Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine hosts a yearly Achievements Award ceremony to recognize the milestones of its community, which includes the Distinguished Veterinary Technology Alumni Award. Honorees received a Bachelor of Science degree in Veterinary Technology or a Certificate of Completion in Veterinary Technology from the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, and has excelled in practice, teaching, research, service, or organized veterinary medicine. The 2021 recipient of the Distinguished Veterinary Technology Alumni Award is Lynne Elizabeth Johnson, who received her animal technology certificate from MSU in 1976, and has had a varied career spanning academics, teaching, industry, private practice, patient care, research, and continuing education.
After receiving her certificate, Lynne became an Instructor, Supervisor, and Research Technician at Michigan State University and the University of California at Davis, where she provided primary medical skills instruction to veterinary and veterinary technician students and clinical support to faculty. Lynne has served in many other roles during her career, including Veterinary Education Manager with IDEXX Laboratories, Territory Manager with Zoetis Animal Health (formerly Pfizer Animal Health) – Equine, and Practice Manager with Hinckley Animal Hospital. She also served as Editor in Chief for Today’s Veterinary Nurse.
In 2003, Lynne became the first veterinary nurse to serve as a Director of the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC), and in 2013, became the first veterinary nurse to become President of the NAVC board. She has authored or contributed to over 20 publications, and has presented at many national and international professional meetings.
TVN recently asked Lynne what it meant to her to receive the award and to reflect on her career.
TVN: How did the profession help shape you as a person?
LEJ: Veterinary nursing requires strength (physical and emotional), courage, empathy, sympathy and compassion. We need to be able to speak up and out, counsel and hug a grieving pet parent. Between my upbringing with strong and supportive parents, to my exposure to veterinary medicine at a very young age and with all the roles I had managed to explore and the challenges I faced, I do believe all of those factors shaped me into the veterinary nurse I am today.
TVN: What would you say to a young person considering veterinary technology as a career?
LEJ: Looking at veterinary nursing takes more than just loving animals. It can be quite challenging at times and most rewarding the majority of the time. Follow your dreams!
TVN: What bright spots do you see ahead for the profession? Changes?
LEJ: Bright spots are the change in the acceptance and perception of who we are and what we can do. The shift is taking place worldwide; however lots still need to be done. I am proud to have helped pave the way for others.
TVN: Looking back on your career, what has been the most rewarding aspect?
LEJ: I can say that serving our profession for over 40 years has been a most rewarding career. Next to my parents, my uncle, Gordon Johnson, DVM (MSU 1961, Retired) was the main force behind my interest in veterinary medicine. He was the one who informed me of the “new program” being offered through the College of Veterinary Medicine. I also have a very supportive husband, Jerry Harris, DVM (OSU 1973, Retired), who has been my strongest cheerleader. I now have a niece, also a DVM, Marlie Johnson (WSU 2012). So, needless to say, it’s in our DNA.
I have been very fortunate to work in almost all the career paths that a veterinary technician can serve and working at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital started me down that path looking for new challenges. My journey started as an instructor and ward veterinary technician working with the second year veterinary technician students and fourth year veterinary students in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the new and growing veterinary technology program and then to watch it become the most recognized accredited program was gratifying. My last years at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital spent working alongside Dr. Crow and Dr. Kittleson in research and clinics, were some of the best and busiest years. My time at MSU molded and guided me, pointing me into new career paths. I am truly thankful to the administration’s decision to bring in licensed veterinary technicians to manage the wards and instruct students.
TVN: After such a wonderful and diverse career in veterinary nursing, what does this award mean to you?
LEJ: I am truly humbled and honored to be the 2021 recipient. I can not thank Dr. Steve Crow and Dr. Mark Kittleson enough for nominating me and Dean Puschner for selecting me.