Gator Vet Tails | July 2023

Supervisory Public Health Veterinarian

Dr. Meghan Jesse

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), Office of Field Operations (OFO) | Tar Heel, NC

Meg Jesse, Cow

Current Supervisory Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Meghan Jessee is a UF CVM 2022 graduate. Working under the USDA as a Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) veterinarian, Dr. Jessee plays an integral role in food animal medicine. Through mentorship from her predecessor and opportunity for growth within the field, she hopes to continue to thrive in this niche of veterinary medicine.

How did UF CVM prepare you to embark into “the real world” and start your DVM career?

The curriculum at UF CVM is challenging to even the most advanced students. There were times in veterinary school I thought I wouldn’t succeed. Learning how to navigate hardship and self-doubt, whether academic or personal, is a skill I learned while at UF CVM. My “real world” job presents several challenges: supervision of employees, adaptation to changes in the workplace, completion of government training courses, and most importantly, protecting the American consumer. I am constantly learning more about veterinary medicine, public health, and food safety.  Something I love about veterinary medicine is that it will always be challenging.  Vet school gave me the confidence to conquer any challenge life throws my way.

What is one of your fondest memories or meaningful experiences from your time at UF CVM?

One of the most meaningful experiences I had at UF CVM was the opportunity to have a vet school “big” and two vet school “littles”. I loved that I was able to turn to my big with questions about classes and student life, and I loved mentoring my littles the same way. It was fun watching them grow and succeed as students and clinicians. This is a great opportunity given to students at UF CVM.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently in veterinary school?

If I could go back, I would consider completing a master’s degree in public health (MPH) during my time at UF CVM given my current career path. Looking back, it would have given me a head start in my career.

Is there anything in the veterinary field you would like to see change?

I would love to see a better understanding of how the food system works and the role that veterinary medicine plays in that system. Many people don’t know a veterinarian’s role in food animal medicine, whether in a production plant or on the farm. Lots of people think steak comes from the grocery store! There is so much more to it than that. Veterinarians contribute greatly to the health and welfare of the animals we eat. I see animals just as they are about to enter the food system. An on-farm veterinarian has been involved in their nutrition, vaccinations, and treatment of illnesses months before they see me. Next time you have a slice of bacon, thank a food animal veterinarian!

What do you enjoy most about your current position?

What I love most about being a public health veterinarian is the impact I have on the animals at my facility and on the public consumer. I work at the largest hog slaughter plant in the world. My facility processes about 18,000 hogs per shift and a USDA employee touches each one. Ensuring hogs are handled humanely before they undergo processing is a huge part of my job. If I can prevent a hog from suffering, I have done my job well. After processing, I ensure that diseased animals do not enter the food supply. Some conditions can be trimmed while others cause the carcass and parts to be U.S. condemned. This meat is rendered inedible for human consumption.  FSIS has a mission to produce meat and egg products that are safe, wholesome, and properly labeled to the public. I love working towards that mission every day.

How do you practice work-life balance?

In my current position, I work a nine-hour shift five days a week. One great thing about working for the government is my overtime is always paid and I always leave on time! I like to spend my evenings playing with my dog, going to work out classes, relaxing and cooking dinner, or hanging out with friends. We do work every other Saturday, which is not always ideal. To manage this, I try to eat well, workout through the week, and spend the Saturdays I do have off doing something fun!

Do you have any career goals you are currently pursuing?

Something that drew me to the USDA is the opportunity for growth as a veterinarian. Many senior roles are available to veterinarians in the USDA in compliance, policy, program development, risk management, foreign animal disease prevention and so much more! There are jobs in the field as well as remote and in the office. In veterinary school, I applied and was admitted to the Adel A. Malak scholarship program. This program offers veterinary students $15,000 a year towards their education in return for two years of work as an in-plant supervisory veterinarian for the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS). I owe 2 years to the USDA. As I begin my second year at my current duty station, I hope to grow as a veterinarian and supervisor and eventually move on to a more senior role. I am interested in working with foreign animal diseases or policy. 

What does mentorship look like for you at this point in your career?

I feel lucky to have great mentorship in my position within the Raleigh district. Upon taking this job, I contacted the veterinarian who held my position previously. She helped to walk me through the responsibilities of an FSIS veterinarian and is always helping me when things go awry! I try to help incoming veterinarians in the same way to pay back the favor.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Since moving to North Carolina, I have picked golf up as a hobby. I live about an hour from Pinehurst, so golf is a huge deal here. I’m not the best, but I’ve met great friends on the course! I also enjoy being outside and taking workout classes at Orange Theory.

What is one thing you couldn’t live without?

Sweets. I have a major sweet tooth! My favorite is a frosted lemonade from Chick Fil A.

How many and what type of pets do you have?

I have a 10-year-old black lab named Odie. Odie was a clinical mentor at UF CVM. He lives in NC now and loves it here! I live on a lake, and he loves to go swimming every day. Having him as emotional support has really helped me through my first year on my own. I thought about getting another dog but having another dog around really cramps Odie’s style. He will be an only child for the rest of his time!