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Meet Dr. Caitlyn Best, CFIA veterinary program officer

My name is Caitlyn Best and I have a passion for veterinary medicine, spending time outdoors, and puzzles. I like a fast-paced work environment where I can make a meaningful difference on a larger scale. This is where my work as an epidemiologist, or animal disease detective, comes in.

In my role at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), I work to protect Canada's animals and food supply every day. I'm confident that my work has a positive impact on the lives of all Canadians.

I started my career in the private sector, then took a leap and joined Canada's largest science-based regulator, where I've worked as a veterinarian for the last 5 years.

Becoming a veterinarian

Biology was my favourite subject in high school, so I pursued that interest by enrolling at Thompson Rivers University for a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Animal Biology. I spent time learning about agriculture and working in veterinary clinics, which provided the foundation of my career interests today.

I obtained my Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan in 2016.

My final course before graduation was a two-week veterinary student rotation with the CFIA. I learned that within regulatory medicine there are many different career paths such as food safety, animal welfare, exports, disease investigations, and more!

After graduation, I jumped into mixed animal private practice. When a veterinary job with the CFIA became available in my area, I decided to change paths and try something new. I was captivated by the important mandate and career possibilities, all the while still providing the ability to work with a diverse range of animals. Is there another job you can think of that involves swabbing falcons, collecting oysters, shipping fertilizers abroad, and inspecting international waste from cruise ships—all in the span of a week?

My interest in epidemiology took me back to the University of Saskatchewan. In 2021, I earned my Master of Science in Veterinary Field Epidemiology.

In this program, I focused on investigation and preparedness. These are two imperative aspects of epidemiology and disease prevention that provided the foundation for my new role upon returning to the CFIA.

On the frontlines: critical, fast-paced (team)work

I am a Veterinary Program Officer with the CFIA Western Area Operations Specialist Unit. My colleagues and I focus on preparing for animal disease outbreaks such as African swine fever and bovine tuberculosis, and responding to emergencies when they occur.

We work as a team to prepare for outbreaks, and if one develops, our goal is to stop or slow the spread. My team and I are ready to respond as soon as a positive case of a disease is confirmed.

Starting in December 2021, I was the field epidemiology lead for the ongoing avian influenza (also known as bird flu) outbreak in Atlantic and Western Canada. Our team interviewed producers with flocks infected with avian influenza. These interviews provided insight into how the disease may have been introduced or where it may spread to next. We collected and analyzed data, helping us identify the risks and map out next steps.

When we're not involved in an outbreak, my team works hard to anticipate and prepare for issues that could arise from unsafe or infected products and animals coming into Canada.

Meant to be

As a veterinary student, I was inspired by the variety of work performed by the Agency's veterinarians and the impact it has. Not only do I find my role rewarding, but when I wanted to expand my knowledge and skillset, the CFIA fully supported my return to school for my master's in field epidemiology.

While I do spend more time in an office setting now, you'll still find me doing important field work and travelling to different locations.

I am fortunate to be surrounded by a team of supportive and enthusiastic experts. We all have different backgrounds and lives outside of work. We come together to tackle big issues in an environment that supports equity, diversity and inclusion.

Everything I do at the CFIA supports animal health, the safety of Canada's food supply, and the prosperity of our agricultural industry.

Sure, it's a big job, but we're all in this together!

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