Apex Veterinary Nurse Receives National Honor

Apex resident Julie Nettifee has worked at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine for more than 20 years.

Julie Nettifee says she was just doing her job, but to a dog named Little Bit and her owners, Nettifee will always be a hero.

After Hurricane Harvey devastated a large swath of the southern United States in 2017, the Apex resident became friends with a couple who were temporarily living in Chapel Hill after their home had been destroyed.

When Nettifee learned that the couple had lost one of their dogs during the move, she took them back to where the dog had last been seen. After several hours, they found Little Bit. The couple had lost so much, but they weren’t going to also lose their dog.

“I just considered it part of my volunteer efforts with the outreach veterinary program,” said Nettifee. “Just something I do if anyone is in need, if I have a skill I can offer to support them.”

During the Hero Dog Awards broadcast Oct. 19 on the Hallmark Channel, Nettifee was named the 2020 American Humane Veterinary Nurse Hero, a national competition sponsored by Zoetis Petcare honoring the dedication of veterinary workers and the lives they have changed. The show also honored the heroic veterinarian of the year and several heroic dogs in a variety of categories.

The nonprofit American Humane is dedicated to animal welfare and supporting the human-animal bond.

“This award and this program really provide a platform for the public to see the incredible gifts and talents that veterinary nurses, technicians and research specialists bring to our animal companions each and every day,” said Nettifee. “It has also been such a gift to have the recognition and support of the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine.”

In her more than 20 years at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine, Nettifee’s work has been guided by innate compassion. She’s helped rescue dogs like Little Bit and held the hands of owners as they made difficult medical decisions. She’s recruited for groundbreaking epilepsy studies, been there as animals learned to walk again and helped work on vital nutritional plans.

Nettifee’s work is never done until lives are made better.

A licensed veterinary nurse and technician with a specialty in neurology, Nettifee has been able to work with a wide array of pets and people at the CVM and the NC State Veterinary Hospital. She’s been on the frontlines of clinical research, supported faculty members and helped educate classes of veterinarians. Currently, she provides research and clinical support for both the neurology service’s companion animal epilepsy research program led by Karen Muñana and the nutrition service led by Korrin Saker.

Muñana, CVM professor of neurology, has worked with Nettifee for more than 20 years. Shortly after Muñana joined the faculty, Nettifee was hired as the hospital’s first neurology clinical technician.

“Julie is a strong ambassador for the college and the work that we do. She promotes the importance of our work at the CVM as a means to improve the health of both animals and people,” said Muñana. “She exemplifies this behavior professionally and personally. She is a warm-hearted and giving person who strives to help others, whether they are a friend or a stranger.”

Nettifee’s dedication to animals and their owners started early growing up in Fairmont, Minnesota. Her mother was raised on a farm in Iowa; her father was an avid animal lover and nature enthusiast.

As a child, she was drawn to helping with strays and rescues, as well as fostering wild animals, since her father was a reserve police officer and animal control officer. It was her father’s “spirit,” Nettifee says, that guided her when she helped the family find Little Bit, who is a rescue. There is an animal shelter in Fairmont named for her father, the Carl Nettifee Memorial Animal Shelter, that she helped obtain grants to fund.

Her current pets are all rescues: Paradox, a snowshoe cat; Phoenix, a Labrador-terrier mix; Spirit, a golden-Aussie mix; Crystal, a Dutch rabbit. Her son, Jordan, also hopes to work with animals one day through a digital media business he’s developing.

“As a veterinary nurse, I have had opportunities I might not have been offered otherwise as part of the Wolfpack. I have learned global lessons just by walking in the doors each day,” said Nettifee.

Her impact is felt by those who also walk through the CVM’s doors each day. While working with Muñana as a research technician, Nettifee touches lives in lasting ways. She connects with people seamlessly, says Muñana, developing ties with pet owners that are integral to successful research. She creates not just strong working relationships, but friendships.

“Julie is regularly contacted by clients of dogs that have previously participated in one of our studies seeking advice for their pet,” said Muñana. “They know that she will listen and work with them to identify resources to address their concerns.”

That isn’t necessarily part of Nettifee’s job, but she’s always seen it as her duty.

“One of my greatest life lessons has truly become a ‘camper’s creed’ — helping to improve places where you have been with the goal of leaving them better than when you have arrived,” said Nettifee. “As a veterinary nurse, this is my hope and goal, to support the strong foundation for those who follow.”

This article originally appeared at cvm.ncsu.edu/nettifee-finalist-for-national-hero-veterinary-nurse-award/. It is reprinted with permission.

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