sarah Penn with Rookie, her favorite horse at the barn where she takes riding lessons on Saturdays

Sarah Penn

Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas
First year at the VMC: 2002
Official titles: Senior veterinary technician, patient care coordinator, cochair of the CVM’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee

How have you seen the VMC change or evolve over the years?

I have seen a lot of ups and downs—I have seen the morale fluctuate greatly. I have seen a lot of change with the changing economy and world issues. At times when the economy was bad, we would see a lot of stress from the clients on how they would afford care. I have also seen us rebound from those situations.

What is your favorite part about working at the VMC?

First and foremost, I love working with the College's Diversity and Inclusion Committee and doing my part to make this a more diverse, inclusive, equitable, and safe place for marginalized people within our community. I also very much enjoy improving and affecting the quality of life of animals as well as client education. Lastly, the medical benefits this job gives me and my child are outstanding.

What, in your opinion, makes a successful vet tech?

Patience, intuition, compassion, knowledge, sensitivity, a love of animals, and a passion for healing.

Janice Parrow with her 4-year-old Scottish deerhound, Finnick, with whom she travels to compete in dog shows and lure coursing
Janice Parrow with her 4-year-old Scottish deerhound, Finnick, with whom she travels to compete in dog shows and lure coursing

Janice Parrow

Hometown: Scott County, Iowa
First year at the VMC: 1987
Official title: Lab animal technician specialist

Does any case from throughout the years stick out in your mind?

I was involved in a drug study that still sticks in my mind. I was the primary technician working with patients with chronic renal failure and accompanying anemia. The drug study was to help the cats and dogs with a better quality of life. I learned how to do several new (to me) procedures and followed these patients until they passed. Being the point person and seeing these patients weekly for several months allowed me to grieve with the clients.

You were among those who took the first certification exam offered to veterinary technicians in the state of Minnesota. When was that?

The first certification exam for vet techs was offered in June 1984. I have maintained my certification since then with continuing education. I was six months pregnant at the time. There are very few techs from then still working.

What is your favorite part about working at the VMC?

Knowing that the research, treatments, and procedures that the VMC staff are able to do will help so many patients now and in the future.

Rosemary Klaus
Rosemary Klass with her dog Milia, who was rescued by Klass from euthanasia when she was less than a year old and lived to be 16

Rosemary Klass

Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota
First year at the VMC: 1993
Official title: Senior veterinary technician

Why are you passionate about animals?

Because of their innocence, and they seem to me to be so genuine, and I respect them. I am just so fortunate to connect with them. That holds true for large and small animals alike. I just feel a connection with nature. And as a member of the clergy, I often get to bless the animals.

You were the first-ever African American veterinary technician at the VMC. What has that experience been like?

Of course, I can see it, but it didn’t always occur to me. I felt it most after seeing that we are not pouring in here. I have often wondered, “Where are we?” and, “Don’t we love animals too?” My personal experience of the people I work with has been just beautiful. Something that keeps me motivated to come into work each night is the respect I feel from everyone I work with—from the dean of the College to the technical staff and everyone in between. I have been nothing but respected, and that’s the truth.

Are there any changes that you would like to see in veterinary medicine in the future?

I would like to see more ethnic diversity in the field overall.

Amy Giannoble training dolphins at the MN Zoo
Amy Giannoble training dolphins at the MN Zoo

Amy Giannoble

Hometown: Little Canada, Minnesota
First year at the VMC: 2000
Official title: Senior lab technician, informatics

Why are you passionate about animals?

I think I was born that way. I’ve been chasing cats my whole life, and it's developed into this passion for the environment, conservation, and the planet.

What are your favorite animals?

First, cats, of course. And second, dolphins. I was lucky enough to work at the marine mammal program at the MN Zoo for about 10 years, where I was a trainer. We did shows four times a day, husbandry training, conservation education, and taught classes.

What is one piece of advice you want to share with future and present (new) veterinary technicians?

The best piece of advice I can give came from one of the first veterinarians I worked with many years ago. He said that in every emergency situation, train your brain to slow down. It can be really intense when an animal arrests. No matter the intensity, stay as calm as you can. Be methodical and stay focused. Sometimes you have to step back and let other people tackle it, and sometimes you have to get right in there. It’s such a great feeling afterward to know that no matter the outcome, you did your best for that animal in crisis by not getting caught up in the intensity and getting thrown off your goal.

The veterinary technician's oath

"I solemnly dedicate myself to aiding animals and society by providing excellent care and services for animals, by alleviating animal suffering, and promoting public health. I accept my obligations to practice my profession conscientiously and with sensitivity, adhering to the profession's Code of Ethics, and furthering my knowledge and competence through a commitment to lifelong learning."