Katie Calicchio always knew she wanted to work with horses. She grew up in New York riding and showing competitively in hunt seat when she was young, before making the switch to dressage. As an equine business management major, though, she never anticipated a career as a veterinary technician.
Calicchio joined the team at the Hospital for Large Animals in 2007 as the barn manager for the animal care staff. Then, in 2013, the hospital restructured its services—and a veterinary technician position with the general surgery service caught her eye.
“I was very happy with what I was doing, working in the barn, but I thought that this would be a good opportunity to advance within the organization,” she says. “I thought surgery would be something that I would really enjoy because we work with other species in addition to horses. And, I think it has really expanded my knowledge of veterinary medicine.”
Every day is different for Calicchio, which is one of the aspects she loves about her job. Her responsibilities include everything from performing treatments and overseeing students to prepping for surgery, communicating with clients, and more.
Photo: Courtesy of Katie Calicchio
Veterinary technicians are like nurses in human medicine. “We take on a lot of the responsibility for the care of every patient that walks through the door,” Calicchio says. “Vet techs are advocates for the patients. We are their voice because, obviously, they don’t have one.”
“Katie is an incredible advocate for our patients, always ensuring they receive the best possible care. She is like a hurricane—powerful and unstoppable, always ready to support her patients, doctors, and students,” says veterinarian Thomas Jenei of the general surgery service.
Calicchio has no shortage of passion for the patients. She takes pride in seeing an animal that came in very ill or injured walk out the door, knowing she played a role in its healing. But she also enjoys forming a connection with the owners. “I’ve seen a lot of memorable cases with big injuries and recoveries. Of course, they stick with me, but I think it’s the people that stick with me even more,” she says.
In addition to interacting with the owners, Calicchio also enjoys teaching veterinary students. The students oftentimes have little to no experience with large animals, and she helps them transform from timid to confident in their abilities.
When students first begin working with large animals, a lot of them are scared. Often “they don’t necessarily know how to pick feet or put on a halter,” explains Calicchio, who helps teach these fundamentals. Later in their clinical rotations, “the students use the skills that they learned in class, and they realize that they can do once-intimidating things.”