The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is celebrating National Veterinary Technician Week by celebrating our hard-working vet tech trio, including Mark Romanoski, profiled below.
Veterinary technicians are critical to the day-to-day function of veterinary practices, and play vital roles in preserving animal health and welfare. National Veterinary Technician Week provides an opportunity to recognize veterinary technicians’ contributions. First celebrated in 1993, National Veterinary Technician Week takes place in the third week of October each year.
How long have you worked at the OKC Zoo?
MR: I moved to the Oklahoma City Zoo from the Phoenix Zoo in Arizona and have been here for four months! I love it!
What inspired you to become a vet tech?
When I was a kid, I spent every summer at the Camp Zoo program in my hometown, Phoenix. When I was choosing my career path, I thought about what I loved growing up and those memories immediately came to mind! I knew that I had to do something with animals and being a vet tech fulfills my interests in veterinary medicine and my love of the natural world.
What prepared you for a career of caring for exotic wildlife?
After graduating and earning my veterinary tech credentials, I focused on fine-tuning my technical skills at a small animal specialty surgery center. Veterinary technicians can focus on one particular area of medicine to become a vet tech specialist and I was working towards my anesthesia specialty when I had an opportunity to volunteer at the Phoenix Zoo. After my first day volunteering in zoo medicine, I was hooked! I spent most of my days off assisting the technicians and veterinarians at the Phoenix Zoo where they allowed me to expand my skillset. I volunteered for three years and over 500 hours before becoming a full time zoo technician in 2017.
Spending so much time volunteering at the zoo on top of working in specialty medicine, definitely helped me prepare to be a veterinary technician at a zoo. Instead of caring for just dogs and cats, we literally work with hundreds of species each with their own unique anatomy! It is very cool!
Do you have a favorite memory?
My favorite memory so far has been monitoring anesthesia on Emily, one of our gorillas, during her robotic hernia repair surgery. Anesthesia is a special interest of mine and getting to help Emily through the procedure alongside Dr. D’Agostino and a human anesthesiologist was very rewarding!
Is there a typical day in the life of a vet tech?
There really isn’t a typical day and that is what makes my job so exciting! One minute you may be setting up for a procedure on a lion and the next minute you are drawing blood on a frog! There are many aspects of a veterinary technician's job, such as preparing and examining samples for testing, monitoring animals under anesthesia, wrapping surgical instruments, filling prescriptions, taking radiographs, teaching veterinary students specific technical skills; the list goes on and on! We have to be prepared for anything at any time. When there are slower periods, I like to fill my time by reading textbooks, attending lectures and communicating with other technicians and veterinarians in the field. This helps me keep up to date on new information and improving skills I already have. Each day is atypical and that’s the way I like it!
What is your favorite part about working at the OKC Zoo?
My favorite part about working at the OKC Zoo is getting to partake in conservation projects. The OKC Zoo really supports that aspect of the zoo field and provides and supports those opportunities! Some of those opportunities are right here in Oklahoma and others are in far-off places like Africa. Being able to practice animal medicine and be directly involved in conservation efforts is awesome.
What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
The highlight of my career so far definitely has to be having a paper I wrote about using radiation to treat a tumor in jaguar published and presenting it to my peers. Writing scientific papers is a lot of work and I am so proud of achieving that. I look forward to writing and being involved in many more.
What do you want our followers to know about vet techs?
Whether working at a small animal hospital, college, research laboratory or a zoo, the role of credentialed veterinary technicians is so important and ever changing! We work alongside the veterinarians every day to treat the animals we care for, problem solving and coming up with plans. A veterinary technicians skillset includes pharmacology, phlebotomy, anesthesiology, radiology, surgical assisting, laboratory, hospital management, conservation, research and of course… cleaning. Vet Techs really “do it all” and are a vital component to a successful medical program.
What’s a fun fact about you?
In high school, I was involved in a very intense game of Hacky Sack and dislocated my knee.