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Veterinary program coming to HCC — Palamanui

March 17, 2017 - 8:26am

HILO — A veterinary assisting program expanding to Hawaii Island later this year could help offset high turnover in the profession and reduce time spent training assistants on the job.

That’s according to leaders at Oahu’s Windward Community College, which is piloting its program this fall semester at Hawaii Community College’s Palamanui campus. The two-semester certificate program will be delivered primarily via online courses. It will be capped at 20 students and offered initially through May 2018, at which point leaders will assess funding and if it’s sufficiently meeting demand.

Formal training isn’t required in Hawaii to become a veterinary assistant, but program coordinator Dani Carico said those who opt to do so generally learn on-the-job skills faster.

Windward expanded the program to University of Hawaii Maui College last year to help meet a need for more trained assistants, particularly those who stay long term. Carico said demand is similarly high on the Big Island.

“Veterinarians often spend so much of their time and energy training assistants who then aren’t able to stay,” Carico said. “It’s that return on investment of their time … and that’s what this program does — it takes that away — so they can go right into practice and have a lot more leeway to focus on their cases and not on training.”

“Meeting with veterinarians (on Hawaii Island recently) they said they have students they’ve trained, but if they’re not a local resident who has the connection to Hawaii, there’s no need or want to stay long term,” added Jenny Kelly, Windward’s vet tech program director. “So that’s an aspect, bringing people who are local to work in the industry and stay.”

Students who complete the certificate program also can continue studies to complete a two-year veterinary technology degree at Windward, the only accredited vet tech program in the state.

Windward’s program launched in 2009 as a veterinary assisting program. It earned provisional accreditation as a veterinary technology program in 2013 and it’s up for full accreditation next year.

State law also will require starting next year new vet techs to be registered by the state and complete an accredited program. Hawaii is one of the last states to require formal training or registration for the profession.

Those interested in the new HCC program can attend a free information session from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Palamanui campus, Koali Room A101. Additional sessions are slated for April 11 and May 1.

For more information, visit or contact Carico at

Email Kirsten Johnson at

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