November 25, 2019

The Best Laid Plans

How Our Under-Construction Animal Hospital Enabled An Architect-Turned-Vet-Tech to Bring His Career Full Circle

By Greg Mueller, Certified Veterinary Technician 


As a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT), my job changes daily as I work with a team that cares for more than 3,500 animals here at Denver Zoo. My day can include anesthesia for a tiger, X-rays for an anaconda or collecting blood from a 4,000-pound rhinoceros. As a CVT, my job also means helping our Zoo veterinarians with whatever they need. But I never thought that my previous life as a licensed architect would be one of the ways I'd help Denver Zoo. 

Blueprints to Blood Draws

Before I was helping with daily blood draws and radiographs here at the Zoo, I spent a decade as an architecthelping design, plan and build human healthcare buildings. Projects that I was a part of range from new hospitals, cancer centers, laboratories and medical office buildings. It was certainly a rewarding profession, but it wasn’t my true passion. 

I made time for my true passion – animals – by volunteering at the Marine Mammal Center in San Francisco. For four years, I worked with amazing volunteers and veterinary staff there, and one day I was offered the chance to perform a procedure that would change the course of my life. A veterinarian trained me to perform a blood draw on a baby elephant seal, and when I got home that night, I told my wife that I couldn’t practice architecture anymore and working with animals was what I needed to do from then on. I didn’t waste any time, and soon I was accepted into an AVMA accredited veterinary technology school where I graduated Summa Cum Laude. After graduation, I landed a veterinary technician internship position at Denver Zoo. I was hired as a full-time employee after my internship and have been with Denver Zoo ever since.

Full Circle 

A few years into my career with Denver Zoo, I took on an additional role – one that brought me back to my architect days. Denver Zoo was in planning phase of its new, state-of-the-art animal hospital, and I was asked to be part of the team that helped with the design.  

Over the past 18 months, I have helped the veterinary team understand spatial relationships, basic building code requirements, and have acted as an “interpreter” to help my colleagues understand the design/construction world’s language. Now, we are nearly a year into construction of the new facility which is roughly twice the size of the old hospital. What once was an empty lot is now a bustling construction site, and the vision for this state-of-the-art facility moves closer to reality each day. 

During my time at the Zoo I never imagined my skills as an architect could be put to work helping animals. But as the walls of the new animal hospital go up, I’m reminded every day to never close a door on your past life -- you just never know what amazing opportunity you may have in the future.  


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