Originally published Tuesday, January 14, 2020 at 12:09p.m.

CROWNPOINT, N.M. — Navajo Technical University students Selena Saunders of Continental Divide, New Mexico and Krystal Louis of Crownpoint, New Mexico made tribal college and university history by becoming the first students to graduate as licensed veterinary technicians from a veterinary technology program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

Students passed the licensure test, known as the Veterinary Technician National Exam, in July 2019; however, certification is granted only when accompanied with a degree from an AVMA accredited program. Both students earned their degree Dec. 13, 2019 at NTU’s fall commencement.

“I feel very happy about this and I’m excited. I feel like we’re on that path to graduating more students and really taking this program to the next level,” said Dr. Germaine Daye, who was hired in 2009 to head NTU’s Vet Tech and Lang Grant programs.

“(Selena and Krystal) were two of the top students in their class. I have no doubt that in their careers, whatever task they take, they’re going to be well prepared,” he said.

NTU’s Associate of Applied Science degree program in Veterinary Technology was granted AVMA accreditation on its first attempt in March 2017, nearly 35 years after the program was first developed in 1983. The entire process took six years to complete, with two years devoted to gathering accreditation materials and evidence. Daye and her staff had to also revamp curriculum, improve classroom and research facilities, and balance coursework to include real world, hands-on experience and internships.

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Veterinary Technology graduates Selena Saunders, left, and Krystal Louis, right, were recognized at NTU’s fall commencement Dec. 13, 2019. (Photo/NTU)

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Saunders of Continental Divide, New Mexico is adorned with a registered veterinary technician pin at a pinning ceremony held at NTU’s Hospitality Center Dec. 5. (Photo courtesy of NTU)

“It’s one of those things that doesn’t happen by itself. It takes a lot of hard work,” explained NTU President Dr. Elmer J. Guy at a pinning ceremony held for the students Dec. 5. “I see Dr. Daye working late in the evenings dealing with animals and on weekends. She’s trying to build the next generation of veterinarians.”

Daye and her staff worked long hours preparing Saunders and Louis for the national exam, dedicating nearly six and a half weeks, eight hours a day going over test material. Two students had taken the exam when NTU first received AVMA accreditation, however, they waited two years after graduating and were unsuccessful.

At the suggestion of NTU’s Veterinary Technology advisory board, students are now required to take the exam before they graduate, which to Daye, played a big part in the students’ success.

“We are proud of this tribal institution,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez while in attendance for the pinning ceremony along with Navajo Nation Division Director of Natural Resources Dr. Rudy Shebala. “We see great things happening here and I’m glad Dr. Guy has a vision for the Navajo people as well as this institution. The two students are reflecting the resilience of our people since time immemorial. I want to say thank you. There is hope.”

NTU’s Veterinary Technology program requires 73 credit hours with 54 hours of core veterinary technology instruction. Students are also required to take an introduction to veterinary technology course that exposes students to the long hours required of veterinary technicians. In the course, students complete 20 hours assisting in community veterinary services, 30 hours assisting at the NTU teaching hospital, 30 hours of on-call duties providing animal care, six hours doing presentations at regional K-6 schools and three hours doing outside veterinary volunteer work.

In addition to being joined by Nez and Shebala, NTU also welcomed three of the veterinary technology program’s seven advisory board members. The board members in attendance included Dr. Terry Clark of North Carolina, Dr. Gregory Gaj of Florida, and Dr. Janet Payeur of Iowa.

More information about NTU’s AVMA accredited veterinary technology program is available from Daye at gdaye@navajotech.edu.

Information provided by NTU

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