The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is celebrating National Veterinary Technician Week, October 13 through October 19, by profiling our hard-working animal health care staff, starting with Liz McCrae, Vet Clinic Coordinator.
Liz, congratulations on your recent promotion to veterinary clinic coordinator! Tell us a bit about your new role and how you are settling into it after three months?
My new role on the veterinary team is an exciting new endeavor and I am settling in well. I am now supervising the Zoo’s other veterinary technicians and the zoo’s veterinary assistant. I still work as a veterinary technician, though I’m no longer a permanent fixture in our clinical rotation. I play a more active role in managing day-to-day operations at the Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital. My new responsibilities include managing the department’s schedule, managing the maintenance of all hospital equipment and facilitating maintenance of the hospital itself, and I have taking a bigger role in helping manage our department’s finances.
What was your dream job when you were in elementary school; did you always want to work with animals?
When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a physician. I always loved animals, but I felt that my calling was in human medicine. As I grew older, I realized that maybe that wasn’t the best career choice for me as I couldn’t even tolerate having my own blood drawn. In college, I switched from Pre-med to Zoology path, with the intention of working at a zoo as an animal caretaker. In my senior year of college, I got a part-time zookeeping job at the Columbus Zoo, which I loved. We had a few interesting medical cases come up in the animals under my care and during the management of those cases, I met the Zoo’s two veterinary technicians and saw how interesting and varied their jobs were, and what an integral role they filled on the veterinary team. After that, I changed gears and pursued my degree in Veterinary Technology, and I couldn’t be happier that I did.
Last year, you said some of your favorites at the Zoo were Indian rhino Niki, Hyacinth macaw Buster and Sumatran orangutan Elok. Are there any new additions to your list this year and, if so, why?
I have a special relationship with each of these animals for different reasons and though I love working with all of the animals at the Zoo (except the spiders), they are still my top three.
What has been your most challenging case of all time?
My most challenging case of all time was several years back with one of our female gorillas, Ndjole. She was sick with some type of a virus which caused her to lose a significant amount of weight and caused her to become anemic. The veterinary and ape teams used a second gorilla for a blood transfusion. She had a long road ahead of her, but made a full recovery thanks to the medical care that we were able to provide for her.
Do you have any advice for kids who want to be a vet or vet tech at a Zoo?
Becoming a zoo veterinarian or veterinary technician may be a long road, but it's definitely worth all of the hard work. Volunteer at the Zoo as often as you can. The Zoo has a great high school volunteer program and the Junior Curators get to work with the animal areas and the veterinary staff, giving them the chance to learn about all of the animals under the Zoo's care, including what kind of medical care they receive.
What is the absolute best part of the job; what motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
Being a veterinary technician in zoo medicine has been the most rewarding career. I love what I do and the animals and care teams that I work with. I'm lucky to get to work with such amazing animals and people, and that I get to play such a crucial role in the health and well-being of so many different animals at the Zoo and to help further the Zoo's mission.