Dr. Raul Frontera – Rolling with 25 Years of Changes
Dr. Raul Frontera, a frontline supervisor (FLS) in the Raleigh District’s Wilson Circuit in eastern North Carolina, has served in FSIS more than 25 years. Frontera began his FSIS career in June 1994 as a supervisory public health veterinarian (SPHV) in Lewiston, North Carolina, and became an FLS in 2007. In this role, Frontera is responsible for all inspection activities at 12 food producing establishments in the circuit. He directly supervises 10 SPHVs in poultry and red meat slaughter facilities and 5 consumer safety inspectors (CSI) on patrol assignments in processing facilities. He also oversees inspection of three storage/freezer facilities that export FSIS-regulated product to foreign countries.
Frontera has seen a lot of changes at FSIS. When he started at FSIS as a SPHV in 1994, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) inspection methods had not been introduced. The Agency implemented the new methods from January 1997 to January 2000 in all FSIS- and state-inspected meat and poultry slaughter and processing establishments across the nation. Says Frontera, “HACCP was a major change for the industry; we went from telling industry what to do, to verifying that they were implementing their established food safety programs and the HACCP and Sanitation Standard Operating Procedure regulations.”
Dr. Frontera reviews establishment data in the inspection office at P-40183. Photo by Dr. Brandy Davis, OFO.
Frontera believes that every job in FSIS is important, because employees share the common goal of ensuring that meat, poultry and processed egg products are safe, wholesome and accurately labeled for consumers. He says that he finds this work rewarding. “Other inspectors, employees and I provide a high level of food safety service, as that is FSIS’ expectation and, more importantly, the public’s expectation. When I keep in mind that the public includes my family and friends, I find it rewarding when people close to me recognize what I do and how my job relates to them,” said Frontera.
As the poultry slaughter industry started to transition to the New Poultry Inspection System, some team members were confused about changes with the new system. It was a big culture change. Frontera eased the transition by keeping an open dialogue with his team, sharing information that the Agency had developed to help inform them, and providing training in the new system. Frontera believes we need to be open to change. “We can’t perform inspection the way we did 25 to 30 years ago. There have been a lot of changes and modernization within the food producing industry, and we have to continuously strive for improvement.”
Frontera derives satisfaction from knowing he helps protect consumers and has a direct impact on the safety of the food that his family and friends eat. He takes his job responsibilities seriously and works hard to meet Agency expectations, while at the same time evaluating his circuit’s needs in order to provide support the inspection team needs.
Frontera and his team put all four FSIS core values into practice every day. They are accountable, ensure the job gets done by being collaborative and exhibit teamwork. As issues arise, the team is empowered to assess problems and come up with solutions. By being solutions-oriented, he and his team can correct problems and ensure establishments are in compliance.
Service to Others
A strong believer in service to others during his career, Frontera has volunteered his time working with other agencies within USDA including the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in California during the Exotic Newcastle Disease outbreak in 2003; with the Food and Drug Administration sharing inspection responsibilities within the food processing industry; working with FSIS Human Resources performing recruitment activities for public health veterinarians (PHV) and food inspectors; and as a PHV mentor with FSIS. Frontera actively participated in the first i-Impact initiative to help employees working in slaughter and processing establishments throughout the Wilson Circuit and personnel in the Raleigh District Office reconnect to the mission of our Agency and demonstrate how every single employee has an impact on food safety and public health.
Prior to Joining FSIS
Frontera earned a bachelor of science degree in Agricultural Science in 1981 from the University of Puerto Rico College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts/Mayaguez and his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1985 from National University Pedro Henriquez Urena in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Between 1985 and 1990, he held a job as a petroleum inspector (a consumer protection position) with the Bureau of Petroleum Inspection/Division of Standards with the Florida Department of Agriculture. From 1990 to 1991, Frontera completed a one-year internship at Iowa State University, a requirement for foreign veterinary graduates. After completing the requirement, he practiced large animal medicine in eastern Iowa, where he also worked in partnership with APHIS on the eradication of infectious diseases like pseudorabies (Aujeszky’s Disease) in swine herds. During a continuing education meeting in 1993, Frontera met an FSIS representative who shared information about USDA, APHIS and FSIS veterinary careers. While in private practice, Frontera had indirectly worked with APHIS, but did not have any prior knowledge of FSIS. He applied to a job in the Raleigh Area Office (as it was called at the time) and began a completely different approach to his veterinary career. The next year, he joined FSIS as an SPHV and has had no regrets.
Off Duty Interests
Together with Aurora, his wife of 35 years, Frontera has two daughters and three grandchildren, whom he constantly reminds about food safety. He and Aurora enjoy traveling along eastern North Carolina, visiting communities and experiencing their local traditional foods, as well as occasionally traveling abroad. He also enjoys fishing and waterfowl (duck and goose) hunting.