Hi, I’m Dr. Keith Wiggins, the Director of Veterinary Regulatory Support for USDA APHIS’s Plant Protection and Quarantine program. I’m the leader of an elite, diverse team of 21 veterinarians who safeguard America from animal diseases by regulating animal products, by-products, and regulated garbage. I’ve been with APHIS since 2005.
My team was recently awarded a Deputy Administrator’s Safeguarding Award for the informational documents and “No Free Ride” video we created to educate the public on how to handle regulated garbage. Our job can be pretty intense when you think about how a wrong decision could potentially let in a disease that could potentially cost billions of dollars and affect people’s lives. But we work hard to ensure the US stays free of potentially devastating animal diseases.
When I was five or six, I told my parents at my birthday party that I wanted to be a veterinarian. I was always in the woods collecting animals – bugs, salamanders, box turtles. Biology was the only class in school that I was really good at. So working with animals became my niche and eventually my career.
I consider myself luck to have learned and been mentored on veterinary medicine from some historic African American veterinarians. My mentor in college was the first female African American veterinarian, Dr. Webb. I was in vet school at the right time to benefit from being around a lot of people who were the first at something.
Today, I find it cool to go talk to kids at schools and do outreach about veterinary medicine. Many times, I’m the first diverse veterinarian the kids see. They don’t know that we do more than just take care of cats and dogs and they get amazed at the opportunities and possibilities.
The most fulfilling part of my job is to see the diversity in career paths veterinarians can take. You can grow in your career and do multiple things. The options are there – industry, teaching, practice, military, technical engineering, etc. You can truly pick your own path, as I’ve picked mine.