Dr. Catherine Pierce Enjoys Her Job Because Every Day is Different
A Frontline Supervisor (FLS) in the Des Moines District, Dr. Catherine Pierce has been with FSIS for almost 13 years. In this role, she provides oversight and supervision to 3 public health veterinarians (PHV) and 17 consumer safety inspectors in the Madison Circuit. She oversees a variety of establishments, including a cull sow plant, a cull cattle plant, four very small slaughter plants, an egg plant, two thermal processing plants (that make chili, broth and canned lunchmeat) and several smaller packaging operations.
Pierce first learned about FSIS at a going-away party for a close friend, where she met
Dr. Dave Ganzel, a district veterinary medical specialist (DVMS) with FSIS. He talked about his job, told her about the role of public health veterinarians and suggested she give FSIS a try. At the time, she was starting to get burned out from the long hours she spent working in a small animal practice and was ready to start exploring other career fields. She deems it “providence” that she met Dr. Ganzel at that opportune time in her career.
Since joining FSIS, Pierce has discovered a passion for food safety and humane handling concepts at slaughter. She enjoys her job, finds FSIS to be a great fit for her and is grateful for past supervisors who supported her drive to learn. “There is always something new for me to learn, and I like to share what I learn by teaching others. My past supervisors and the district office were very generous to allow me to attend various trainings offered, affording me opportunities to perform a wide variety of tasks.”
Another reason she finds her career with FSIS so rewarding is because of the variety of positions and activities available to her. Said Pierce, “I feel blessed to have had so many different opportunities and job duties in my career with FSIS. I have been a relief supervisory public health veterinarian (SPHV); in-plant SPHV; enforcement, investigations and analysis officer (EIAO)-Trained PHV; DVMS; DVMS-trained PHV; and FLS. I believe I am a better leader as an FLS with this more extensive background and collection of experiences to draw upon to better understand and manage the needs of my direct and indirect reports.”
Dr. Pierce is shown preparing the cecum of a market hog for taking a NARMS (National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System) program sample at a very small establishment where she had a dual role of PHV and FLS.
She enjoys the daily challenges in her current role as FLS: she likes solving problems and feels satisfied every time she finishes a task and can check it off her to-do list. She also finds it very gratifying to see that “a-ha!” moment in someone’s eyes as she explains a concept or expectation. When she identifies a problem, she enjoys the process of thinking about that problem and offering solutions. Pierce’s personal core value aligns with FSIS’ “Solutions-Oriented” core value.
Every Day is Different
When asked what a typical workday looks like for her, Pierce said there is no such thing as a “typical workday” for an FLS — as evidenced by her using a pencil instead of pen to write planned events in her day-planner. Every day is different; some days, she is driving at 4:00 a.m. to a plant to observe the inspector completing a pre-op SSOP review and observation task; other days, she is working with one of her staff performing in-plant performance system (IPPS) reviews. Sometimes, she works the line or covers for one of the in-plant SPHVs, performing ante-mortem inspection, humane handling tasks and dispositions. Sometimes, she is working at her computer for the day, writing reports or working on the weekly circuit schedule, and frequently, she is on the phone, answering questions or following up on issues that come up. Said Pierce, “I like that variability in my schedule. It spices up my work and makes each day an exciting new adventure.”
Pierce believes her FLS job is all about teamwork; she supports collaboration and encourages communication among all circuit members. She does this by holding team meetings and making sure they have the tools they need to be successful. Through her “open door policy,” staff members are welcome to share their ideas and concerns. She wants to see everyone enjoy their work, feel appreciated for the work they do and succeed in their careers.
She is proud of the work that FSIS does; says Pierce, “Our nation is well-known for safe food and many companies enjoy the benefits of this reputation by exporting and selling products to customers all over the world.” However, Pierce also believes the work of FSIS inspectors and veterinarians is often overlooked, “Have you ever noticed that our work is mostly unrecognized by the general public?”
Pierce takes opportunities to educate consumers about what FSIS does to ensure that the meat, poultry, egg and Siluriformes fish products they consume are safe, wholesome and correctly labeled. Or, as Pierce says, “Making sure that people don’t have to think about the safety of their next bologna sandwich.”
Outreach is also important to Pierce; “I remain active in the recruiting of veterinarians to FSIS by attending career fairs and lecturing about meat inspection to the third-year veterinary students at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Veterinary Medicine.” Sharing FSIS career opportunities with the students gives them additional options. During the break between classes, she often has several students stay to discuss their goals and what career would be a good fit for them.
Outside of Work
She is married to Paul Pierce, Director of Regulatory Services with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, Food Safety Division. They have a blended family of 4 children and 2 grandchildren. “These kids have grown up with food safety, considering what both Paul and I do.”
Not only is Pierce busy at work, but she also prefers to keep busy in her personal life. She enjoys outdoor activities such as training and riding her horse, riding motorcycles and snowmobiles, boating, fishing and going on nature walks. She also has a creative side and enjoys drawing, painting and cross-stitching. An active volunteer at her church, Pierce teaches catechism to middle schoolers and high schoolers, serves as lector and eucharistic minister, and helps with various construction or other projects around the church and rectory.