WCC’s new two-year associate degree in veterinary technology — an expansion of the veterinary assisting certificate — is more hands-on in the second year, as students work directly with animals during internships.
That’s according to the director of the new program, Dr. John Kaya, a self-described animal lover who has 13 years of experience in Hawai‘i as a practicing veterinarian.
When students enter the technician program, he said, “They do things like take x-rays, do anesthetic procedures, dental cleanings on animals, monitor patients that are undergoing surgery and take care of them post-operatively. It’s a lot more hands on.”
The majority of veterinary technicians working in Hawai’i do not have degrees and were trained on the job, he explained. There are about 200 vet tech programs on the mainland, but this is the first one in Hawai’i.
The degree “prepares students so when they finally graduate they know what they’re doing and they can immediately jump into a clinic and start working,” said Kaya.
“If you want to be a veterinarian, this could be a good way to start your journey. I’ve known many vet technicians who have gone on to become vets. Their years of experience and their comfort level with animals is what really gets them into veterinary school, along with good grades.”
Kaya himself has had an interesting journey. He loves children and debated becoming a pediatrician or a vet, although his original degree was in education. He worked as an elementary school teacher before returning to school to become a veterinarian.
“I decided instead of seeing kids when they’re sick or seeing them when they’re getting their shots, which they hate, why not see them in the clinic with their favorite pet?” said Kaya.
He treats not only dogs and cats, but also a whole range of birds and animals, including rabbits, chinchillas, turtles, penguins, flamingos and goats, just to name a few.
“One of the most rewarding things is helping a pregnant dog or cat give birth,” he said.
“You start out with a mother in distress, you go in and help her give birth or give her a c-section, and they’re a happy family. It’s the best feeling.”
Kaya will be teaching, as well as running the program and making sure all the parts involved are taken care of. He also plans to keep working as a vet one day a week at the VCA University Animal Hospital.
“Just being a vet, every week something crazy happens. It’s a fun business,” said Kaya, who writes an animal column twice a month for MidWeek.
The program is looking to be accredited next spring and is also planning to offer distance learning in the near future.
by Manjari Fergusson
Ka ‘Ohana Editor in Chief