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Meet Dr. Yves Robinson, CFIA veterinary pathologist

My name is Yves Robinson. I was born in Gaspé, eastern Québec, where my interest in veterinary medicine was sparked at very young age.

When I was six years old, my mother gave me a little toy farm with animals as a Christmas gift. I liked it so much that I told her I would help cows when they get sick someday—even though I had never seen a live cow before.

Little did I know that I would have a long and fulfilling career at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) years later, which regulates the humane transportation of animals and treatment of food animals in federal abattoirs.

Dreams do come true

In 1975, I realized my dream of becoming a veterinarian as I graduated from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Université de Montréal. Afterwards, I pursued general veterinary practice and made my six-year-old self proud: I was finally able to  treat sick cows.

But after a while, I felt that I needed to do more. I had the urge to learn about the actual diseases that made cows sick, and decided to complete my graduate studies in pathology.

The idea of becoming a pathologist first came to me as an undergraduate student. I had an amazing professor and was determined to follow his footsteps. I'm thankful each day for his inspiration, which led to obtaining my Master of Science degree in Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology from Université de Montréal.

In fact, I think it was the best thing I have done in my life. I am very passionate about my job and transferring my knowledge and enthusiasm to current and aspiring veterinarians students through teaching.

25 years and counting

After a few years working for the provincial government as a diagnostic pathologist, I accepted a job with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in 1982. The department would later become part of the newly formed CFIA.

I was there when the CFIA opened its doors in 1997. Over 25 years later, I still see my job as a hobby because the opportunity to learn something new each day is truly a privilege.

I support veterinarians working in abattoirs, whose priority is to ensure food animals are safe to eat. In order to keep our food supply safe, they need to know whether the animals are disease-free.

That's where I come in. My colleagues on the frontlines rely on pathologists like me  to help them to make diagnoses. To do so, the veterinarians submit samples to one of our laboratories for diagnosis, and we help determine if the meat is safe for human consumption.

The importance of animal health and well-being

At the CFIA, we were fortunate to adopt telepathology. This practice allows veterinarians working in abattoirs to submit pictures to pathologists from a distance. After studying the lesions, the pathologist connects with the veterinarian who requested our services to confirm whether an immediate diagnosis is possible or the samples should be submitted to the laboratory for further analysis. The use of telepathology has helped to decrease the manipulation and exposure to formalin (a chemical product used to fix tissues) in abattoirs.

In the last few years, the CFIA developed another way to support veterinarians  regarding animal welfare issues related to Part XII of the Health of Animals Regulations. The overall objective of the stronger regulations is that animals arrive at their destination safely, and are suitably fed, hydrated and rested. 

The rules also state that no person shall load, confine or transport an animal that is unfit, or cause one to be loaded, confined or transported, in a conveyance or container. An unfit animal is one that is non-ambulatory (cannot walk), has a fracture that impedes its mobility, or shows signs of trouble or pain from walking.

Where there are any cases of non-compliance at an abattoir, CFIA veterinarians once again need pathologists' help to make a proper diagnosis as part of the overall investigation. A good example is when animals brought to an abattoir cannot walk. The veterinarian needs to know the cause: did something happen before, during or after transport?

When a CFIA veterinarian suspects that the abnormalities were there before the animal was loaded for transport, a report must be filed. Pathologists are sometimes called upon to study the bone of the suspicious leg(s) at the laboratory to determine the nature and age of the lesions.

At the laboratory, we also take pictures and keep the bones as evidence in the event that the matter goes to court. This is an aspect of the job that I really enjoy because, besides science, I am involved with photography and exchanging information with people that need my help.

The CFIA is hiring veterinarians

Studying in veterinary medicine is a passport for an exciting career. Working here has allowed me to realize a few dreams, including working in science while serving Canadians and directly contributing to the safety of our food supply.

If you're currently a veterinarian—or on the path to becoming one—I urge you to consider a career with the CFIA. We work in all kinds of environments and touch on many aspects of animal health, including disease surveillance and control, international standard-setting, and biologics and biotechnology.

Among other perks, the Agency offers flexible work/life balance, learning and development opportunities, excellent benefits, a support network, and connectedness to our professional community.

Learn more about what it's like to be a veterinarian at the CFIA and apply today.

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Normal pig femur.

Pig femur showing an old fracture with new bone formation.

Dr. Yves Robinson with an image of a cow brain with lesions on a computer.

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