I’m Dr. John Clifford, Chief Veterinary Officer for the USDA and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Deputy Administrator for Veterinary Services. Over nearly the last 26 years I’ve had the pleasure of holding numerous positions within the agency. Here’s my story on how I got to where I am today.
I was born in Bowling Green, Ky. and my desire to become a veterinarian began while growing up on the family farmstead near Brownsville. We raised mainly beef cattle and I always liked working with them. There was one local veterinarian who would come out two or three times a year to our farm. The highlight of the visits for me was being his assistant. I learned to work the cattle and about vaccination and preventative treatments. Those few encounters ignited a hankering that culminated with my career in veterinary medicine.
Upon graduation, I joined a mixed practice in Kentucky, where dairy cows were the predominate focus, but also included other large and some small animals. I really favored the dairy work, especially obstetric calls (aka calving).
I have enjoyed my career and have learned a great deal about myself along the way, both strengths and weaknesses. When I served as an Area Veterinarian in Charge (AVIC), I learned to surround myself with individuals who supported my weaknesses. I also learned to become a better listener and communicator. Those are skills essential to my current position and as a result I continue to learn and improve every day.
As the Deputy Administrator, I get to do some pretty interesting things. I’m the delegate to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) for the United States. The OIE is based in Paris and is the standard setting body for international trade in animals. I also serve as the OIE President for the Region of the Americas. I travel internationally to attend meetings and work with my counterparts throughout the world. Back at home, I am often called upon to provide testimony or briefings on Capitol Hill.
One of the coolest things I’ve ever done was to speak to the graduating class at my alma mater. Last year, I gave the convocation for the veterinary school graduates at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
I’m proud to be a veterinarian and a civil servant, and I love that we’re working to protect American agriculture. Our goal is to help producers, not hinder them. I enjoy the variety of work I get to do and I believe in what we’re doing to help support animal health. I really, truly love what I do.
APHIS and USDA are joining with organizations around the world to celebrate World Veterinary Year by highlighting the work of veterinarians on the USDA blog. This post is part of a series underscoring the important and diverse work of APHIS veterinarians. Check back each Thursday as we showcase the work of a different veterinarian.