November 29, 2007

SIUC, community colleges offer 'vet tech' program

by K.C. Jaehnig


Caption follows story

CARBONDALE, Ill. — With a little help from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, 24 community college students are going to the dogs … and the cattle and the hogs.

SIUC is playing a key role in providing the hands-on experience with animals crucial to a new associate degree in veterinary technology being offered at five community colleges through the Southern Illinois Collegiate Common Market, with cooperation from SIUC, a Common Market member.

"The idea has been in the works for years but required much specialized equipment, facilities and training," said SIUC adjunct faculty member Nancy R. Henry, herself a veterinarian and, since May, the new veterinary technology program director.

After a $100,000 grant from the USDA allowed the group to buy some essential equipment, representatives from SIUC, John A. Logan, Kaskaskia, Rend Lake, Shawnee Community and Southeastern Illinois colleges began hammering out the details. Students will take their general education classes at their home campuses. They will take the vet tech classes at both the Common Market facility in Herrin and at the SIUC farms, with the cooperation of the College of Agricultural Sciences and its animal science faculty. The first students enrolled in August.

The curriculum includes courses on large and small animal nursing, surgery, radiology, pharmacology, anatomy and physiology. Students will gain practical experience through clinical internships in a variety of veterinary settings and through assisting with care at local animal shelters.

"Veterinary technicians are basically the nurses, the radiologists, the dental hygienists and the pharmacy techs of the animal world," Henry said.

"They do everything except diagnose, prescribe and perform surgery, although they do assist in almost every aspect of veterinary care."

Graduates will qualify for the national accreditation test, becoming certified veterinary technicians when they pass. In addition to working in clinics, graduates can find jobs in animal shelters, zoos, medical research laboratories and in private companies.

"There's a real need for veterinary technicians in Southern Illinois — I don't know how many veterinarians have called me asking for help — it's a profession that's growing," Henry said.

"Entry-level salaries range between $10 and $15 an hour, depending on the area."

Graduates who would rather be veterinarians than technicians may enter SIUC's four-year animal science program as juniors, specializing in pre-veterinary science, which will prepare them for graduate school coursework in veterinary medicine. Vet tech graduates also may complete four-year degrees at SIUC specializing in equine science or animal production.

For more information on the program, e-mail Henry at, call her at 618/942-6902 or write to her at 3213 S. Park Ave., Herrin, Ill., 69248. Visit SIUC's animal science department on the Web at


Say aaah — Kelly Phillips, a Kaskaskia Community College student from Carlyle enrolled in a new veterinary technology program offered through the Southern Illinois Collegiate Common Market, practices inserting a tube in the trachea of an anesthetized pig.