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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Animal & Veterinary

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Cindy Burnsteel

Supervisory Veterinary Medical Officer
Office of New Animal Drug Evaluation
 

 Cindy Burnsteel with brown cow
 Cindy Burnsteel with Apple
1. Why did you become a veterinarian?

My parents say that since I could talk, I said I wanted to be a vet. I always liked animals. We only ever had one dog at a time. I always wanted a horse. Never got one. I loved the James Herriot books and couldn’t wait to be a vet. I worked for a vet in high school, took Animal Science as a major in college (so I could be hands-on with animals), and applied for and went to vet school. I just never thought about being anything different – until college. I almost went to do a master's in genetics.

2. What made you want to work for CVM?

The truth, I was working for a 3000 cow dairy and doing my own food animal private practice “on the side”. I was the single mom of a 4 year old and thinking toward the future when he would be in school and it would not be good to drag him out of bed to go on emergency calls in the middle of the night. In June of 1999, I went on a medical mission trip to Honduras. When I came back after 2 weeks, my work did not bring me the enjoyment it did before I left. I wanted to have a bigger impact. I didn’t know that at the time, but I know it now…the timing was perfect. In September, Steven Vaughn called me to see if I would be interested in working for the government…2 weeks later I was working at CVM.

3. What is the best thing about being a veterinarian for CVM?

The best thing about being a vet at CVM is that you are surrounded by professionals who you can confer with. In practice, you are “on your own”. I love the connection I have with other people at CVM. Also, it is cool that all of the antimicrobials for use in food animals come through one of six people in my group J - puts it all in perspective.

4. What is your most memorable moment as a veterinarian?

Gosh, there are so many great memories of challenging times in private practice…Most memorable is one night I was called to the farm of one of my best beef cattle clients for a difficult calving. Usually, my clients don’t need my help for something like that, so I knew it would be bad. I spent awhile trying to figure out what was wrong. She wound up having a twisted uterus - the opening for the calf to come out was twisted shut. Between the farmer and his son and me, we “rolled the cow” to untwist the uterus. Then we went inside for an hour to give her time to dilate, so she would have the calf on her own. An hour later (at 9 PM – outside, in the winter, freezing cold), when I checked on the cow, she had not dilated. We could have waited but it was late and we were tired and the calf was very valuable, so we opted to do a cesarean section. It was brutally cold and we had been working on the cow for hours. We got a live heifer (female) calf and the cow was fine too and went on to have more calves. They named the calf Cindy.

I just did the same thing at a dairy clients farm only it was 100 degrees in the summer and my clothes were drenched in sweat and I was so exhausted when I was done that I had to sit down for 15 minutes, before I could clean up. I called my husband from my car in the garage so he could come and help me into the house!

Though I hate being cold, I think the cold one was easier than the one in the summer; of course, I was 15 years younger when I did the one in winter J.