Dr. Carrie Clark Applies Her Love of Learning to FSIS Role

Dr. Carrie Clark, [HHS Graduate, ‘89] Veterinary Medical Officer with the Office of Policy and Program Development’s Policy Development Staff (OPPD PDS) in Omaha, Nebraska, has been with [Food Safety Inspection Service] FSIS for nine years. Working for FSIS was not always part of her plan though. Dr. Clark’s early jobs were in food service. How did she get here?

Dr. Carrie Clark

Taking phone calls about policy questions from field personnel and industry is just one of the many things Dr. Clark does during a typical day. Photo by Daisy Burns, Staff Officer, PDS/OPPD.

After working for 10 years in management positions in the food service industry, she decided to pursue a college degree. She always knew she wanted something more; she loves a challenge and learning new things. “I like knowing more today than I knew yesterday,” said Clark. She started attending community college but did not feel challenged enough, so she transferred to The University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota where she fell in love with science. While studying biology and chemistry, she took a part-time job at a veterinary clinic. She liked the work and decided to pursue a veterinary degree because it provided so many career options.

 A Turning Point

While in veterinary school, Clark took a temporary job with USDA to work on the Exotic Newcastle Disease Task Force in California. One of the people she worked with on the Task Force was an FSIS public health veterinarian (PHV). He encouraged her to consider a career with FSIS; he said it was the best career decision he had ever made.

 After graduating with her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Iowa State University, Clark worked in a small animal practice. When the clinic closed and she was deciding her next steps, she recalled her past conversation with the FSIS PHV.  He had seemed so excited and happy about his career.  She, too, wanted a job that was meaningful and would provide her with that same sense of excitement and satisfaction.

 Joining the FSIS Team

Clark began her career with FSIS in the Office of Field Operations, where she was the PHV at a small goat establishment in Mission, Texas. The job required moving her family from South Dakota, which meant a lot of changes, but she believes it is was the right decision. She found the job interesting, challenging and meaningful. Every day, she had the opportunity to learn something new.

After a year, she completed Enforcement, Investigations and Analysis Officer (EIAO) training and worked as an EIAO, responsible for food safety assessments and recall effectiveness checks. Over the course of her FSIS career, opportunities continued to present themselves. She has never tired of the job because it is different every day.

 As a staff officer with OPPD PDS, Clark provides answers to technical and inspection-related questions from the field and industry through askFSIS and the Small Plant Help Desk. She also helps identify policy needs in the field from the incoming questions and develops policy issuances to provide instruction on in-plant inspection activities. “I am proud to have the opportunity to help the Agency’s dedicated and hard-working field personnel with their questions regarding policy,” said Clark. “I also find fulfillment and satisfaction in the work I do with my colleagues in applying science, using statutes and interpreting data to develop policies and provide instruction that helps promote safety of meat, poultry and processed egg products.”

 Clark describes her co-workers as amazing. “I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to work with so many talented and hard-working people here in PDS, in OPPD, and throughout the Agency as a whole. In both my previous work in the field as a PHV and EIAO, and in my position here as a staff officer, I have always been so proud to be a part of a team that is committed to bringing their best every day to the very important job of ensuring the food we eat is safe.”

 Engaging with consumer safety inspectors and PHVs in the field is an opportunity Clark especially appreciates. There are many different establishments near her Omaha office, and she enjoys taking visitors on plant visits and interacting with colleagues in the field. These contacts are important when developing various guidance documents, as it allows her to get input from the field on what they need.

Training is Key

FSIS empowered Clark by providing training through the various stages of her career. PDS Deputy Director Dr. Scott Seebohm said, “In her years with OPPD, Carrie has always invested in developing her skills to meet identified needs. For example, Carrie has expanded her expertise in the area of thermal processing to help ensure we have enough coverage for those kinds of questions. In addition, Carrie has developed her talents in data analysis and visualization to help us ensure that our decisions are supported by relevant data. She’s also just a great team member who helps to support her colleagues in PDS, OPPD, and FSIS as a whole.”

Off-duty Hours

When not at work, Clark enjoys taking walks or going on bike rides with her husband, G.L. Clark, and cooking with her 11-year-old son, Michael, who understands the importance of following the clean, separate, cook and chill practices. She loves sharing information about food safety and the work she does at FSIS and has spoken about these at her son’s school and to several other classes.

 Wherever the future takes her, Clark hopes to continue to “take advantage of every opportunity to expand my knowledge base, to increase my network of colleagues and collaborators and to take on new challenges.”