Tricia Elliott, MS, RVT, is the Senior Veterinary Technology Instructor at our Carrington College California Pomona campus; in fact Tricia was instrumental in developing the Vet Tech curriculum in Pomona.
Born and raised in Orange County, CA, Tricia now lives in Brea, CA, just a 15 minute commute from the Pomona campus. Animals and teaching are two of her greatest passions, so to have found a career that combines the two is perfect.
Vastly experienced, Tricia has worked in veterinary care for 19 years. Her first job was part-time at a veterinary hospital while working on her bachelor’s degree in Animal Veterinary Science at Cal Poly Pomona. After graduation she passed the state board exams and received her Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) license. Eager to continue her education, Tricia went back to Cal Poly to complete her master’s degree in Veterinary Science, but she decided against continuing her education for a doctorate.
“My original goal was to go to veterinary school to become a vet (DVM) but I changed my mind after my bachelor’s…for two reasons really. At the time, the only school in the State that offered the DVM program was in northern California and I didn’t want to move away from home. But I also discovered my passion for teaching; I decided I didn’t want spend another four years in school, and pay a hundred thousand dollars. It was an economic decision, plus I had already found my passion in life.”
Tricia discovered her love of teaching while working in veterinary practices and for a large pharmaceutical company.
“I’ve been a licensed RVT since 1999 so I had a lot of experience behind me working in small practices and veterinary hospitals, training junior staff. I also spent several years working in medical research where I spent a lot of time presenting research, data, and training people. I taught new employees how to work with the animals in the research lab, and I really liked that part of the job a lot.”
Although she knew she was doing important work as an In-vivo Research Technician on a neuropathic pain team, Tricia felt that she was in the wrong line of work. While she enjoyed the financial benefits of the role, she discovered that she cared too much about the animals in her lab.
“While I know the work we were doing was helping people, I started to get way too emotionally attached to my animals; I knew then it was a good time to quit. It was a big step to walk away from a very good job, but I knew it was the right thing to do… and I’d always had teaching in the back of my mind.”
Tricia got her first teaching job at her Alma Mater, Cal Poly Pomona. She taught there for 3 years before the faltering economy hit and her hours were cut. She needed a full-time role; the timing was perfect for the position at Carrington. The Pomona campus was just about to launch the Veterinary Technology program, and Tricia’s experience was a perfect fit. Cal Poly’s loss was definitely our gain!
This month marks Tricia’s second anniversary as a Carrington faculty member. She joined our team in September 2010, a mere 6 weeks before students started Veterinary Technology classes at our Pomona campus for the first time.
“It was a very challenging couple of months to be honest; I had to get the curriculum up to par for the first term, and then during the first term I worked on the second term and so forth. It was kind of a work in progress. We did have the base curriculum from other campuses to work with, but we wanted to do some fine tuning before the first class started.”
As Veterinary Technology is an 18 month associate degree program, the first class just graduated a few months ago. Tricia is justifiably proud of their collective achievement; but she is particularly proud of a student who overcame a lot to succeed.
“This student was having a tough time personally and academically. She was going through a divorce, had children, was trying to maintain a home, and needed to find a second career. She decided on the Vet Tech program because it was her passion, and it was something that she had always wanted to do.
I worked with her a lot, trying to support her, motivate her, tutor her and remind her why she was doing the program during the times when she wanted to give up. I’m proud of all my students, but I was particularly proud of her success when she graduated with the class.”
Many students don’t realize how intense the Veterinary Technology program is; it’s an accelerated program that requires commitment and a lot of hard work. There is an emotional element to it too; but students have to realize that sometimes to help animals, you may have to hurt them just a little.
“Some students come in to this program thinking it will be playing with kittens and puppies; they don’t realize how much needle work is involved for example. Some can be too emotional about the animals, they don’t want to hurt them, but that is part of the job. Getting a blood sample or giving vaccinations can be painful, but you’re still doing good. Some students have a hard time with that initially.”
Tricia is truly an animal lover; she and her boyfriend Frank have four of them at home. 2 cats (a Siamese and a Tabby), a miniature Pinscher, and a crazy leopard gecko complete the family! When working with animals things can go wrong but the important thing for Tricia is that her students learn to be honest. You can never cover something up, or be dishonest no matter what the situation, and that comes down to having respect.
“My biggest thing is that I want my students to be humble, compassionate and have the utmost respect for their patients. Of course you have to care about the animals, but you also have to realize you have a job to do, and you’re working in their best interest. If something goes wrong you have to accept it, learn from it, and move forward. I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and I still get emotional when dealing with euthanasia.”
If you thought faculty members were boring teachers, think again! Up until last year Tricia used to race professionally for the U.S. Women’s Motocross team in her spare time! She did that for 20 years before a horrific crash brought an untimely end to her career.
“I got pretty messed up; I broke my femur, my shoulder, my nose, my teeth, my knee… it was pretty ugly. I’m still going through physiotherapy, but I’d say I’m about 90% recovered. It’s been hard not being able to do it anymore.”
As we do for all our Faculty Spotlights, we asked Tricia what book, movie and music she would want with her if she was stuck on a desert island, and who she would choose as a companion?
Desert Island Movie – “That would be Avatar.”
Desert Island Book – “‘Tell Me Where it Hurts’ by Dr. Nick Trout. He’s a veterinary surgeon and this book compresses his favorite stories from 25 years of animal encounters into one day.”
Desert Island Music – “I love everything, but my iPod would be loaded with music from the 80s & rock and roll!”
Desert Island Companion – “I was considering Matthew McConaughey for a moment…but no, it would definitely be my boyfriend Frank! He is such a big part of my life and was my savior when I crashed last year and needed help recovering.”
Thanks Tricia! We appreciate your time, your hard work and your commitment to your students in Pomona!
For comprehensive consumer information on our program, please visit carrington.edu/degrees/veterinary-technician/
Program availability varies by location.