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Celebrating Veterinary Technicians Week

By Anne Gilewski, LVT

This week celebrates the achievements of veterinary technicians and nurses around the globe.  Technicians and nurses are an integral part of the medical team providing expertise in a variety of disciplines.

I became a licensed veterinary technician in 2014 as part of a much-needed career change.  Since then, I have provided care for a variety of animals and have had numerous opportunities participating in field studies.  Working alongside the veterinarians, curators, trainers, aquarists, herpetologists, interns and volunteers to further the message of conservation has been truly a privilege.

An important aspect of my position here at Mystic Aquarium is research. Over the last year, I have been evaluating the use of Class IV therapeutic laser as an adjunct therapy in our cownose rays. Therapeutic laser, a popular treatment option in the domestic animal field, stimulates biochemical pathways to reduce inflammation and accelerate healing. During the active breeding season, the rays sustain dermal abrasions that require antibiotic administration to ward off secondary infections. I wanted to examine whether there is an appreciable decrease in healing time versus antibiotics alone. To date, I have seven rays that have completed the study with promising results. I am also developing a wound scoring metric as a tool for aquarists to utilize for objective assessment when communicating with the veterinary team.

A second project teams me up with our associate vet, Dr. Barbara Mangold, for a study evaluating the inclusion of fibrinogen and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) in blood profiles for our African penguin colony. Our aim is to compare fibrinogen and ESR with common inflammatory markers such as total white blood cell count, absolute heterophil and leukocyte values, and acute phase proteins. Data collection began in the fall of 2018 and we are currently at 109 sample points. Significant correlations have been found with elevated blood fibrinogen levels and our target markers. This is an important finding as it will help veterinarians identify potential health issues in our colony.  I presented preliminary information at the annual Association of Zoo Veterinary Technicians conference in September.

Results from both studies will be submitted for publication at the conclusion of data analysis.  

By developing and conducting these projects, I have a direct impact on the health of our collection for our institution and others that maintain cownose ray and African penguin populations.  I am fortunate to have support and encouragement from Mystic Aquarium in my endeavors.

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