Connie Lucero, Import Specialist, Division of Southwest Imports, Office of Enforcement and Import Operations, Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA), Food and Drug Administration
At a very young age, I became interested in microbiology and disease after learning that many of my relatives perished during the 1918 influenza pandemic. This discovery led me to study biology and get my first job at a local hospital in the microbiology department. I gained valuable experience, and this was where my journey began.
My name is Connie Lucero and I have been an investigator for the past 11 years for ORA in El Paso, Texas. Before joining ORA, I worked for the local health department as a laboratory supervisor where I was responsible for clinical testing and analysis of water and food. Whenever a food outbreak occurred, it was a time of “organized chaos” and an opportunity to put learning into practice to protect public health. This experience helped me develop a keen and measured approach in high-pressure situations.
My skills were put to the test just six months into my new ORA career when I volunteered to assist during a Salmonella outbreak. My experience working in laboratories and emergency response provided an important advantage in my role working with the responsible firm. I was able to interpret and explain the laboratory results in a meaningful manner, which led the firm to accept the findings and recall the product. Right then and there, I knew this was where I was meant to serve.
Today, as an import specialist, I am at the forefront of FDA’s mission to protect the public health by ensuring safe products. I inspect and collect samples of FDA-regulated imported products, such as food, animal feed, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, dietary supplements, radiological products, veterinary products, biologics, and tobacco to send to ORA laboratories. There the samples are analyzed to ensure they meet all FDA standards and don’t pose a health risk to the public. I also ensure that labeling is complete, accurate, and doesn’t make false claims. Products that do not meet FDA’s standards will not be allowed into the country.
Conducting audits is also a part of my job. Filer audits are performed to ensure electronic information sent to the FDA regarding imports is transmitted correctly and accurately, and that products are not omitted during declaration. I also complete Foreign Supplier Verification Program audits. These are inspections that ensure importers have an implemented plan against biological, chemical, and process hazards in the food they import and the ingredients they purchase.
I enjoy taking part in special assignments, such as conducting research, monitoring programs to ensure division goals are achieved, and assisting with domestic inspections. However, what I enjoy most of all is mentoring and providing guidance to others to see them succeed. I think that empowering others helps nourish the soul and benefits everyone in the long run.
It has been more than 100 years since the 1918 influenza pandemic, and FDA has gone global. In a way I feel that by serving in this global capacity, I honor those who came before me and continue to help secure a better future for upcoming generations. So, even though my ancestors endured a catastrophic event many years ago, it helped shape my desire to make our world a safer and healthier place to live. How fortunate I am to be living now and to be a part of this!
I am Connie Lucero and #IAmORA.