Spotlight on RAVS volunteer: Cara Yanussi, RVT

May 20, 2016
by Kate Kuzminski, DVM, HSVMA-RAVS Field Medical Director


I have a lot to say about veterinary technicians. They are healers, nurses, advocates, and teachers. They are the glue that holds all successful practices together. I also have a lot to say about trusting and respecting our technical teams enough to let them do their job, and thanking them every day for what they do for patients, clients and the clinic team.

For RAVS, a stellar technician team is critical. They run our field anesthesia services with unparalleled skill and dedication, and are the backbone that allows us to do what we do with exceptional standards and care. I appreciate their compassion and knowledge and their ability to gently lead our veterinary students through the challenges of skillful anesthesia and attentive patient care. If the Veterinary Technician World Olympics existed, gold would be ours twelve times over!

Our RAVS technical team typically consists of several RAVS staff RVTs leading a team of off-the-charts incredible volunteer veterinary technicians and assistants. Many are now long-time volunteers and have done a number of trips with us, but each started out as a fresh new volunteer unsure of what their first RAVS experience would bring.

Cara Yanussi, an RVT currently residing in San Jose, Calif., is one of these invaluable long-time team members. Cara has been on 21 - TWENTY-ONE! - RAVS trips over the past eight years. She brings 17 years of general practice, emergency medicine, HVHQSN, and shelter experience to the team and is a great mentor to both veterinary students and less experienced technicians. I was able to catch up with her at the end of our last Quinault, Washington clinic to talk about her work with RAVS.


DR. KATE KUZMINSKI: Tell me about your first RAVS clinic – how did you find out it and what made you want to participate?

CARA YANUSSI, RVT: It was a Whitesburg Kentucky trip in 2008. RAVS was still doing short Appalachian trips at that time. I found out about the program from one of our interns talking about a trip where she went to a native nation reservation and did spay-neuter surgeries. I simply overheard it as I was walking by and I immediately had to find out more. I had been looking for something like this for awhile. The mission of RAVS spoke to me. After college I was thinking about going to vet school and I ended up working in a shelter to get experience. My original desire was to work with animals in real need. Working in the shelter was amazing because it met that need. When I heard about RAVS once I was a veterinary technician, I was hooked.

KK: What do you remember about it? What was it like?

CY: I remember being in absolute awe during that trip. I was amazed when the rig pulled up and we somehow turned a home economics room in our building into a full-service hospital. When I got back home, I couldn’t stop talking about it. At the time I was working in one of the largest privately owned hospitals in the country with close to 40 doctors and over 80 technicians, and I was still impressed. It was just amazing.

I have always been sensitive to pet overpopulation and the euthanasia of unwanted animals without homes. On that trip, it was nice to actively do something about it. Without us, the people would not have had anyone. The community was in desperate need. Animals were in need.

KK: Tell me about your professional path.

CY: After college, I thought about vet school but realized that being a technician is where I need to be. I get to help the animals every day. I am the one providing the care, and administering the treatments. I can comfort my patient and I can be an advocate. Veterinarians do that too but they are involved on a different level and spend a significant amount of their time making and managing the plan. Being a voice for an animal and doing what is necessary to get them better is why I am a technician. This is exactly where I should be.

KK: What has been the best thing about RAVS for you?

CY: RAVS has given me the opportunity to do what I love soley for that reason. For me, RAVS gets to the heart of veterinary medicine. We all want to help animals –these trips get us back to that. It helps us remember why we started this work in the first place. It is an amazing opportunity for a meeting of the minds. To be able to talk with the other veterinary technicians and doctors and to discuss and learn from each other is fantastic. We never stop learning. I appreciate being able to talk about cases and situations and to have our opinions and experience trusted. That doesn’t always happen in private practice. Our opinions and thoughts matter on these trips. I am constantly learning. Every time you teach you pick up more information These trips are also good for my mental health. I am always in a better mood when I return no matter how hard the trips are or how tired I was at the start of the trip.

KK: What is the your favorite RAVS memory?

CY: It is an actual RAVS moment, not about any particular case or animal, but simply a moment. I have a picture of it that is one of my favorites of my dog Willy in Taholah, Washington. A little boy is sitting under a table talking to Willy. He is just sitting there with my dog. This little kid is having a moment with an animal who is just sitting with him quietly. I imagine that all of his own dogs have either died, or wandered off or are no longer with him for whatever reason. But in this case, Willy is there. It is just a beautiful moment of a little boy with a dog.

KK: Why should a veterinary technician go on a RAVS trip?

CY: I think going on a RAVS trip gets you back to this business in the first place. It gets you back to basics in how you practice veterinary medicine – your physical examination, your observations and the little creative things you can do to make things better for your patient. It is humbling. I think it is important for you to never forget your roots.

KK: What would you say to someone who is thinking about coming on a trip but might be a bit nervous or apprehensive?

CY: I would say just do one. Everybody should do one trip. Sure it’s hard sleeping on the floor for a week and it is really hard work but it is amazing to realize how much you can do when it is for such a pure reason – you are truly making a difference. RAVS is not for everyone, but I think everybody should try it once. And after that, then you can decide if you want to do another. The trips give you a link to people everywhere. You realize that there is always someone around if you need them.

Volunteer opportunities are still available for veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and assistants on RAVS 2016 summer field clinics. Visit or email us for more info!

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