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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


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Science and Our Food Supply Careers: Bonnie Buntain, DVM, MS

Careers in Food Science Main Page

"No matter your color, race, or disability, you can be anything you want to be."

Career Title:
Assistant Deputy Administrator, Office of Public Health and Science
Food Safety and Inspection Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Washington, DC

Fields of Expertise:
Veterinary Medicine
Food Safety Administration

Academic Studies:
University of Hawaii
Honolulu, Hawaii
Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Animal Science

Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

Employment History:
Horseback Trail Leader
(while in high school)

(while in high school)

Sole Proprietor of Veterinary Clinic
Oahu, Hawaii

National Program Leader for Veterinary Medicine
Extension Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Washington, DC

Director of Animal Production Food Safety Staff
Office of Policy Program Development and Evaluation
Food Safety and Inspection Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Washington, DC


"If I hadn't chosen my present career, I would have become . . . marine biologist or rancher."


Q: What do you do in your current job?
I directly oversee two divisions of scientists (approximately 50 people) and share in the administration of the entire office of scientists (300 people) who determine the scientific basis of our food safety policies, regulations, and programs for meat, poultry, and egg products.

Q: What led you to your career?
I started out as a veterinarian. I was a horse doctor for 10 years in Hawaii. Veterinary medicine plays a critical role in food safety. For instance, we inspect food animals to make sure they are safe to eat.

My interest in public service is what really led me to my current career. I wanted to reach a high enough level where I would make a difference in public health. In government, the higher you advance, the more opportunity there is for directly influencing policies and programs that benefit public health.

Q: What new scientific discoveries have you been involved in during your career?
A: USDA, along with a consortium of veterinary colleges at various universities, worked on a nationwide study involving dairy cows at slaughter plants. We wanted to determine if skinny cows were less safe to eat than fat, healthy cows. The theory was that Salmonella infection was more of a primary or secondary problem in skinny cows. If we could determine the presence of Salmonella just by a cow's appearance, then we could possibly decrease the amount of Salmonella coming into the slaughter plants, which, in turn, would reduce the amount of Salmonella in the food.

In the end, we were not able to prove this theory, but it just goes to show that all experiments may not turn out the way you plan, but you definitely learn a lot in the process.

Q: What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a career in science?
Follow your heart! No matter your color, race, or disability, you can be anything you want to be. Be flexible. There are so many opportunities in science. Some may even be right under your nose, so be aware, and take advantage of them.



May 2001