Posted on 03/21/2018

Jessica Perry, right, a senior from Lowell in Nashoba Tech’s Veterinary Assisting program, talks to Veterinary Technician Taylor Snediker, left, and Dr. Katherine Wheeler, one of the doctors on staff at Angell at Nashoba, about her experience working at Nashoba Valley Animal Hospital through the school’s Cooperative Education program.

From left, Jaxson Jeffery (senior, Pepperell), Gabrielle Cartaglia (senior, Chelmsford) and veterinary technicians Taylor Snediker and Andrea Lombardi prepare, Bowie for surgery.

The 127-pound black Newfoundland lay on the table, under sedation, in the Angell at Nashoba Animal Clinic. Around the table stood two veterinary technicians, prepping “Bowie” for surgery. By their side were two seniors at Nashoba Tech, checking the dog’s blood pressure and heart rate and letting the vet techs know if they changed.

Bowie was being prepared for a spaying and a gastroplasty, both of which were performed at Angell at Nashoba, an animal clinic inside Nashoba Tech.

Angell at Nashoba opened two years ago, about six months after Nashoba Tech introduced its Veterinary Assisting program, which prepares students to enter the veterinary field.

In June, Nashoba Tech will graduate the first five seniors from the Veterinary Assisting program, and each one — Gabrielle Cartaglia (Chelmsford), Bryce Currier (Westford), Jaxson Jeffery (Pepperell), Jessica Perry (Lowell) and Kelley Willets (Ayer) — intends to continue in the field of animal health.

The students learn animal-science theory and veterinary medicine in the classroom. Then, as they enter their junior year, they can practice applying what they learn with live animals in the clinic. It’s that hands-on approach that has local veterinarians showing interest in having Nashoba Tech students work in their clinics through the school’s Cooperative Education program, which allows qualified juniors and seniors to get valuable hands-on experience in their chosen field.

As the vet techs were preparing Bowie for surgery, with help from Gabrielle and Jaxson, Dr. Laurence Sawyer said the seniors are well-prepared to continue their careers in veterinary medicine.

“These guys have come a long way,” she said. “They’ve done a good job in terms of learning how to talk to clients and answer phone calls, the medical terminology.”

The students learn all aspects of working in a clinic, from answering phone inquiries to setting appointments to record-keeping, in addition to working with the animals hands-on.

Gabrielle has been accepted into the University of New Hampshire’s Equine Studies program. She has her own horse at Flying Change Stables in Chelmsford. Gabrielle works at Angell at Nashoba through Co-op.

Jaxson is undecided between going to college or entering the National Guard, but either way plans to work with animals, either with a veterinarian or in the Guard. Jaxson works at Countryside Animal Hospital in Chelmsford through Co-op.

Jessica transferred to Nashoba Tech during her junior year when she learned the school had started a Veterinary Assisting program.

“This is more of what I want to do with my life,” said Jessica, who owns a dog and horse. She has been accepted into Rivier College’s Biology program and works at Nashoba Valley Veterinary Hospital in Westford through Co-op.

The Veterinary Assisting program has grown exponentially since opening, and Instructor Kate Hawkins said there’s no sign of that slowing, especially with plans to expand the teaching space. There are currently 12 juniors and 20 sophomores, with a large number of freshmen choosing Veterinary as their first option for a technical education.

“We’ll continue to see classes grow when we expand our classroom. We’re getting more and more local veterinarians contacting us and wanting to learn more about the Co-op program,” said Hawkins, who teaches the aminal-science side.

“The job market is great right now,” she added. “And for these kids to be able to graduate with the practical experience of being in surgery and understanding how it works in a professional environment is huge.”

Angell at Nashoba is open to pet owners in the school’s district — Ayer, Chelmsford, Groton, Littleton, Pepperell, Shirley, Townsend and Westford — and accepts other patients referred by Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston, with which it’s affiliated. Many patients are pets whose owners can’t afford to have procedures done at larger animal hospitals.

“We’ve been able to help people who wouldn’t have been able to do anything for their pets because of finances,” Dr. Sawyer said.

According to Angell Animal Medical Center, since the clinic opened at Nashoba Tech, it has received more than 1,300 visits from pet owners, performed more than 300 surgeries, administered more than 600 rabies vaccines, and performed more than 50 dental procedures.

“Our partnership with Angell has been an amazing experience,” Nashoba Tech

Superintendent Denise Pigeon said,” and it provides an on-campus opportunity for our students to gain clinical experience in addition to their studies, which we view as an invaluable component to their education.”

Angell at Nashoba is open weekdays from 7:45 a.m. to 4 p.m., throughout the year. The clinic does not provide overnight care, specialty care or 24/7 emergency service, but will refer cases as appropriate to surrounding specialty veterinary referral hospitals. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 978-577-5992.