Unsung Heroes awards give veterinary staff members credit they deserve

Updated July 9, 2024

Veterinary staff are unsung heroes who work tirelessly to keep animals healthy and promote public health. While their work is often overlooked, they play a vital role in society. As a result, there is a need to recognize these unsung heroes in the veterinary profession for their hard work and dedication, said Latonia Craig, EdD, AVMA’s chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer.

Recognizing the impact of these dedicated individuals, the AVMA launched the Unsung Heroes awards program last year. This program shines a light on individual staff members—including veterinary technicians, customer service representatives, and kennel workers—who have embodied a level of commitment that surpasses expectations.

Five people holding plaques stand in front of a banner reading "thank you"
The recipients of the 2024 Unsung Heroes awards are (from left to right) Meagan Meyer, Janet Fítzsímon-Barr, Sabrina Kirkland, Lana Koehn, and Derick Cazares. (Photo by Lucy Kennedy)

On June 23 during AVMA Convention 2024, the program honored five staff members at the Austin Urban Vet Center in Austin, Texas, for their dedication and hard work in sustaining the smooth functioning of veterinary practices. The recipients are as follows:

Lana Koehn

This veterinary technician is known for her meticulous attention to detail. She approaches each task with precision, ensuring the comfort and care of every animal she encounters.

As a mother, Koehn efficiently juggles the demands of her career with the responsibilities of parenthood, her nurturing spirit evident both in the clinic and at home. Always ready to lend a hand to her colleagues and clients alike, Lana embodies the essence of teamwork and community.

Sabrina Kirkland

Kirkland, described as “client service coordinator extraordinaire,” has an infectious positivity and unwavering reliability that make her the cornerstone of client care. With a smile that lights up the room, Sabrina ensures every pet owner feels valued and understood.

Kirkland’s attitude and hard work ethic shine through in everything she does, from coordinating appointments to managing client inquiries.

Janet Fítzsímon-Barr

This client service coordinator stands a pillar of kindness and compassion. Her unwavering kindness is a beacon of comfort, making each client feel valued and cared for.

Fítzsímon-Barr’s reliability is the bedrock of our clinic's operations. From scheduling appointments to addressing client inquiries, she approaches each task with dedication and diligence. She also is willing to go above and beyond, whether it's staying late to accommodate a last-minute appointment or offering a comforting word to a worried pet owner. Her generosity knows no bounds.

Derick Cazares

Cazares is not only lead veterinary technician, but also unofficial chief culture officer for the clinic. Over the years, he has evolved from a shy presence to a respected leader among his peers, demonstrating humility and genuine kindness in all his interactions.

As the eldest son of an immigrant family, Cazares’s passion for veterinary medicine fueled his determination, overcoming adversity at every turn. His commitment to his field has advanced his professional aspirations as well as spurred his personal growth.

Meagan Meyer

Meyer is not just a skilled technician; she’s a trailblazer. Despite facing the challenge of deafness, her resilience and dedication set her apart. In a field where clear communication is vital, she works to teach her colleagues sign language, fostering a more inclusive and understanding workplace.

In the world of veterinary care, Meagan shines as a testament to the power of perseverance and the ability to turn challenges into triumphs.