FSIS is the largest employer of veterinarians in the United States, consisting of 1,100 dedicated Public Health Veterinarians (PHV) who are trained in public health and regulatory medicine. These veterinarians verify the health of the animals destined for the food supply. Dr. Douglas Fulnechek is one of these veterinarians.
“Because I love my job so much as an Inspector-in-Charge/Supervisory Veterinary Medical Officer at the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), I really don’t need an alarm clock to get me up in the morning,” said Dr. Fulnechek. “And I’ve felt this way for 24 years now.”
For the last 15 years, he has worked as the senior FSIS official at a chicken slaughter and processing establishment in Springdale, Ark. As a PHV, he leads a 30-member team of supervisory consumer safety inspectors who verify that the products from the 250,000 chickens that the establishment slaughters and processes each day are safe, wholesome and correctly labeled and packaged. The work that Dr. Fulnechek and his team do is at the core of FSIS’ mission as a public health agency.
“My inspection team, and others like it across the country, protects Americans from foodborne illness by examining every chicken slaughtered at our assignment,” said Fulnechek. “We make sure that consumers get a safe, wholesome product every day.”
Dr. Fulnechek earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Oklahoma State University. He began work as an associate in a mixed animal practice, bought his own veterinary clinic in 1982 and worked for the Kerr Foundation’s brucellosis education project. He began his career with FSIS in Springdale and served as a Supervisory Veterinary Medical Officer with assignments in about 40 establishments.
He has authored a number of publications and was a member of the Blue Ribbon Task Force that authored, “The Future of FSIS Veterinarians: Public Health Professionals for the 21st Century.” Because of the task force, the working title of veterinarians in FSIS was changed to Public Health Veterinarian to reflect their role in protecting the public from foodborne illness.
From 2007-2009, Dr. Fulnechek served as President of the National Association of Federal Veterinarians and will begin a second term as President in 2013.
He sees the impact of his own training efforts and feels the same satisfaction in knowing his interns are now successful FSIS employees. “Being able to say ‘That is one of my interns,’ is a good feeling,” said Fulnechek, who has trained 101 interns. “My hope is that there will be a large group of well-prepared public health veterinarians who have learned leadership and food safety principles from my inspection team and me.”