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Veterinarian Technician March 2007 (Vol 28, No 3) Focus: Emerging Infectious Diseases

On the Cover: "A Talk with Denise Mikita, MS, CVT"

by Andrea Vardaro Tucker

    Denise J. Mikita, MS, CVT, knows that personal success starts with a strong community. For her, that includes family and church connections as well as the network she's helped to create as the only full-time executive director of a state technician association.

    With help from community members and mentors, Denise finally realized her dream of working in the veterinary field after years of working in environmental toxicology. Once she became certified as a technician in 1997, Denise began working in a small animal clinic and started attending Colorado Association of Certified Veterinary Technicians (CACVT) meetings. In late 1999, she became chair of the northern chapter, then served as administrator for 5 years. In June 2006, her title was changed to executive director in recognition of the two distinct aspects of running an association, and an administrator was hired.

    Since then, Denise has used her unique job function to advance the position of the more than 1,200 veterinary technicians she represents in Colorado as well as all technicians across the United States.

    Find out about Denise's Vital Statistics .

    Describe your one-of-a-kind position.

    I am humbled and honored to represent the veterinary technicians in our state — after all, their contributions make my job possible! I'm responsible for carrying out the direction of the executive board, committee chairs, and chapters. I'm often the liaison to other associations. In other words, I go to a lot of meetings! I also attend state veterinary board meetings because understanding the laws that govern veterinarians helps veterinary technicians to perform at a higher level by being well rounded. In addition, I have the pleasure of lecturing at all four technician schools in Colorado, talking to students about associations and how they help veterinary technicians.

    What are the advantages of having a full-time staff member run an association?

    There is someone (me) thinking about the well-being of veterinary technicians 40-plus-plus (and I do mean the two pluses!) hours a week. If you add in Ivy Leventhal, CVT, our administrator, it's 60 plus-plus hours a week.

    Also, our office is a hub for all information so that it's not lost in a volunteer's garage or basement. It's the main communication center. No one wonders who to contact for information; members can call the CACVT office, and there's someone there to provide assistance.

    I sometimes joke that I should get paid a bonus for dreaming about work. I often wake up with ideas about events that I can't wait to bounce off the committee members.

    Are there any exciting plans or events coming up in Colorado?

    Ah, trade secrets! We're making headway in public education; our strong public relations committee chair is heading up the efforts. Our new tabletop display debuts at the AAHA! Conference in Denver this month, and we're excited to start promoting our profession in public settings.

    We plan to move into a new building with a conference facility, which will give us the opportunity to offer more CE programs. Our message is that the veterinary community is strengthening the safety net for pets and people in need and that, by working together and embracing collaboration, more can be achieved for all. It's all about the network! I sound like a commercial.

    How does the network of association membership help technicians?

    Without associations, we all stand alone. Associations give us a united voice and a common cause, which allow us to present our issues to veterinarians, the public, and any other appropriate group. Associations are a great way to become involved and do something about the issues. There are several strong technician associations in this country, and they're making a difference. (Find out how to Build Your Own Network .)

    Being involved in an association also opens up doors for members. Many of our executive board members have found jobs and other opportunities by attending association events and meeting veterinarians and other professionals in the industry. Getting involved in the association naturally creates opportunities.

    Even though I've spoken to veterinarians across Colorado about technician utilization and compensation, I believe the entire technician community must step up and be true professionals in all aspects. Associations can really shine by both assisting veterinarians and supporting their own technicians. It's a win-win situation.

    Tell us about the community that inspires you.

    I'm a Colorado native, and I love my state. My dad grew up on a dairy farm in eastern Colorado that my grandmother, aunt, uncle, and cousins still live on and operate. This allowed me to understand and appreciate rural life, even though I was raised in the city. My mom came from the small town of Elizabeth, also on the eastern plains.

    I have two goddaughters, 12-year-old Tori and 10-year-old Katy. Tori just moved back to Colorado from California. She's interested in showing dogs in 4-H, so I'm excited to help because I also showed dogs in junior high and high school. Katy lives on a farm in eastern Colorado. We attend the same church, so when I visit my grandmother or go out for special events, I also get to see Katy.

    My parents, Joe and Joyce, who are still married after 43 years, instilled in me the value of positive participation and volunteering through their involvement with their church. They were my first mentors and still play a key role in my life, for which I feel blessed.

    Who are some of your professional mentors?

    John Mulnix, DVM, in Fort Collins, Colorado, is an incredible veterinarian who always greets the person first. He taught me that you have to give back to your community and always act in a professional manner because you will be recognized in the community.

    Ralph Johnson, executive director of the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association, inspired me with his ideas and beliefs about running an association, which are apparent from the awards on his walls. The Colorado Veterinary Medical Association has supported CACVT, and the two associations often work together for the greater cause.

    Rebecca Rose, CVT, CACVT's first administrator, hired and trained me. Her strong values and beliefs are only surpassed by her love of this profession. Personality-wise, we are exact opposites, and I've always respected her opinion because it has brought a balance to my life that I could have never achieved on my own.

    Did you always know you wanted to work with animals?

    Yes! My uncle, who is now retired, is a veterinarian, and I always wanted to follow in his footsteps. I visited the family farm often and became familiar with cows, horses, and pigs. I've also owned cats, dogs, gerbils, and rats at various points throughout my life. I've always had a passion for animals. I'm allergic to horses, but I didn't let that slow me down, either as a child or during my veterinary technology internship. I lived on allergy medication for the 3-week rotation at Colorado State University's equine facility.

    I originally went to Colorado State University because of the veterinary program, but as an undergraduate I received advice that moved me along a different path. After earning a master's degree, I worked in the environmental toxicology field, but I felt that something was missing in my life. At the time, I was living in Fort Collins, where Front Range Community College had just started its veterinary technology program. I enrolled in the second graduating class and have never regretted my decision.

    How has this background influenced your career?

    It helps me feel comfortable researching what I don't know. I believe that your path is what you make it. While my master's degree doesn't directly affect my current job, it contributed to the person I am and is part of why I can do what I do. For example, I had to present my thesis in front of a group of my peers — talk about nerve racking. But now public speaking doesn't seem that bad.

    People always laugh when I tell them about my higher education pathway, and I've had a bit of a challenge with my résumé. But I've enjoyed my journey so far!

    NEXT: Tech Tips (March 2007)
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