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First Group Completes MCCC's Veterinary Assistant Certificate Program; Info. Session for New Class Aug. 25


West Windsor, N.J. - Three years ago, veterinarians at the Princeton Animal Hospital (PAH) & Carnegie Cat Clinic approached the Center for Continuing Studies (CCS) at Mercer County Community College with an idea. Why not develop a comprehensive curriculum to equip veterinary support staff with the myriad skills necessary to provide top-notch service for daily office operations? MCCC heeded the call and worked with the hospital to develop a comprehensive Veterinary Assistant Certificate curriculum.

The noncredit program began last September and the first cohort of 11 students completed its coursework in May. Students concluded the program this summer with a 75-hour externship. They ranged from age 18 to those pursuing second and even third careers.

An information session for this fall's classes, which are set to begin Sept. 6, will take place Thursday, August 25 at 5:30 p.m. at MCCC's Conference Center on the West Windsor campus, 1200 Old Trenton Road.

MCCC's Center for Continuing Studies congratulates its first class to complete the Veterinary Assistant Certificate Program. Pictured, standing left to right, are students Corinne Stahl, Kandice Smock, Gina Iacono, Chris Ware, Fay Simeone, Vicki Buda, and Kathy Rowland. Pictured, seated left to right, are instructors Andrea Pace, Wendi Martin and Maxine Fox.

Prerequisites include a high school diploma or GED, a clear understanding of written and spoken English, and proof of health insurance.

For graduate Corinne Stahl, of Stockton, the program has been a dream come true. In June, she landed a full-time position as a veterinary technician at PAH. A life-long animal lover, she has volunteered at a rabies clinic since age 13. "The program was definitely hard work, but the pay-off has been amazing," Stahl said. "I would recommend it to anyone."

Most training programs are technician-oriented, but Mercer adds overall entry-level office skills, according to Read Langan, assistant director at CCS. Taught in four modules by experts in veterinary medicine, students learn medical terminology, regulatory laws, and basic hospital procedures, as well as telephone etiquette and customer service skills. Trips to facilities such as PAH and NorthStar VETS in Robbinsville are also part of the field-based curriculum.

According to lead instructor and program coordinator Andrea Pace, Esq., a certified veterinary technician, the program is designed to provide a gateway for professional development and career change. "The students in the class were quite diverse in their interests, skill sets and preferences," Pace said. "Some wanted to work with horses, others with birds, dogs and cats, and others with all animals. Our approach is to ensure that no one feels intimidated by the material and that they develop the skills they need to be successful."

Pace comes to the program with considerable expertise, having served as former chief counsel for the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. She has also appeared on Animal Cops Philadelphia, part of an animal welfare reality series that runs on Animal Planet, a cable television channel distributed by Discovery Communications.

Dr. James Miele, DVM, co-owner of Princeton Animal Hospital (PAH), and Stephen Tracey, general manager at PAH, have been instrumental in giving students access to the hospital and a chance to observe hospital procedures during their externships.

"We are very proud of our first graduating class," Langan said. "Listening and responding to the concerns of specialists in the field, we built the curriculum from the ground up. We will continue to enhance all facets of the program. It is gratifying to see many animal lovers turn their passion into achievement."

Langan notes she is currently working with Pace and other instructors Wendi Martin, Maxine Fox and Leslie Sheppard Bird on a curriculum review. The program awaits approval from the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). Once approved, students will be able to take NAVTA's national certification exam.

For more information about the Information Session on August 25 or for general program information, visit the Center for Continuing Studies website or call 609-570-3311.

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