Hello, I’m Dr. Beth Lautner, Director of USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa. We’re the animal health reference and confirmatory lab for USDA. We work mainly with livestock and poultry health, but also deal more and more with companion animal issues. It is exciting to be on the front lines of what’s going on with regards to animal health.
I grew up on a livestock farm and had many dogs and cats. I always enjoyed working and interacting with animals and admired the veterinarians I met. From the time I was twelve, I knew I wanted to be a veterinarian. After vet school, I practiced for 12 years in a mixed animal (livestock and dogs/cats) practice. It was a great opportunity to learn a lot of different aspects of veterinary medicine.
In my job at NVSL, I enjoy the fact that I never know what any one day will bring. When there’s an animal health issue somewhere in the world we want to know more about it so we can see what we can do to help them deal with it and protect U.S. animal health at the same time. We try to keep our finger (as best we can) on the pulse of what’s going on in animal health.
One experience that stands out as interesting and rewarding was being involved very early on with the recent H1N1 pandemic. We participated on calls with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention right away and contributed our knowledge on influenza to help impact human health. On the animal health side, we used our skills and ability to validate new diagnostics to be able to offer those tools to the animal health industry.
The best thing about my job as a veterinarian is that you get the chance to make a difference. When I was in practice working with large animals, it was rewarding to make recommendations about animal health and come back in a month and see the difference in the animals. Here at NVSL, our veterinarians have a great opportunity to make an impact on One Health. We’re all in this world together – people, animals, wildlife – and we have a chance as vets to impact all of animal health and human health as well.
It is exciting to work at APHIS. There is a lot of opportunity to develop further as veterinarian and to explore many different areas of the profession. There’s never a dull moment!