Vet techs in training: Trident Tech program teams up with clinic to expose students to new technology

While Josie, a boxer mix, waits patiently, Dr. Serge Chalhoub explains the findings of her ultrasound to Trident Tech veterinary students Suzanne Heidkemp (from left), Paige Eubanks and Aurora Lenk during a learning clinic at the Charleston Veterinary Referral Service.

New technology is expanding the scope of animal medicine, and students in Trident Technical College's veterinary technology program are getting hands-on experience in how to use it.

The school recently added the Charleston Veterinary Referral Center to its list of partnerships with private providers. The new West Ashley clinic offers 24-hour emergency services and a staff of veterinary specialists in areas such as neurology, cardiology and oncology.

Dr. Paul Kerwin, coordinator for Trident's veterinary technology program, said the new facility has some of the latest technology available, such as digital X-ray, MRI and ultrasound.

The school gives students hands-on experience with animals on the Moncks Corner campus, he said, but it couldn't afford to purchase the kind of technology available at the new clinic.

A group of students that is about half-way through the two-year program now is doing an internship at the clinic one day each week, he said.

The new partnership exposes students to new technology, puts better-trained technicians in the community and offers services to some animals in need, he said. Students observe some procedures being conducted on the clinic's regular patients. But the clinic also offers services to animals from the Charleston Animal Society's shelter that need them. "It's a win-win-win," Kerwin said.

Aurora Lenk, one of the student interns at the clinic, said she's always wanted to work with animals. "It's easier for me to get along with animals than it is for me to get along with people," she said. And she's pleased she's learning the advanced imaging techniques. "Most practices are moving toward digital and advanced technology."

Dr. Alan Green, the referral center's chief of staff, said the clinic is committed to helping improve veterinary education in the area. A speciality clinic should be a leader in education, he said.

Many veterinarians now are using technicians only for simple things like holding animals. But technicians are the equivalent of nurses in human medical practices, he said. If they are better trained, they bring more excitement and enthusiasm to the profession.

Green said the field of veterinary medicine has expanded in recent years because more advanced technology is available and because many people are willing to spend more on advanced medical procedures for their pets.

That means veterinarians now deal with more complicated cases, so they need more assistance from technicians, he said. "You can't be a great doctor without a great veterinary technician."

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491.