Friday, June 8, 2012

Animal Health Technology grad's hard work pays off

Sam Langley and patient at an Animal Health Technology goat handling/physical exam lab.

By Sam Langley

Originally my plan was to become a physical education teacher, but sometimes plans change. I may not be chasing children around a classroom, but you can find me calming the scared feline, attempting to contain the slithering snake or trying to catch the escaped bird in the clinic. And I love every minute of it.

The idea of working in veterinary medicine was one that blossomed in early childhood, but the idea of post-secondary slowly faded as the years went on. I went into foster care at the age of seven. Despite the emotional burden of a strained family life, I thrived in school.

School gave me something to keep me occupied so I didn’t have to dwell on the stresses of life. For most of my foster siblings, school was a struggle and the idea of college or university was just an extension of that. There is not a lot of funding available for foster kids to attend post-secondary, and most do not have family to support them financially or emotionally through school.

Sam greets her dog, Pepper, a rescue from Quesnel.
I was fortunate to have three older sisters to give me tips along the way as well as close friends who kept me motivated. I moved out on my own at the age of 17. I realized I had to grow up fast in order to stay on my feet, but I always accept a challenge. Rent and bills soon became the reality, and then of course, I decided to apply to college. My love for animals was a bit forgotten and my passion for sport was thriving at the time. 

I was accepted into the Bachelor of Physical Education and Coaching program at Douglas College and began to complete the first year. During that time, my passion for animals and their welfare was reignited. It all started with a ferret in need of help. Now I can never seem to say no to an animal in need. I started volunteering in local animal hospitals and was told about the Animal Health Technology Program. I still did not know that much about the field, but I knew that I was fascinated with medicine and always would be there for an animal. 

I applied and hoped for the best. 

As with everything, life did throw curve balls at me. While working through the program, my home life was just as busy. I had to move, I worked through the injuries I acquired from playing rugby, and I always seemed to be sick. On top of that I still had rent and bills to pay and animals to feed at home. I ended up taking a job at Douglas in the Biology Department as student assistant. I spent all of my breaks between classes working in the lab. On the weekends I worked at two different animal hospitals.

Sam and patient during an AHT equine handling/physical exam lab.
As for summer vacation, I guess I could call mine a working holiday. I worked during the day at the BC SPCA Animal Hospital and graveyard shifts at IDEXX Laboratories. I took every opportunity offered to me related to veterinary medicine, as I wanted to learn as much as I could. During second year I took on yet another job at an avian veterinary practice. I made sure to gain experience in working with a variety of species. I always seem to be the go-to person whenever a question regarding reptiles or pocket pets comes up. 

All of my hard working hours were definitely worth it as I am confident I have picked a great field to work in. Now that I have completed the program, I accepted a position as an Animal Health Technologist from my internship placement at Dewdney Animal Hospital

It feels great to finally be doing a job that I love and have worked so hard to get to. I know that the completion of the program does not mean I’m done learning, as this field has many opportunities to pursue. The idea of becoming a veterinarian is still floating around in my head and may one day become a reality. Until then I am going to continue to help animals every day. I believe that no matter what obstacle, frustration or challenge life throws at you, you can do anything you set your mind to.

Sam Langley graduates this week with a certificate in Animal Health Technology (AHT). She is the winner of the Animal Health Technology Association of BC Award of Distinction for 2012.