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Animal safety deserves a big "appaws"

Catherine Brisson did not always like science. "When I was 14 years old," she recalls, "I did not like biology at all, and my grades were poor." Today, times have changed. Not only does Catherine love science, she has become a huge success in her field! After 13 years of running her own veterinary hospital and years of education, Catherine is now the director of Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) Ottawa Animal Health Laboratory at the Ottawa Fallowfield Laboratory. She is living proof that interests and talents can change, and with an open mind and hard work, anything can be achieved.

So what influenced Catherine's love of science?

Her mom!

"As a Christmas gift, my mother gave me a medical dictionary and made me read it with her every evening". She recalls fondly, "I became a veterinarian thanks to my mother. Without her, I would not have continued towards the field of biology."

However, success did not come overnight. Even with the support of her family, Catherine had to dedicate herself to her studies. This dedication has proved worthwhile as she now has a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine, two complementary masters degrees, and years of experience in the veterinary field.

Catherine is not only passionate about what she does, she enjoys sharing her knowledge and advice. She is the first to tell anyone who is uncertain about their future to remember that there is more than one possible path. "I would advise them to follow their dreams, because there are several ways to achieve one's goals," she says. "I also advise everyone to do their best in their studies at all times, especially if you wish to pursue science. Think of doctors, dentists, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, and radiologists. These are all areas of study that are very, very, very competitive."

"I would advise them to follow their dreams, because there are several ways to achieve one's goals."

It is easy to understand her point of view when you think about science-based jobs, because these are some of the professions that keep Canadians safe and healthy. For example, Catherine's team at the Ottawa Animal Health Laboratory includes specialists who are dedicated to detect and fight against threatening diseases like rabies, tuberculosis and brucellosis. These diseases affect animals, but some can also affect people.

Catherine explains, "The purpose of our work and the tests we conduct is to ensure that the animals entering Canada do not contaminate our animals." When you figure that the livestock industry in Canada was valued at about $25 billion in 2018,Footnote 1 it is easy to see why the work she and her team perform at the lab is so very important. But the work and the learning do not stop there. To make sure the best testing methods are used at all times, they conduct research on the diseases and adjust testing methods accordingly. Simply put, Catherine, like all the scientists working at CFIA, never settles for mediocrity when it comes to the health and safety of Canada's food, plants and animals.

Learn more about Catherine Brisson, and the work being done at the internationally recognized Ottawa Animal Health Laboratory.

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