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, including Mark Romanoski, Veterinary Technician.
Mark, when Vet Tech Week arrived last year, you had been at the Zoo for only four months, now that you have more than a full year of experience, what’s been the most surprising aspect of the job?
I was very surprised at how exciting it can be to do all of our exams in front of guests! I thought it would make me nervous having people watch me draw blood, take radiographs or place catheters! I love that aspect though and how we really get to showcase the well-rounded and attentive care each animal receives at the Zoo - from scorpions to elephants!
What was your dream job when you were in elementary school; did you always want to work with animals?
I think that I did always want to work with animals. I just didn’t realize it until I explored life a little bit. My Mom found a couple of my first grade journals and there were several entries about wanting to work at the zoo. My spelling wasn’t great back then, but the sentiment really came full circle and I know I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.
Have you participated in any interesting animal research projects this year?
Yes! We did hernia repairs on two of our Western lowland gorillas, Emily and Fin! We used a different drug to help with the anesthesia not commonly used in great apes. I wrote a paper analyzing the anesthesia component of the surgeries and presented it at the Association of Zoo Veterinary Technicians Annual Conference at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo this year. It felt great to share that information with colleagues from around the world to help other zoos that may be considering similar options!
What has been your most challenging case?
My most challenging case at the OKC Zoo has to be gorilla Fin's hernia surgery. Pediatric anesthesia is different from anesthesia in mature animals, as their bodies and organs are still developing and they respond differently than adults do to drugs; and everything is miniaturized! The procedure went amazingly well, but we still had to be ready and on our toes to respond to anything unexpected!
Do you have any advice for kids who want to work in animal health care?
I went to zoo camp every single summer when I was a kid. Beyond the medical aspect, it helped foster my love and appreciation for animals. Volunteering in high school is another great way to learn about the care that goes into taking care of animals at the zoo (and in the wild). And ask questions! Everyone at the zoo absolutely loves talking about the animals in our care. Passing that information off to future generations is a big deal! Lastly, study hard in school, it’s not always easy, but definitely worth it!
What is the absolute best part of the job; what motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
The absolute best part of the job is seeing the animals we care for thrive and live full, happy, healthy lives and sharing that with zoo guests!