Lydia Carpenter, DVM, MPH
What is your current position and what kinds of things do you do?
"I am a Veterinary Medical Officer (VMO) with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Veterinary Services (VS). I currently work in international animal movement and assist with the regulation of certain species into and out of the US through O'Hare International Airport (ORD) in Chicago. I co-manage the USDA activities at the international equine import quarantine and two livestock export facilities near ORD. I assist with the permitting of animals into the US as well as the exams/inspections prior to travel for exports and after arrival for imports. For the office work portion of the position, I review and endorse international health certificates for animals departing from the US.
What is your favorite thing about your current job?
"My favorite thing about my regular job is working with the import horses at the quarantine. The horses are thoroughly examined, scratched and treated for ectoparasites, tested for foreign animal diseases (dependent on country of origin), and monitored carefully during their quarantine. I work primarily with racehorses and competition horses (3-day eventers, hunters, etc.) at the import quarantine.
"My favorite thing about working for APHIS in general is the variety of opportunities available. I deployed for the FEMA COVID-19 vaccination effort for 3 weeks this past spring to vaccinate humans against COVID-19. During this time, I traveled to different areas of Oklahoma, from Oklahoma City to various small, rural towns with other USDA veterinarians to assist local health care workers. Humans ended up being significantly easier to vaccinate than any animal species I've ever worked with (and less likely to bite or kick)! I am currently finishing up a 60 day detail with APHIS VS as Emergency Coordinator in Puerto Rico, where I have been working as a member of the Incident Management Team (IMT) for a cattle fever tick eradication project, preparing for natural disasters/emergencies, and working on African Swine Fever (ASF) prevention efforts for the island. It has been a very rewarding experience with a great team.
How has your dual degree helped you in your current job?
"My dual degree has helped with my current job in two primary ways. First, the MPH has assisted with the identification and mitigation of potential zoonotic disease and public health threats from international animal travel (ex. rabies vaccination requirements for traveling animals, glanders in imported horses). The dual degree has also helped broaden my perspective and way of thinking - I am still working with individual animals at the quarantine and export facilities but am involved in a much wider framework that protects US animal agriculture. I work closely with Customs and Border Protection (CBP), international airlines, the APHIS Strategy and Policy unit, and the competent veterinary authorities of our international trading partners to ensure that regulatory requirements are met, appropriate disease and infestation mitigation measures are in place, and international trade can be facilitated.
"The MPH program helped me see how veterinary medicine and public health work are intertwined, as well as the importance of a multi-disciplinary approach to population health for both humans and animals.
When you first started thinking about being a veterinarian, what work did you envision doing? Has your expected career path changed since starting vet school?
"Like many of my classmates, I wanted to be a veterinarian from a young age. When I was younger, and even through my undergraduate education, I had a rather limited perspective of what veterinary medicine entailed. I thought clinical veterinary work was really the only option after vet school. During my first year of vet school, I was introduced to the MPH program and the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine at VMCVM. Thanks to some outstanding professors, I was immediately interested in epidemiology and infectious disease work. I am extremely thankful for Dr. Ragan and the other MPH and Public-Corporate professors that helped open my eyes to the other fields of veterinary medicine available.
What is one thing you wish all students knew about veterinary public practice?
"I wish more students knew that veterinary public practice was an option! There are so many job opportunities for veterinarians, from research to academia to infectious disease and biosecurity work. Dr. Ragan taught me the value of doing a self-inventory and using those results to help figure out what career paths could be a good fit for me.
Can you share with us a memorable clerkship or experience in the PC track?
"During my 4th year, I was able to complete a deployment with USDA APHIS VS to assist with the virulent Newcastle Disease (vND) outbreak in southern California. I stayed just outside of Los Angeles for 3 weeks and worked with APHIS VMOs and Animal Health Technicians (AHTs) on the Diagnostics and Investigations team. Most of the field work included identifying houses/premises that were exposed or at-risk for contracting vND, testing birds for the disease, and educating bird owners and the public about biosecurity and vND. It was a great networking opportunity and I met some wonderful people on the deployment. Interestingly, I've run into multiple people from the deployment in the years since, everywhere from Puerto Rico, to cattle ranches on the US-Mexico border, to ORD."