Blog > Mentorships, Memorable Moments, and… Sloths?

Mentorships, Memorable Moments, and… Sloths?

Instructor Feature

VHA Department Head, Kate Robertson chats with us about her motivation to pursue a career in animal care, where the Veterinary Hospital Assistant program is headed, and yes…sloths.  

“To be successful, the first thing to do is fall in love with your work.” – Mary Lauretta 

Q: What first inspired you to pursue a career in veterinary medicine?  

A: Growing up, my mom was the manager of an animal clinic. I spent a lot of time at her workplace and always knew it was something I wanted to pursue. Another factor was growing up in the country and having a variety of animals, and caring for those animals also made me want to choose this path. 

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln

Q: Could you share a memorable experience from your time working in veterinary hospitals that has shaped your approach to teaching and leading within the department? 

A: I am so grateful for the great mentorships I received while working in some the field. Having someone take the time to really explain and show you the “why” behind things is so important in the industry. The unique experiences I have had working in a variety of settings such emergency, exotic and both small and large animal medicine really gave me the opportunity to see and do many things. Always take the chance, explore the opportunities for growth and development.  

VHA Department Head, Kate Robertson uses equipment in Centre for Arts and Technology’s Veterinary Hospital Assistant classroom.

“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” – John C. Maxwell

Q: How does the department stay updated with the latest advancements and trends in veterinary medicine, and how are these integrated into the curriculum?  

A: We are continually reevaluating and updating our curriculum as the industry is constantly changing. From diets to pharmaceutical medications, treatments to protocols, it is essential that we keep our curriculum current and up to date. We have instructors that work in the industry as well as instruct classes, which allows for changes to be made where needed. We have a program advisory council (currently a veterinarian and 2 registered technicians) that are provided with all our program information from courses offered, curriculum taught, facilities, faculty, learning outcomes and objectives. This gives us an outside perspective to ensure that we continue to deliver the best program possible and maintain our positive reputation among clinics in the industry. 

“The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.” – Oscar Wilde

Q: What advice would you give to students considering a career in veterinary medicine or enrolling in the Veterinary Hospital Assisting program? 

A: Go for it and don’t look back. Working with animals, whether in a clinic setting or another capacity is so rewarding. There are so many opportunities for development. The sky is literally the limit. Taking the VHA program will open many doors and if you work hard, are passionate and willing to grow and evolve, you will have a very successful career. The veterinary industry continues to grow, and veterinary hospital assistants will always be in demand (as well as those in shelters, and captive animal settings). To be able to obtain the training and education in 9 months and start a career is amazing. 

 VHA Department Head, Kate Robertson in Centre for Arts and Technology’s Veterinary Hospital Assistant classroom.

“Your big opportunity may be right where you are now.” – Napoleon Hill

Q: What opportunities are available for students within the department to engage in research, internships, or extracurricular activities related to veterinary medicine? 

A: Between our community relations through our Student Services department and our team of instructors, we have and continually develop relationships within the industry. I recently encouraged one my students at the time to apply for a highly competitive internship opportunity at a wildlife rehabilitation facility that is well known and highly regarded. She not only was accepted into the program, but in the end was hired on as a full-time paid position. We often are the first point of contact for clinics in the area that are hiring, looking for recent graduate recommendations. 

“Your future is created by what you do today, not tomorrow.” – Robert Kiyosaki

Q: Can you share any upcoming initiatives or developments within the department that students and the community can look forward to?  

A: On campus students participate in fundraising as part of our animal welfare course. We have done a variety of methods in the past such as bake sales, raffle baskets and bottle drives. Seeing the students come together and raise money for various charitable organizations is very impactful. At our last fundraiser we raised over $500. Contributions from both remote and on-campus students made it such a success. It is so heartwarming to see the students readily volunteering their time and efforts to benefit animals in need.  My current group of 7 students has raised over $275 this week through a bottle drive. Past fundraising efforts have included donations to: The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, Alleycats alliance rescue, The Toronto Zoo, The Calgary Zoo, and The Sloth Conservation Foundation.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

Q: Many of our VHA students take their classes online. How do you approach fostering a sense of community and camaraderie among students and faculty within the Veterinary Hospital Assisting program? 

A: We currently run a hybrid classroom model in which we have students in class and online in the same cohort. They come together for one class where everyone is online together, which helps with the sense of community. In the past my remote students and those on campus have come together and form study groups. It would make me so happy to see 3 of my students in the classroom studying and look over to see one of my remote students on a cell phone propped up and joining in, or having both groups meet up online for last-minute study sessions before finals.  Our remote students join on camera on Microsoft Teams, and the classroom environment is the same for everyone. Students online actively participate in the lesson and activities, ask questions, and learn as if they were sitting in the classroom. By the end of the program, I feel as though I know my remote students as well as I do those on campus. I strive to connect with all my students regardless of the learning method as do my fellow instructors. 

VHA Department Head, Kate Robertson in Centre for Arts and Technology’s Veterinary Hospital Assistant classroom.

“The future belongs to those who learn, grow, and adapt.” – John C. Maxwell

Q: Looking ahead, what are your hopes and aspirations for the future of the Veterinary Hospital Assisting program? 

A: I am so proud of where we are currently. I really feel that we are in such a good place and balance of what we offer and how successful our graduates have been. We receive such positive feedback from not only the students taking the program, but as well as the industry professionals who employ them. I hope our program continues to thrive and continue to impress. 

Thank you, Kate, for taking the time to share a bit about yourself, along with the present and future of the Veterinary Hospital Assistant program! Under your guidance, this amazing program has grown and flourished, and we’re excited for the future. 

To learn more about our Veterinary Hospital Assistant program, head on over to the program page for all the details!