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Second Generation Veterinarian Helps USDA Protect American Agriculture

Hello, I’m Dr. Jeffrey Nelson.  I’m a Veterinary Medical Officer with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).  I work in Ames, Iowa at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL).

Being a veterinarian runs in my family – my father is a veterinarian for USDA as well.  I heard his stories about the challenges of regulatory medicine and it sounded like a unique opportunity.  My goal in vet school was to end up working in regulatory medicine myself.

I started my USDA career right out of vet school.  I became a field veterinarian in Michigan in December 2001.  I spent a month in England helping with the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak.  My role was to inspect and test herds in order to identify herds that were either infected or exposed.  I also participated in the efforts to eradicate Exotic Newcastle Disease in California in 2003.

In 2007, I began my current job working in the serology section of the diagnostic bacteriology lab at NVSL.  We are responsible for doing import, export and interstate movement testing for bacterial and hemoparasitic (blood parasite) diseases in a variety of different species.  We work as a team and utilize each others’ strengths to get our job done.  It’s fulfilling to know I’m helping protect American agriculture and animal health from potential diseases.

Being a vet with USDA has meant I get to do some pretty cool things.  I have participated in the review of the Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) program in several Mexican states and worked collaboratively on projects with Mexican animal health officials to collect serum from known TB infected cattle.  We are using these samples, and others collected in a variety of different countries and the United States, to validate better tests for bovine TB.  The hope is that these new tests could be used to enhance eradication or control programs worldwide.

Working in regulatory medicine for USDA has been everything I hoped it would be.  I get the opportunity here at NVSL to work with diseases and gain experiences I never would have if I’d gone into private practice.  Every night when I go home, I feel like I’ve accomplished something.  And I’m proud to keep the family tradition alive.

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.


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