Transform the SFU Experience

Nurturing a community of care: Kim Buettner earns SFU Workplace Excellence Award

May 03, 2024

Congratulations to Kim Buettner, technical lead at Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) Animal Care Services, for earning a 2023 SFU Staff Achievement Award in Workplace Excellence.

Kim joined Animal Care Services in 2005, and for close to two decades has demonstrated dedication not only to the animals under her care, but also to the researchers, lab members, students and staff that she supports. Her colleagues refer to her as “one of the hardest working technicians” in the department.

As a registered veterinary technician and registered laboratory animal technician, Kim possesses a wealth of knowledge and expertise. She ensures that any animals involved in research receive optimal care according to the high quality, informed standards set by both SFU and the Canadian Council on Animal Care. The majority of animals included in research at SFU are fish (93%), rodents (3%), other animals such as birds (2%) and amphibians (less than 1%).

In addition to maintaining the highest ethical standards possible, Kim is responsible for veterinary technical services, lab orientation and training. She is known by the SFU research community as proficient, efficient and a lot of fun to work with.

Kim embodies SFU's values of excellence, responsibility and respect and her contributions have shaped the university’s research programs. Thanks to Kim, SFU's researchers have the support to do what they do best: innovate, build a more sustainable world, and expand the foundations of knowledge.

We spoke to Kim Buettner about her work.

How did you enter this field of work, and what made you decide to join SFU?
Prior to joining SFU, I was employed at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan as a veterinary technician in the teaching hospital. I enjoyed being in an environment where the work was not repetitive, after working many years in private veterinary practice. I was also able to witness research studies impacting the field of veterinary medicine. This led me to seek employment in a B.C. post-secondary institution with an animal unit so that I could continue working in my field and play a part in research. Although moving from companion pet and large farm animals to research animals was a big change, I quickly realized that the foundations of excellent veterinary care are paramount for good research.

How would you describe a typical day?

I do not necessarily have a typical day. The animal care team meets in the morning to discuss activities and schedule accordingly. For me, it may be training new lab members on procedures or techniques, planning the technical requirements of a study with an investigator, reviewing the procedural aspects of a research protocol application, and providing veterinary care and support as needed. There are also times where I spend my entire day working with research animals. If there are procedures or techniques required for a study that the investigator or lab members are not trained to perform, myself and the other technicians in animal care will take care of that work for them.

Several of your colleagues have mentioned your sense of humour. How do you keep your sense of humour and make the workplace fun? 
Although I do want to teach new students our protocols and procedures, foster an environment of respect for the animals in their care and hopefully, lead them further into the field of research, I hope at the same time I can make them feel at ease. Finding something to share a laugh over always helps. I want students to feel they can ask any question and not be intimidated.

What do you wish people knew about your work that they might not understand?
My role is to facilitate research but to maintain a high level of care and responsibility for the research animals involved. My background is first and foremost in animal care. However, the relevance and extreme importance of continued research utilizing research animals has to be carried forward until such time as there are viable alternatives. Personal losses of loved ones, friends and co-workers to things such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and countless other conditions keeps me on this path.

After almost two decades at SFU, what inspires you the most?

Seeing students that I worked with early in my SFU career succeed in their fields, make significant advances in research and move on to great things always amazes me. Having studies I am involved with lead to advancements in medicine is also extremely fulfilling.