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  1. Animal Health Literacy

Dr. Cindy Burnsteel

Supervisory Veterinary Medical Officer
Office of New Animal Drug Evaluation

Cindy Burnsteel

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 always had a dog. I always wanted a horse when I was growing up, but never got one. I loved reading the James Herriot books and couldn’t wait to be a vet. I worked for a small animal vet throughout high school and into college. I double majored in biology and animal science so I could get some hands-on experience with farm animals. I applied to vet school with a group of three friends. We all got in, but one decided to go to medical school instead. I really never thought about being anything but a vet – until college. I almost did a master's program in genetics.

2. What made you want to work for CVM?

The truth, I was working for a 3000 cow dairy and running my own food animal private practice “on the side”. I was a 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 2 weeks later, 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 that same year, a friend 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 the job is never boring. The science and technologies are always changing, presenting new challenges and new opportunities. It is an "ever-learning atmosphere" and the impacts you have on improving animal health are rewarding. Also, it is cool that all of the therapeutic drugs for use in food animals come through one of 20 people in my group - puts it all in perspective.

4. What does the veterinary profession mean to you?

I believe the veterinary profession is a very dedicated and intelligent group of people who often do not get the respect they deserve. It is full of people with expertise in all areas, similar to MDs. We are problem solvers and caregivers, business owners and hand-holders...we are integral parts of countless households, and, above all, we are doctors.

5. 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. The cow wound up having a twisted uterus - the opening for the calf to come out was twisted shut. Between the farmer, his son, and me, we “rolled the cow” to untwist the uterus. Usually, once this is done, the cow will go on to have her calf. We went inside for an hour to give her time to labor. An hour later (at 9 PM – outside, in the winter, with a freezing cold wind blowing), I checked on the cow and she had not dilated at all. 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 delivered a live heifer (female) calf and the cow was fine too and went on to have more calves. They named the calf Cindy.

Another memorable moment was when I had to do the same thing at a dairy client's 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.