Dr. Khali Jones is Living Her Dream
Since the age of six, Dr. Khali Jones dreamed of being a veterinarian. Now, as a relief supervisory public health veterinarian (SPHV) in the Atlanta District, Jones is living her dream.
Since the age of six, Dr. Khali Jones dreamed of being a veterinarian. Now, as a relief supervisory public health veterinarian (SPHV) in the Atlanta District, Jones is living her dream. After serving with FSIS as a student veterinary trainee during her last two years at Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine, she joined FSIS full time in August 2019.
The past nine months have been busy for Jones. She travels weekly to establishments throughout her circuit to perform antemortem and postmortem inspection, verify humane handling of birds through good commercial practices, determine dispositions on abnormal carcasses (such as any with infectious diseases, neoplasms and contamination), verify sanitary conditions in establishments, and authorize export documentation that allows products to be shipped internationally. Said Jones, “During my time as an SPHV, I have already composed noncompliance records, performed mid-year progress reviews for inspectors I supervise, completed National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System samples and assisted with training a new supervisory consumer safety inspector in our circuit.”
Dr. Jones, Relief SPHV, completes antemortem inspection to ensure birds are free of disease conditions at P-6505 in Claxton, Georgia. Photo courtesy of Andrew Gordon, OFO.
Jones enjoys learning and is motivated to be successful in protecting public health through training, whether on the job or online via AgLearn. She continually seeks opportunities to learn, grow and develop professionally. Jones’ supervisor, Dr. Marina Tutt, said, “Dr. Jones is the type of veterinarian who can and will sustain the high standards that the Agency needs.”
No "Typical" Work Day
Jones finds the work rewarding because she can interact with new establishments, new employees and new environments every week as she travels. “I am proud to bring diversity to the profession and serve as a role model for a new generation of federal veterinarians,” she said. As a relief SPHV, there is no “typical” day; her schedule can vary weekly and she may be working first, second or third shift at a traditional plant or an NPIS establishment. One week, she may report to a plant at 4:00 a.m., where she ensures that inspectors report to their stations in a timely manner and perform good commercial practices tasks for poultry; she also covers during online inspectors’ breaks, visually inspecting carcasses on the line. In another week, she may report to a different plant at 2:30 p.m., where she may have to handle sanitation issues on the processing floor, attend a weekly meeting with establishment management and spend half of her work hours completing export documentation from five different cold storage facilities ready to ship products internationally. If a veterinarian at her home plant is absent from work, she may arrive at 8:30 p.m. to ensure there is adequate coverage. During the ‘graveyard’ shift, she finds it quiet and a good time to catch up on emails, perform periodic walk-throughs of the plant and determine a disposition on a carcass if needed by her inspectors. Said Jones, “Some days can be stressful and overwhelming with multiple things occurring simultaneously; nevertheless, I always try to stay focused, keep a smile on my face and work with a positive attitude.”
Depending on which shift and location she is working, Jones supervises approximately 16 food inspectors and 30 consumer safety inspectors. She describes her coworkers as “hard-working, motivated and competent.” Jones believes “teamwork is the glue that holds our agency together! In the plant, all USDA personnel work towards our mission in their daily tasks; teamwork fosters a positive and productive environment.” Through her PHV network, Jones can always share and ask for feedback on questions and concerns.
Path to FSIS
As an undergraduate at Tuskegee University, Jones majored in Animal Sciences, in which she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She continued her education at Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine, where she obtained her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in May 2019. She was recognized for her leadership and academic excellence with the Merck Academic Excellence Award and the Christian Veterinary Fellowship Leadership Award.
Jones first learned about FSIS through an email blast sent to students in her veterinary school; it encouraged students to apply for a new scholarship opportunity with the Agency. In 2017, she received the Adel A. Malak Scholarship and completed the Pathways internship where she gained early exposure into her career. She received mentorship, professional development and hands-on experience in the poultry and meat industries, which helped prepare her for her future role as an SPHV. She decided to apply for a position with the Agency because it combined her passions for veterinary medicine, public health and pathology.
Her mentors — all SPHVs — included Dr. Lavell Galloway and Dr. Rodney Prince (coincidentally, Tuskegee grads like Jones) as well as Dr. Wes Tillison. They taught her about the importance of documentation, and not only how to be an effective supervisor but also how to handle various issues within an establishment.
Jones’ friends agree that safe food equals a healthier life, but most are surprised to learn that veterinarians work in the food industry. She said, “They never really made the connection of veterinarians to animals such as cattle, swine and poultry that produce the food products fit for human consumption. When shopping with my grandmother, she is always amazed when I identify a tray of chicken wings that has come from an establishment where I have worked.”
Since 2014, Jones has volunteered with the USDA Child Nutrition Program through the Georgia Food Bank Association. The 8-week summer feeding program hosted by her home church serves local children, ages 5-18. Said Jones, “I help with the daily preparation of breakfast and lunch meals. There is a critical need to ensure children have well balanced meals as many of the disadvantaged youth would not have access to food without this resource.”
When she’s not working at various establishments in the Atlanta District, Jones enjoys playing tennis, reading, writing, dancing, traveling, volunteering and spending time with family, friends and her dog, Styx.