Why I Became an Animal Technologist

Today’s guest post is by animal technologist, Jazzminn Hembree, who explains why she became an animal technologist and what her job involves. If you enjoy this, also check out an older post by Kelly Walton, DVM, where she explains why she became an animal veterinarian.

I’ll start by introducing myself, my name is Jazzminn Hembree and I am a certified laboratory animal technologist. I started in this field when I was 17 as a student helper at the University of Cincinnati, simply because all I wanted to do was work with animals. I graduated high school from Live Oaks CDC with a certificate in Animal Science and Management. Since then I have worked in several positions within animal research, I have been privileged to be co-author on several papers, present data, earn certifications, and do something that I love every day. I could not see myself working in any other field.

Why I Became an animal technologist jazzminn

“I started in this field … because all I wanted to do was work with animals”

Growing up, I always said I wanted to be a veterinarian and open my own clinic. Things have changed. Once I saw the possibilities available when I got into an animal facility, I knew this was my niche. I am inspired by the science behind it, and am passionate about the animals I work with. I have to admit that up until now I have been nervous to tell people what I do, people don’t understand animal research. I think this needs to change, we need to be more open and transparent about what we do, but we have to do so in a responsible manner.

Let me explain what a certified laboratory animal technologist is in the US is. Laboratory Animal Technologist (LATG) is the highest level of certification available through the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS). There are three certification levels: first, Assistant Laboratory animal technician (ALAT), second, Laboratory Animal Technician (LAT), and third, Laboratory Animal Technologist (LATG).

“The future of the profession and biomedical science depends on promoting the benefits of biomedical research through public outreach and ensuring that high-quality training and education programs and materials are available for those working in the profession of laboratory animal science.” – AALAS Public Outreach website

As a Laboratory Animal Technologist today: I work closely with the research staff, the veterinarian, and the facility director to provide excellent care for the animals so the researchers can collect accurate and sound data. My job is to provide the daily care, such as health monitoring, feed and water, properly disinfect and sterilize equipment, and prepare work areas. I also assist in technical procedures such as blood draws and injections, as well as health treatments. Occasionally I might have to monitor the animals’ weight and or size, or food and water consumption. As a team, my co-workers and I are required to keep up to date and accurate documentation for the facility operations. I also assist the supervisor and director with the quality assurance monitoring by testing surfaces to ensure cleanliness, as well as the training of new students and employees within the facility.

Now that you have an idea of what I do I’ll get to ‘How could I work in this field if I love animals so much’? This may sound odd to some, but I do it because I love the animals. I know what we are doing is not only helping humans but also other animals. How would we ever know how to treat a sick pet if we hadn’t researched the disease and tested the treatments? I get to care for and handle animals on a daily basis. I am able to help a sick animal get well again. I know what I am doing today is going to help someone tomorrow. I believe these animals should be respected and honored for what they provide us. I know it is portrayed that the animals in a research facility are sad, distressed, hurting, and scared; frankly this is just not the case. Research animals are loved and cared for better than some companion animals. These rats are not at risk of diseases, they are not scrounging for food or shelter, they are provided sterile food and water, a clean environment, temperature and light controlled rooms, and have caretakers to care for and love them.

I have been on both sides of research, I have worked as a technician doing the daily cleaning and in a lab performing the studies and collecting the data. I know the importance the animal model is to the science, and have seen the outcomes. I was in a lab which mainly studied diabetes and metabolic diseases as a part of a team collaborating with a pharmaceutical company for many years. Having diabetic friends and family, I felt what I was doing could help save their lives one day. I am proud of the papers we published; in fact we won the 2014 Journal of Peptide Science Best Publication Award. I could not be more honored to be part of such a great group of people at the time. I then worked in another lab for a short time in which I was part of the Mouse Metabolic Phenotyping Core, in which we worked on characterizing mouse models in support of quality research. I am now back to working on the daily care side of research with a new perspective of what our job and the animals provide to the researchers and their data.

I hope to share with everyone my strong belief that education, such as technical aining, competency in research procedures, and knowledge of the laws and regulations, are what keep the animals healthy, and results in effective, accurate research data. As I continue to work on my education, I want to inspire others to do the same. I also want to inform people of the critical importance of animal research. I believe the motives and caring nature of the people who take care of the laboratory animals, as well as the laws and the regulations we follow, are misunderstood by many which leads to the impression of cruelty. There are many institutions, regulations, and guidelines established to protect the welfare of the animals used in research. Research institutions are guided by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Public Health and Safety (PHS) Policy on the Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW), as well as the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. I believe we, as a field, are failing to educate the general public in the laws and regulations we must follow to protect the animals in our care. As an animal lover myself, I understand the fear the general public has about animal research. What we do in research is very similar to the practices your veterinarian does, we are just trying to come up with new procedures and medications and answer questions to advance both the veterinary field as well as the medical field. I believe part of my job as a Laboratory Animal Technologist is not only to be an advocate for the welfare of laboratory animals and ensure that we follow all regulations and guidelines, but also to teach others the importance of the work being done.

Jazzminn Hembree, LATG

23 responses to “Why I Became an Animal Technologist

  1. Nice job on this accomplishment. I hope you can write another. Can’t wait to see you at winter jam.

  2. Reblogged this on OARS Research News and commented:
    We’re pleased to reblog this post written by Jazzminn Hembree, a lab coordinator in Miami University’s animal facility.

  3. Sandra Rebholz

    Great article Jazzminn!

  4. Reblogged this on Excellence In Animal Science and commented:
    It was a pleasure to be asked to write this article for Speaking of Research!

  5. Thank you for putting this perspective out there for others to read. It was very inspirational.

  6. What a wonderful read. Thank you for all of your hard work. I too work in this field and I LOVE animals. People who say we don’t love animals, are ignorant.
    Verucca-I really hope you NEVER get cancer, or get sick at all where medications are needed. Because that does all come from research. Matter of fact next time you get sick-don’t bother going in for treatment. Genetics not the same you say? Clearly you cannot back that up with education, because an educated person would know the that is not true.

    Primates and Humans share 98% of the same genetics.
    Your welcome for the free lesson.

    “Natural cures”?? Watch someone you love die from cancer and then we will talk about these “Natural Cures”. Or watch them go into remission because of research/science. Your choice.
    I know I sound harsh however I am not. I just want to defend what I love.
    Research is very important to our society, and I am SO proud to be involved.
    lynnutecht-I really wish that I could “like” your post. It was awesome.

    • I did watch someone close to me die from cancer, because she chose pharmaceuticals! There ARE natural cures for cancer. Cannabis oil is one of them. Look up Dr Burzynski and the work he has done. And Gerson therapy. I also have someone close to me who cured himself of prostate cancer. Same for Lyme Disease. You can shrink tumors, you can cure cancer, you can rid the body of disease – Without pharmaceutical drugs that CAUSE more issues.
      Big pharma doesn’t want a cure! They want life long customers.
      Can you imagine if they found a pharma cure for breast cancer? People would lose jobs. Funding for research. Big pharma would LOSE money. You think they want that? Nope. So, before you try to ‘school’ me, perhaps you should look outside of the box. There are safer, MORE EFFECTIVE alternatives.

      • I’m sorry Verucca, but your comments actually cross a line into dangerous. By recommending people eschew tested pharmaceuticals in favour of treatments which have either not been proved to work, or proven not to work (e.g. homeopathy), you are putting people at risk.

        Consider what Cancer Research UK say about your Big Pharma conspiracy:
        “Accusations that we are somehow part of a global conspiracy to suppress cancer cures are as absurd as they are offensive. Not only to the thousands of our scientists, doctors and nurses who are working as hard as they can to find more effective treatments for the complex set of challenging diseases we call cancer, but also the hundreds of thousands of people in the UK and beyond who support this life-saving work through generous donations of money, energy and time.

        Our aim is to beat cancer, and we believe that the best way to do this through rigorous scientific research aimed at understanding cancer on a biological level and working out how to prevent, detect and treat it more effectively. This approach has helped to change the face of cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, leading to a doubling in survival rates over the past 40 years.

        As a research-based organisation, we want to see reliable scientific evidence to support claims made about any cancer treatment, be it conventional or alternative. The claims made for many alternative cancer therapies still require solid evidence to support them, and it often turns out that these ‘miracle cures’ simply don’t work when they’re put to the test.

        This doesn’t mean there’s a conspiracy to suppress the “True Cure for Cancer” – it means that doctors and researchers want to see solid evidence that the claims made by people peddling these treatments are true.

        This is vital because lives are at stake. Some people may think that a cancer patient has nothing to lose by trying an alternative treatment, but there are big risks.

        If someone chooses to reject conventional cancer treatment in favour of unproven alternatives, including cannabis, they may miss out on treatment that could save or significantly lengthen their life. They may also miss out on effective symptom relief to control their pain and suffering, or the chance to spend precious time with their loved ones.”
        http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2012/07/25/cannabis-cannabinoids-and-cancer-the-evidence-so-far/

  7. Thank-you Jazzminn, very well said. Research is in my blood also. Learning never stops.
    Educating others is a must, for some people don’t/can’t/won’t do the research on why research is essential.

  8. Thank you Jazzminn for all your hard work. Keep up the great work. With research maybe we can find a cure for some diseases, like Diabetes or Cancer. Great job THANKS again.

  9. this is yet another issue with pharmaceuticals. Animals and humans are biologically not the same. Too much time and money is spent trying to give animals the same diseases as man, in order to find pharmaceutical cures. Years and years are spent, and millions of dollars simply trying to duplicate a disease. There are natural cures available which aren’t researched in the same capacity, because big pharma can’t cash in on it. Perhaps they should experiment on humans instead. Like rapists and murderers. Anyone who loves animals should not be in this line of work.

    • Blue Sky Science

      Animals and humans not the same – tick!
      Natural cures that big pharma is covering up – tick!
      Experiment on rapists and murderers – tick!

      I call bingo! Where do I collect my prize?

    • ‘Natural’ cures- like what for example? Not trying to be rude, just wondering.
      Verucca- what is your families health history? What procedures and drugs have they utilized to help them? Or you? Do you or your family use toothpaste, aspirin, or ever had surgery?

      • I agree with lynn thankyou for pointing that out…

      • I don’t use pharmaceutical drugs. I make my own toothpaste. Cannabis oil cures cancer. Garlic is a natural antibiotic. I also use oil of oregano and vitamin C. I use homeopathics. I rarely get sick. My family rarely gets sick. I have relatives who have cured themselves of Lyme Disease, kidney issues, and prostate cancer naturally. I don’t even take ibuprofen. If I broke my arm, would I go to the ER? Yes. However, I am saying I disagree with how we experiment on animals. I bet we could find plenty of people who are willing to be experimented on. Give inmates an incentive to volunteer. You dont need to waste millions of dollars trying to duplicate diseases in animals. The side effects listed from pharma drugs are horrible – some are worse than what they are treating. I look to treat the cause, not the symptoms. It’s all about money. They don’t want to cure cancer – that would not be beneficial. They want to suck as much money out of people as they can. People would lose their jobs. So I will keep learning about natural routes, and I suggest that others do the same. Even if you are still going to use pharmaceuticals, try to see if there’s a safer alternative as well.

        • Verucca, I value your opinion, and I hear you. I do truly understand where people can be afraid of and or disagree with animal research, misunderstanding what truly goes on.
          However, with that being said, my questions are:
          Have you ever been to an animal facility? Have you ever seen the interaction between the animal technicians/ research staff and the animals in which they care for? Have you ever studied the difference between the animal and human systems? Have you ever researched the rules and regulations on animal care within a facility?
          I honestly would like to know.

          You certainly have the right to your own opinion. Unfortunately, I feel your opinion is based on misinterpretations, lies, and the opinions of other uneducated people. I highly doubt your ‘natural’ medicine can cure cancer by itself, I am sorry, but I have seen what it does to people. I do not believe you can cure yourself with out medical intervention.

          Thank you for your comments though. I hope you can learn something to take away from this post, if nothing else just trust that the people who work in this field truly love, honor and respect the animals we care for. If you ever met one of us in person, I think you would see that.

  10. Animal research would not be possible without you and other animal technicians’ hard work. Thanks for your contribution!

  11. Jennifer Quinn

    Thank you, Jazzminn. As an animal researcher, educator, and fellow animal lover, I appreciate all of your hard work — both in caring for our animals and in speaking about the realities and benefits of animal research.

  12. Joan pashinsky

    Thank you, Jazzminn for your inspirational words,good luck in all you do.And on behalf of my co-workers and myself we are all on the path to caring for these animals and reading you words will remind us all why we all do this..

  13. Thank you for writing this Jazzmin!! I have already shared and hope others hear your story!