I’m Dr. Beverly Schmitt. I work for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa, where I’m the Director of the Diagnostic Virology Lab (DVL). I’ve been with NVSL for 19 years. Before I came to APHIS, I served as the virology lab manager at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Veterinary Diagnostic Center.
Becoming a veterinarian was a gradual process for me. When I was growing up, there was a vet who routinely came to our family farm. I respected the work he did and liked working with animals, so I eventually looked into becoming a veterinary technician, and then made the decision to try to get into veterinary school.
I made a good choice becoming a veterinarian and I really enjoy my job. There have been many very exciting experiences that have come my way over the years. There are two that come to mind. I’ve enjoyed serving as the Vice President of the World Animal Health Organization (OIE) Biological Standards Commission. The second is that our lab in Ames was the first to isolate West Nile virus when it first entered the country in 1999.
Being part of the national reference lab means DVL employees and I are very involved when animal disease outbreaks occur. I got my feet wet back in the 1990s with a small vesicular stomatitis outbreak, where I learned how the lab needed to respond and how the task-forces were set up. This was good training for later outbreaks dealing with Exotic Newcastle Disease and avian influenza.
It is fulfilling to see the lab provide an excellent response to outbreaks, as well as handling emerging diseases and coming up with the diagnostics needed for a new disease agent. Our staff members are dedicated, experienced individuals who make things happen.