By: Stephanie Fisher, program manager and policy analyst, Governmental Relations Division
Veterinarian Erin Casey is a Science and Technology Policy Fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and is currently placed at the U.S. Department of State. She served as a member of the inaugural class of the AVMA Future Leaders Program and as an extern with the AVMA GRD office while a student at the University of Georgia.
Q: Explain your role as an AAAS Fellow at the U.S. State Department. What kind of projects are you working on?
Casey: I’m a Program Officer with the Cooperative Threat Reduction Biosecurity Engagement Program. Our office focuses on scientific engagement, biosecurity and disease surveillance in a global context. My geographic portfolio is sub-Saharan Africa, which has involved exciting travel and interesting projects pertaining to zoonotic disease surveillance capacity and public health infrastructure. My portfolio includes maintaining relationships with the World Organisation for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. I had the opportunity to visit the headquarters of both organizations last December to attend meetings and discuss project ideas.
Q: How do you use your skills and expertise as a veterinarian in your work?
Casey: Our expertise as veterinarians is universal and can be applied to many work settings. We are trained in communications, we know how to manage multiple situations concurrently, and develop critical thinking and problem solving skills before even graduating from school. I utilize these skills on a daily basis through interactions with colleagues and managing programs, in addition to relying on both my general medicine training and zoonotic disease background in the context of biosafety training, securing storage of select agents, and One Health programmatics.
Q: When you decided to become a veterinarian, did you know that you wanted to be involved in policy and international affairs?
Casey: I knew entering veterinary school that my ultimate goal would be to pursue a career in public health or policy. Throughout school, I focused on both large and small animal rotations to broaden my clinical experience and also took advantage of the many public policy opportunities available to students, such as the AVMA Governmental Relations Division externship.
In addition, my ecological research background prior to veterinary school directed me toward a One Health approach to my overall training in medicine. While in school, I recognized the importance of a strong diagnostic background and clinical skill development. For this reason, I pursued a rotating small animal medicine and surgery internship before entering small animal practice for two years. This clinical diagnostic experience strengthened my skills as a veterinarian while continuing to prepare me for additional career opportunities.
Q: What advice would you give to other veterinarians interested in alternative careers in policy and public health?
Casey: I recommend keeping an open mind to different possibilities. I strongly feel that there is rarely a “wrong decision” in life; it is possible to learn from every choice and every situation. Our training and skill set as veterinarians truly does prepare us for multiple professional paths and the options beyond clinical practice expand every year. I have found that networking with other veterinarians who are in non-traditional roles, locally, nationally and internationally, is informative, inspiring and motivating.
Q: After your time as an AAAS Fellow, what is the next place you expect your career path to take you?
Casey: My career path thus far has involved being in the right place at the right time with the right people. It is a simple approach and hard work does play a role, but opportunities tended to come forward if I kept an open mind to the possibilities. The training I have received through the fellowship has made me a stronger, more rounded scientist, strengthened my diplomatic and communication skills, and significantly expanded my professional network. For these reasons, I am excited to consider my career options after the fellowship.