Virginia Tech® home

Payton Lawrence 2022 recipient of the NOVA Jenn Fay Memorial Veterinary Technology Student of the Year Award

Payton Lawrence, LVT, operating room supervisor. Photo by Sharon Peart for Virginia Tech.

After much hard work and discipline and while working full time, Lawrence recently graduated from the Veterinary Technology Program at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) with an Associate in Veterinary Technology. She also completed the Veterinary Technician National Exam describing the exam process as "a nerve-wracking experience."

Lawrence is also the 2022 recipient of the NOVA Jenn Fay Memorial Veterinary Technology Student of the Year Award. This award recognizes a student that shows outstanding dedication to the profession of Veterinary Technology.

Maureen Kelleher, clinical assistant professor of sports medicine and surgery, commented on Payton's achievement. "Payton has worked diligently over the past years to achieve her career goals. She is an exceptional example of what is accomplished with dedication, direction and mentorship," said Kelleher

Lawrence has been an avid rider and horse enthusiast since the age of eight, and her passion took her to Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to study for a B.S. in Animal and Poultry Science. She was also a very active member of Virginia Tech's Equestrian Club, a student-oriented organization composed of undergraduate and graduate students who have a keen interest in horses and equestrian intercollegiate competition.

In 2016, Lawrence joined the Equine Medical Center as an Patient Care Assistant. From the start, she worked hard to learn as much as she could to succeed in her new position, and because of her dedication was soon promoted to a service technician position and subsequently to lead service technician. 

During the summer of 2019, while still working full time at the center, Lawrence, funded by Virginia Tech's tuition benefits program, which is designed to promote the professional development of the university's workforce, enrolled as a part-time student in the Veterinary Technology Program at NOVA. This program, accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association, Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities prepares students for careers as veterinary technicians and other related work opportunities. 

Completing this program was a huge undertaking, and Lawrence had to carefully juggle her time between her full-time position at the center and her studies. The program is predominantly online, so she needed to be self-motivated and disciplined. She was also able to lean on the Equine Medical Center team, both faculty and staff, who all willingly rallied to support this key and well-liked team member.

After much hard work, discipline and tenacity, this past spring, Lawrence graduated from NOVA with an Associates in Veterinary Technology with a 4.0 GPA. She completed the Veterinary Technician National Exam this past spring, covering topics such as pharmacology, disease processes and anatomy. She credits her tremendous success to the guidance and support she received from her colleagues during the four years she participated in the program.

Lawrence is especially thankful to Megan Marchitello, at that time a resident and now part of the center’s faculty team, who spent time explaining the nuances of best practices for neck x-rays on the horse and Maureen Kelleher, who dedicated time, even during weekends, to help Lawrence study. Also, Sara Lundy, clinical and administrative support supervisor, for providing a massive amount of help by reviewing procedures with Lawrence, from temperature, pulse and respiration (TPR) procedures to placing a catheter, and Stephanie Hernandez for taking time to ensure that Payton was able to complete all technical skills. A special thanks to all the Equine Medical Center technicians who have a lot of small animal experience and were always willing to provide advice and guidance. Even Lawrence's dogs Wyatt and Hank supported the cause – patiently acting as her doggy test subjects!

Further recognition of her years of determination and effort was becoming the 2022 recipient of the NOVA Jenn Fay Memorial Veterinary Technology Student of the Year Award. This award recognizes a student that shows outstanding dedication to the profession of Veterinary Technology and who demonstrates a great deal of compassion toward animals and a high degree of understanding and support for the attachment between people and their pets. The recipient is highly respected by their peers and exhibits a strong sense of professional ethics and a commitment to promoting the science of Veterinary Medicine and Veterinary Technology.

Lawrence is now enjoying spending more time with her off-the-track Thoroughbred, Estrickator, stable name Bert, described by Lawrence as a "War Horse" who ran 88 times on the track and now has taken the life of a hunter pony in stride.

Since completing her studies, Lawrence has been promoted to the position of Operating Room Supervisor. Lawrence appreciates her colleagues' trust in her abilities and is enjoying the enhanced work experience that her qualification provides. Her primary goal for the future is to give back by supporting other Equine Medical Center staff considering taking the same challenging path.