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Meet Dr. Carmencita Lake, CFIA veterinarian

My name is Dr. Carmencita Lake, and I can't think of a time when I didn't want to be a veterinarian.

Animals have always been a part of my life. Dogs, cats, rabbits and horses—my earliest memories of animals were those of our pets and farm animals in Inglewood, in the Nova Scotian Annapolis Valley, where I was born.

My family and I moved often but we always had animals wherever we lived, and it was these bonds that inspired me to become a veterinarian.

After 20 years in private practice, I'm proud that my current work at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) helps keep you and your loved ones safe.

Discover how I use my veterinary expertise to support public health and train other CFIA veterinarians and inspectors to do the same.

Bringing it all together

Though I knew being a veterinarian was my calling, I took an indirect route to becoming one.

I was eager to apply my skills in new settings. I worked in the United States and the Caribbean, where I had my own practice, before eventually moving back to Canada. As a woman in the field, I am proud to have had the opportunity to grow my veterinary expertise in unique places while contributing the lived experience of my own heritage.

My veterinary focus on preventative medicine and public health greatly influenced the direction of my career. I was looking for an opportunity to bridge the gap between these passions—and the CFIA became the environment where I could put this into practice.

From testing to teaching

In 2018, I became a veterinarian with the CFIA's Abbotsford district office.

My daily tasks varied a lot from one day to the next. I spent some days interpreting and documenting test results from animal samples in the office, while on others I conducted animal health inspections at ports of entry, farms, or animal by-product facilities.

Enforcing the Health of Animals Regulations in various settings was a crucial part of my position. At the borders and airports, these regulations are in place to ensure safe and humane travel for imported or exported animals. Luckily, I also got to maintain direct contact with animals, including cattle, birds, horses and pets, through frequent examinations.

Now, I'm based in Ottawa working as a national training specialist. I develop and deliver training materials to CFIA veterinarians and inspectors.

When I can, I go back to my district office and help out with key priorities. I play an active role in preparing to respond to animal disease outbreaks like avian influenza (also known as bird flu) as a co-lead of the biocontainment team in British Columbia.

The bottom line is: I'm constantly working to enrich public health. This means that communicating with the facilities I inspect and the people I work with is crucial, whether it be by email, phone or in person.

A passion for public health

When I finished veterinary school, I didn't consider working at the CFIA as an option. It wasn't until I spoke to former classmates and colleagues in the field that worked at the Agency that I found myself headed in this direction.

It's been a welcome albeit big shift to move into the public sector after spending almost 20 years in private practice. Approaching animal health from a population rather than individual perspective, and knowing that our work contributes to the health and safety of Canadians, is so inspiring. Plus, I work with an incredible team of colleagues.

Here at the CFIA, there are also so many opportunities to extend my work by volunteering. I am a member of committees and networks that allow me to connect with colleagues in meaningful ways. Last fall, I led a six-week study on Brian King's book, The Art of Taking It Easy, with dozens of CFIA employees joining in.

With the breadth of the tasks that I'm involved in, I see each day as an opportunity to learn something new. But knowledge comes with responsibility. I fulfill mine by sharing my passion and expertise in animal and veterinary science through teaching.

As a veterinarian, I am proud to represent my ethnicity, gender and Nova Scotian background. I hope to be an example for those who follow my path.

If you are an aspiring or practicing veterinarian, consider a career with the CFIA. Keep an eye on the latest job opportunities and contact our veterinary recruitment team to learn more about the possible career trajectories that await you.

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