Katherine Harshman, LVT

Receiving Technician in the ViTALS Laboratory

When did you join the veterinary college?

I joined the VTH in October of 2017. I moved here from Georgia where I was an LVT in general practice, emergency medicine, and cat-only clinics.

What is your role at the veterinary college?

I was originally hired into the Radiology department and that was a realm I never thought I work in. Ironically it wasn't a subject I grasped well during my LVT schooling. However, great faculty/supervisor/and fellow techs took their time and trained me on machines I never thought I'd be able to run!

I currently work in the ViTALS laboratory as a receiving technician. I help screen every sample that is submitted to us whether it's for in-house testing, research projects, or specialty reference laboratory send-outs. I work as a front-line communication liaison between the requestor and the departments they're submitting to.

The best part of being at VMCVM...

The diversity and inclusivity that I see everywhere! I've worked for plenty of jobs that make you limit yourself to fit their mold, and I love that people can outwardly be who they are and shine in a light that makes them comfortable.

I also love how patient everyone is with people learning and growing. It truly is a TEACHING hospital in many ways. :)

Best advice I've gotten...

When you're sick - you go to the doctor to receive treatment.

When your mind is sick - you go to a mental doctor to receive treatment.

Mental health is still your health - take care of it.

This advice changed my outlook on the stigma around mental health and allowed me to free myself from it. Since then I've had therapists and even got diagnosed with ADHD and have started medications to help! I have been able to read more books this year than ever before and man, that was a world I was missing out on!

How would you capture the essence of your work in a newspaper headline?

Precision and Care: Veterinary Laboratory Technicians In Animal Health Diagnostics

My hidden talent...

Being long-winded?

I tend to bring the extrovert side out of introverts, so that's pretty cool. :)

A person who has inspired me...

My grandma. She grew very close once my grandfather passed away. She was always a home-cooked meal, tons of hugs and kisses, and a joke and a beer away if I needed cheering up. She was truly one of a kind and I miss her terribly. She raised herself from 7th grade on, teaching herself how to read more proficiently by doing crossword puzzles and using dictionaries. She had quite a few accomplishments, but her general outlooks on life are what I loved.

Can you share a memorable experience or story from your time working with animals?

There was this smaller pit bull that came to us in the ER clinic in Atlanta when I worked there and she had been attacked by 2 other dogs. Her hind legs were basically hamburger meat and she was petrified. I muzzled her for safety reasons and picked her up out of her owner's car and carried her to our triage station. Once we got her comfortable and in a cage I was one of her primary care givers. She healed remarkably well and went home. When she came back a couple of weeks later, she heard me in the back and started whining and I was asked to go up front. She wagged her tail so hard her entire hind end was wiggling and she ran up to me and smothered me with kisses. Her owner thanked me and said she hadn't seen that much excitement from her in a long time. That moment made so much of my job worth it.

We had one more dog, a GIANT, not-so-nice mastiff that boarded with us for about 2-3 months because his owner was in the hospital. He would lunge at the glass door to his run anytime people went near by. I was one of two or three people over time he grew to trust and when it was time for him to go, no one wanted to bathe him for fear of him reacting poorly. Well, no one could lift him into the tub so I tethered him to the wall and we used an extended hose and he LOVED IT. He was rubbing all over me and gave me kisses. It was so rewarding to win his trust and let him enjoy some pampering he very much deserved.

What do you find most inspiring or fulfilling about working with students and helping them pursue their careers?

I remember being a student and how anxious I was when learning new things. There were certain topics I didn't grasp as strongly as others (ironically Radiology was one of them...) and so when working directly with the students I really enjoyed watching that lightbulb go off and them finally grasp something that was originally confusing. I enjoyed challenging myself to find new ways to teach them that matched their style of learning. It takes a lot to embarrass me so I definitely wasn't shy to get on the x-ray table and position myself so they could better understand. Got many weird looks from passerbys but the students seemed to love it.

In the lab, I unfortunately don't work so closely with the students and I miss that. I do, however, still enjoy educating them if there's something questionable with their sample. I like to explain the "why" behind why we can or can't do something and hopefully they take that with them in the future to their big-kid jobs.

One misconception that all students seem to have is?

Forms will fill themselves out. haha! Just kidding - kinda. It is a chronic problem working for supporting clinics and as a department that receives mailed-in samples it is CRUCIAL that we receive information regarding the true history of a patient. In radiology, we only see the films we take. We don't know the bloodwork values, the medications they've been on, what's worked and what hasn't worked. The same goes for the laboratory. We only get a small window into the case with the samples submitted. A detailed history is vital when trying to formulate a full diagnosis.

It is also a common misconception that the ViTALS lab works only for the VTH. We do not! We are actually our own entity of sorts, servicing not only the clients and patients of the VTH, but local and surrounding areas. We have many research projects going on and also receive mailed-in samples. In my short 2 years over here, I've seen samples from Tennessee, Ohio, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Texas, Florida, and even California!!

If I had a superpower, it would be...

I have two that I cannot choose between.

  1. Eat/drink anything I want and always maintain perfect health.
  2. Have the ability to say the exact right thing in any moment. Need empathy and a consoling ear? I'm ya girl. Need me to stand up for you? I got this. Need me to persuade a high up executive or your boss for a raise and then give me a cut of the money....? You get my drift.

If you could magically grant an animal the ability to talk, which one would you choose and what do you think it would say?

NOT my cat. Absolutely not. If you've met him, you'd understand.

Probably my dog, Dobby. She's the sweetest thing ever and I just imagine she'd have nothing but nice things to say... unlike my cat.

A cause I'm most passionate about...

Infertility diagnostics and treatment should be common benefit for all who desire to have children. If not something that's covered, it should at least be aided. As someone who went through infertility treatment and has an IVF baby of her own, I loathe the fact that it was about $20,000 that almost prevented me from being able to have him. He is the best thing to ever happen to me, and I truly couldn't imagine a world without him.

Favorite way to end the day...

After a longggg day I love to lay on the couch and snuggle my son while he watches his cartoons. Sometimes I have headphones in and will watch my own show or simply lay with my head down and hold onto him. I also really enjoy playing my switch or snuggling in with my Kindle for a good book.

Top of my bucket list...

Oof. As someone who hasn't traveled much I guess the answer to this is the most cliche, "travel everywhere".

Realistically though:

  • Take my son to Disney around his 5th birthday (or at least that year).
  • Stay in the Ice Hotel in Quebec that my husband and I talked about many years ago.

My favorite quote...

"You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there will always be someone who hates peaches." – Dita Von Teese.

This quote has stuck with me for years and reminds me to just be who I am and love me for me and stop trying to seek outside validation which is something I've struggled with for a long time. Age helps you get over that too. ;)

If you could communicate with animals for a day, what would you ask them?

(to previously traumatized patients) How do you love so freely and forgive so easily after such mistreatment? You wag your tail and give kisses like no one has ever wronged you.

(also to previously traumatized patients) I understand you're scared, please let me show you we're not all the same. I'm not trying to hurt you.

(to my cat) Why can't you wait until a reasonable hour to wreak havoc across my house? Also, thank you for snuggling with me at night. But also stop. tearing. stuff. up.

How many pets/animals live at home? Can you tell us about them?

Well, if you've made it this far - You probably know I have 2 pets.

1 demonic cat (Velcro) who I've had since he was 5 weeks old. He's now 12.5 years old and for his entire life he's been the epitome of a sour-patch kid. One minute he's chewing up my husband's SS card and birth certificate (honestly, his own fault for leaving it out, right?) and then that same night he's snuggled into my neck and we spoon for hours.

Dobby is our AWFP rescue - 2017 model. She was found locked in a chicken coop with her baby-daddy and puppies (5) and was taken in through the AWFP organization. I saw her on Pet Finder and knew immediately she'd be ours. Thinking she was a 50 pound pit mix, we were ready for a big girl, but this tiny 35 pound white lightning bolt ran by at our meet and greet and I remember saying "that's it?" She's fit right in since day one. (Our home, our hearts, our bed, the couch, the car, my recliner...) She is going on 8 and has been used in MANY research studies and teaching cases for the VTH. When I worked in radiology she frequently came with me on Fridays to teach.

Anything else to add?

My advice to you: Always remember that everyone envisions success differently for themselves.

Man and women posing for a photo on a sidewalk.
Selfie of a women and her son.
Black cat laying on a couch.
Dog holding a play toy.
Black cat looking out of a carrier sitting in a car.
Dog laying in Christmas lights.


Andrew Mann
Director of Communications and Marketing