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Introducing the National Association of Federal Veterinarians

Introducing the National Association of Federal Veterinarians

NAFV Policy Position Statement News Public Health

Introducing the National Association of Federal Veterinarians

October 29, 2020|NAFV Policy Position Statement, News, Public Health

FEDforum - October 13, 2020

Turkey club sandwich.

Imagine for a second that you are about to make a classic American turkey club sandwich. What would be some of the ingredients you would need for such? Fresh bread with a thin layer of mayo, medium-thick slices of turkey topped with some salty bacon, and fresh crisp tomato and lettuce to top it all off. While you may not realize it, you have Federal Veterinarians to thank as they are involved with ensuring that all of the ingredients (except the bread) in that turkey club are abundantly available, safe to eat and at a reasonable price[1].  The National Association of Federal Veterinarians (NAFV) represents those veterinarians and are focused on ensuring that federal veterinarians have the tools and support they need to continue to provide their critical service.

“But I thought veterinarians only took care of pets” you may say. Federal veterinarians are engaged in public practice rather than private practice. Their efforts lie at the intersections of human, animal, and environmental health. They work in programs such as public health, food safety and food animal production, bio-defense in the form of antimicrobial resistance and foreign animal disease prevention, pandemic preparedness, and disaster readiness and response. The most obvious connection between their work and the turkey club is in the primary ingredients, the turkey and bacon. In both poultry and swine production, veterinarians help protect against production losses caused by serious diseases and provide key supervisory and technical components of the food inspection programs that ensure safe and wholesome standards for consumers. 

On the live-animal side, veterinarians are also involved in disease tracking and eradication programs that ensure continuous supply. Some of the ways these efforts have impacted animal health include the eradication of brucellosis and tuberculosis in both swine and cattle, pseudorabies, etc. in the United States. They also include responses to animal disease outbreaks such as H1N1 avian influenza. These efforts culminate in the ensuring of a steady, economically stable food supply being made available to the American public. 

Further, some of the other roles performed by federal veterinarians may be less obvious but are no less important. For example, veterinarians involved in vector-borne disease (carried by insects) work impact the protection of livestock and plants from foreign pests and diseases. So, in a less-direct way, the lettuce and tomatoes that are in your turkey club sandwich have also been aided by federal veterinary work. Federal veterinarians play key roles in national agricultural defense through domestic and foreign animal disease protection programs. Such efforts have been instrumental in ensuring the prosperity of US trade interests, including food and agriculture exports.  

Outside of the agriculture sphere, federal veterinarians also play a critical role in supporting human and public health efforts through animal disease work. For example, work centered around zoonotic diseases (such as COVID-19), benefits greatly from veterinary expertise in epidemiology and response efforts. Indeed, all the different facets of public veterinary work are deeply engrained in public health and one health frameworks. As such, ensuring that the federal veterinary workforce is well-equipped, both in numbers and expertise, becomes an important task. 

This task of supporting and advocating for the federal veterinary workforce has been NAFV’s mission since its inception. NAFV was formed in 1918 and strives to serve both veterinarians and the federal agencies they work for by facilitating communication, making suggestions for improvements, and working collaboratively to address issues of concern. Through a collaborative agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and through communications campaigns aimed at educating policy makers and the American public of their work, NAFV strives to be an effective conduit to the critical missions being performed by federal veterinarians. As an advocate for veterinarians in federal service, NAFV emphasizes professionalism and expertise in federal service, while promoting continuing education, teamwork, and a standard of excellence.

[1] Federal veterinarians ensure the wholesomeness of the turkey, health of the cow where the cream for the butter came from, the eggs in the mayonnaise and if by some chance the tomato or lettuce became contaminated with something like E coli, of some animal origin (think bagged lettuce recalls) they do the investigation to ensure it doesn't happen again. 

The column part of the FEDforum, an initiative to unite voices across the federal community. The FEDforum is a space for federal employee groups to share their organizations’ initiatives and activities with the FEDmanager audience.  

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