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Uncommon Veterinarian Podcast: Interview with Food Safety Veterinarian Dr. Romina Hennig

Opinion

This is Episode 4 of the Uncommon Veterinarian Podcast, originally published on Elliott Garber’s Uncommon Veterinarian website and printed here with permission.

In this episode, I interview Dr. Romina Hennig, a 2009 veterinary graduate from the University of Florida. She currently works full-time in Washington, D.C., as an Enforcement, Investigations and Analysis Officer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

If you’re anything like I used to be, you’re probably thinking something like, “Ugh, I could never work as a vet for FSIS. All those hours working with dead animals on the slaughter lines sounds horrible.”

It’s true that FSIS veterinarians play a key role in ensuring the safety of our country’s meat supply, but this role is primarily in the supervising of actual food inspectors who do the majority of the more tedious labor. Veterinarians are employed to work as veterinarians – animal and public health experts – not food inspectors.

Hennig also serves as a Veterinary Corps officer in the U.S. Army Reserves, training with a unit that drills out of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, NJ. I was especially interested to learn more about this work in the Reserves, as I’m seriously considering a transition into that area of military service when my commitment to active duty is up next summer.

We discussed Hennig’s path into her current uncommon work as a veterinarian, and this quotation really resonated with me:

“As an undergrad, I thought I was going to go to medical school but ended up making the decision to go to veterinary school because I wanted to do something that would help both animals and humans. I didn’t realize at the time that this is basically the description of a public health veterinarian!”

The Video Interview

Audio:

Links We Mentioned

Food Safety & Inspection Service: FSIS employs more than 1,100 veterinarians, making it the largest employer in our profession. This collection of short biographies of current FSIS employees provides a nice introduction into the different types of jobs veterinarians can have with the organization. You can also learn more about applying for a job with FSIS here or check out my blog post featuring five helpful resources for those who are interested in federal veterinary jobs. Learn about opportunities to set up a paid internship/externship with FSIS veterinarians here.

U.S. Army Reserve Veterinary Corps: You can find a great overview of current opportunities and assignments as a veterinarian in the Army Reserve here. The Army’s general site on the Veterinary Corps also has a lot of great information, but you can also learn about my personal experiences as a vet in the Army here.

What You Will Learn in This Episode

  • What FSIS veterinarians actually do in their daily jobs.
  • Why a job with FSIS can be a good foot in the door for other types of federal employment as a veterinarian.
  • What the salary and other benefits are for a new grad FSIS veterinarian and vet in the Army Reserve.
  • Why the personal contacts Hennig made during her summer internships and elective rotations were so important for the success of her job hunt.
  • How you can set up a similar training experience to learn more about career options in food safety and public health.
  • Why Hennig likes having the opportunity to “step into another life” during her Army Reserve training.
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