Hello, I’m Dr. Larry Ludemann and I’m a Senior Staff Veterinarian for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) Center for Veterinary Biologics (CVB). It’s our job to make sure veterinary biologics, including vaccines, are safe, pure, potent and effective.
My duties include reviewing and licensing veterinary vaccines. Manufacturers looking for approval on a vaccine are required to submit supporting data and reports about the vaccine for analysis. I am responsible for writing a response to this submitted information. Before taking my current position, I also spent 13 years in the CVB testing lab.
I didn’t start out as a veterinarian – I began my career as a technician in a diagnostic laboratory. But I didn’t want to stay there for my entire career so I decided to give vet school a try. After graduating, I practiced for 16 months. Then I came to APHIS.
APHIS has been a great place to work. It’s provided me with a variety of challenges and opportunities. One experience that stands out was going to England in 2001 to help with the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak. I was one of the first ten USDA veterinarians who volunteered to go over there, arriving two weeks after the outbreak began. My job was to go to farms that were suspected to have the disease, collect samples for testing, and take the samples back to the lab for testing.
When tests that came back positive for the disease, it meant additional steps had to be taken. We had to go back to the farm and make sure all animals were depopulated. This was heart-wrenching. But it had to be done. FMD is one of the most contagious viruses of pigs, cattle and sheep and it causes great economic hardship in affected countries. To control an outbreak like the one England was experiencing meant depopulating all affected animals to stop the spread of the disease.
I could literally see people’s lives change. One farmhand broke down into tears because there were no longer any animals for him to take care of after depopulation. It was very heart wrenching when people’s livelihoods gone. But it was also fulfilling because you are doing something to help them end the disease so they can get back on their feet.