Hello, my name is Dr. Chrislyn Wood Nicholson and I’m a Poultry Specialist with USDA’s Animal Plant Healthy Inspection Service (APHIS) Veterinary Services (VS). I’ve worked for APHIS since 2004 as a veterinarian, but my relationship with this agency began even earlier. As a student, I was a recipient of APHIS’ Saul T. Wilson Jr. scholarship for students interested in veterinary medicine, which helped me get through school.
Why did I become a vet? I have always loved animals and science when I was growing up and a veterinary career seemed like a good way to combine my interests. I now get to help both animals and people every day.
I’m a Veterinary Medical Officer who works specifically with poultry, so I deal with issues like the live bird markets and avian influenza surveillance. Every day is different, and I like that challenge. Some days, you can find me out in the field going to farms, auctions and live bird markets to handle and test birds for diseases like avian influenza. On other days, I spend my time educating producers about keeping their birds healthy. I spend time in the office handling paperwork or meeting with poultry industry groups and, when I can, I also like to meet with veterinary students.
Working with APHIS has been a great learning experience. I work with quite a range of different people and personalities, and have learned how to communicate with different individuals and groups to accomplish various tasks.
One of my most memorable experiences at APHIS has to be working on an avian influenza traceback. As a colleague and I were driving to examine some of the birds that could have been exposed to the disease, we realized they lived in a wildlife park, which I’d never heard of before. While we’re trying to find the poultry area, we drove past elk, buffalo, and other exotic animals. We even spotted an ostrich or two – and immediately wondered if we would have to try to test them as well… (Ostriches can be mean). Luckily, the backyard birds were healthy, so there was no need for close encounters of the ostrich kind, and we only had to test the chickens.
Disease outbreaks are costly and endanger many birds, so we do everything we can to keep that from happening – and in turn, help prevent people from getting sick as well. I’m part of a great team that helps prevent disease outbreaks through education and disease surveillance. I find my job extremely fulfilling and I leave work every day knowing that what I do helps not just animals but also people.
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.