Working the intensive care unit actually is one of Heather Czerpak’s favorite parts of her job.

“I get to be one-on-one with the patients and take care of them for my entire shift,” she said. “Some of them are there for weeks at a time, and I really get to know them and their families.”

And the best part is when the families finally take home healthy cats, dogs, horses, rabbits or perhaps not-so-furry friends.

Czerpak, a certified veterinary technician specializing in emergency and critical care, has been on the staff at MedVet Pittsburgh in Peters Township since it first opened as University Veterinary Specialists.

Her dedication to patients and eagerness to share her knowledge with colleagues has earned her a spot among the 10 finalists in the seventh annual American Humane Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Nurse Awards, sponsored by Zoetis Petcare.

The nomination for Czerpak received by the awards’ judging panel cited her exemplary work in training others in the veterinary field.

“Heather is always willing to help them understand without judgment. She makes learning fun and brings life back into her co-workers during long and hard shifts,” the nomination said.

The Plum Borough resident enjoys imparting pertinent information to others.

“I like seeing them get excited, and it helps me get more excited. It helps me to want to look up things I didn’t know just yet,” she said. “So it helps me to always learn and helps them to always learn, and it’s like a nice, continuous cycle.”

Speaking of learning, Czerpak earned her associate degree in veterinary technology from at Sanford-Brown Institute, now Pittsburgh Career Institute. She then continued to study toward certification in her specialty.

“During school, I was an overnight receptionist at another specialty facility. Then once I graduated, I moved to the technician part of it, and that’s pretty much all I’ve done since,” she said. “I’ve always liked it. You get to know a little bit about everything, because everything walks through those doors.”

Of course, taking care of the folks who walk through the doors can be an emotional experience.

“They show up very worried if their pet is in bad shape. We have to get a lot of information out of them as quickly as possibly,” Czerpak said. “So we have to learn what questions to ask, how to focus and narrow things down to give the best help we can give.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, MedVet continues to care for animals in need, but a lot of the continuing education that she leads has been put on hold. She is looking forward to resuming.

“It just helps in the long run for everybody,” she said.

The awards program is conducted by American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization and the group that issues the “No animals were harmed” assurance in films’ end credits.

“Animals are often heroes to us, and we need to honor and recognize those who are heroes to them,” said Robin Ganzert, American Humane’s president and chief executive officer. “These dedicated professionals work behind the scenes to keep our best friends happy and healthy, and for that we thank them.”

Votes for the awards are accepted, one per day through Aug. 13, at

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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