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Public Health Veterinarians Safeguard Consumption Through Food Supply

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017 at 6:28 am
Author: KCII News - Sam McIntosh

Veterinarians are usually depicted providing healthcare to pets or farm animals in a private clinic setting.

Some may not know about the public health field of veterinary medicine. Iowa Meat and Poultry Inspection Bureau Chief Dr. Kathryn Polking says the role of public health veterinarians is to protect public health through safeguarding the food supply, “In the case of meat inspection, a public health veterinarian for FSIS or for my state program are performing typically a health examination of the animals that are going to go to slaughter and enter that food chain, making sure that those animals are healthy and they are fit for human consumption. Additionally, given all the microbiology training that veterinarians receive as they go through veterinary school, that sets us up well to be involved in the food sanitation and pathogen reduction.”

Supervisory Veterinarian Dr. Kristyn White worked in a clinic setting before working for the Iowa Meat and Poultry Inspection Bureau. White supervises southeastern Iowa meat plants, and she explains why she chose to work in public health, “It allowed me to stay in that agriculture sector and help not only the agriculture community, but then you’re also still involved through the public and serving the public, which was something I enjoyed as part of clinical practice. In a different way you’re dealing with clients, but we’re still dealing with the public. We deal with consumers that have issues with meat products and things like that and it all comes back to making sure that product that goes out the door is safe for consumers. Something that often times people just kind of take for granted but there’s a lot of behind the scenes work that goes on.”

White says this line of work is an impactful one for the meat and poultry industry, and she recommends public health to veterinarians who don’t desire the on-call lifestyle of the private sector. Polking says a couple of the bureau’s veterinarians will be retiring in the next few years and will need replacements. She said there is a fairly significant shortage of public health veterinarians at the federal level.