Longtime UK Veterinary Science Lab Tech Retires

Sandra Collins, a senior laboratory technician in the laboratory of Gene Lyons, PhD, will retire from the University of Kentucky's (UK) Department of Veterinary Science on Jan. 3 after more than 40 years with the lab.

Collins began working in the classical parasitology laboratory with Lyons and former department chair and faculty member Harold Drudge, DVM, ScD, on June 29, 1970, in the Dimock Animal Pathology building. She recalls wearing a skirt, stockings, and flats on the first day but soon realized, after rounding up horses at the farm, that jeans and boots were more appropriate work clothes.

"She has been a key person with us," Lyons said. "She's filled in all the gaps over the years. She will be greatly missed."

A Lexington, Ky., native who graduated from Henry Clay High School before a brief stint as a student at UK, Collins said when she began working at the university she never planned to stay. She had previously worked at Purcell's Department Store in inventory control and left for a slight pay raise.

Since joining the staff, Collins has been what she calls a "utility person" and has many tasks such as preparing anthelmintics (dewormer) in proper dosage, preparing sample cups for parasite collection, and setting up the samples for EPGs (egg per gram) and LPGs (larvae per gram). She also makes sure quality, lab management, and safety are followed in the laboratory and gives tours when requested.

"I've worked with various animals in parasitology over the years including rabbits and guinea pigs in the lab and some cattle and sheep in field experiments," Collins said.

Collins said what made her stay after all these years was "the horse contact."

"I've always been interested in Saddlebreds," she said. "I started out riding hunter/jumpers and then I owned Saddlebreds. I got to where it cost more to board the horse than me. So, (I got my horse fix) by working here.

"Because of my interest in horses, this is my way of giving back with the little bit that I do," Collins said. "It may not be for some people, but we all find our niche. And if you find it, utilize it to the best of your ability and to the ability of what you're doing."

Throughout her time in the department, the most interesting things she saw were various cases when horses were brought to the animal pathology building, including a few two-headed lambs. Although one of the most interesting things related to parasites she said she has seen is how they adapt to anthelmintics and become drug-resistant over time.

"There for awhile, they were having to come out with new anthelmintics every seven to eight years because the animals were adapting to them so quickly," she said. "Then when the anthelmentic class 'Ivermectin' came on the market, everyone thought it was the 'everything forever' dewormer. Animals have recently started to adapt to it. It's just amazing. You think you've got (parasite control) handled, but you don't."

One of the biggest changes Collins has witnessed within the equine industry is how horses have become more of a companion animal. Horses used to be more heavily used in other venues and have now been replaced by machinery.

Collins said what she will remember most is the people she has worked with over the years, from the old pathology building to moving into the Gluck Equine Research Center. Visiting scientists in the parasitology laboratory have hailed from about 11 countries.

"I've met so many people from foreign countries and have made so many friends," Collins said. "You find out people are the same, no matter what country they are from. They all want to do their job well, have a better life for their family, and most of them share an interest in horses."

In her retirement Collins said she plans to work on a book, photography, and paint watercolors, acrylics, and oils. She also plans to attend more Saddlebred shows on the Kentucky County Fair circuit.

Jenny Blandford is the Gluck Equine Research Foundation assistant at the Gluck Center.


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