Proposal looks to establish program to train technicians to work with veterinarians
“A lot of the horse people are very excited about it.” LAURIE FONTENOT, SLCC dean
A new associate’s degree program that trains technicians to work with veterinarians could begin next year in the hub of Acadiana’s horse racing territory.
South Louisiana Community College began meeting with area veterinarians and other interested community members this summer to discuss adding a veterinary technologist program to its T.H. Harris campus in Opelousas. Veterinary technicians are certified professionals who assist veterinarians.
“We have a fairly diverse committee and they seem very eager to help us work on doing some fundraising to help get the program up off the ground,” said Laurie Fontenot, SLCC dean of allied health professions.
Planning is in the preliminary stages and research on student interest and industry demand is still ongoing, however, feedback from the community — which houses one of the state’s four horse racetracks — has been positive, Fontenot said.
“A lot of the horse people are very excited about it. We’re in the hub of the horse racing industry here,” she said.
The program wouldn’t be specific to equine care and the college would seek accreditation from the American Veterinary Medical Association. In Louisiana, there are four accredited veterinary technology programs: Baton Rouge Community College, Northshore Community Technical College, Delgado Community College and Northwestern State University.
Veterinary technicians’ assistance to veterinarians may range from administrative — such as billing and stocking medical supplies — to performing minor procedures such as giving an animal an injection or drawing blood, said Marilyn Rumbaugh, a local veterinarian on the college’s advisory committee.
On a recent Friday morning, Rumbaugh visited patients — race horses stabled at the Evangeline Downs Training Center in Carencro. She doesn’t work with a veterinary technician as she makes her rounds, but said she’s offered on-the-job training to those interested in providing animal care.
“I think it would be beneficial to have a program because most of the training is on the job,” Rumbaugh said. “If people in this area want to go to a training program, they have to leave the area.”
While a need has been voiced for the program, the group will help the college survey area veterinarians, educators and students to weigh need and interest in a training program in Opelousas, said Julie Cubbage, a local veterinarian and chairwoman of the college’s chairwoman advisory committee for the program.
“We hear that there’s a need, but we need something more formal,” Cubbage said. “We’d like to survey veterinarians — not only local veterinarians — but those across Louisiana and surrounding states where we could potentially draw students for our program.”
After a feasibility study, the group is prepared to help the college create a curriculum and raise money to get the program started, Rumbaugh said.
“The plan is to have equine handling and husbandry as part of the program,” she said based on the large horse population in Acadiana related to the racing industry.
The T.H. Harris campus has lab space available for the program — which Fontenot said she’d like to see start as soon as the fall of 2014.
“I think there would be an interest in the program and we could serve the needs of central Louisiana,” she said. “We don’t’ have to limit ourselves to the Lafayette or Opelousas area.”