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In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Dr. Dawn D. Walters

Posted by Kristen Booze, USDA FSIS Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Education in Health and Safety Initiatives
Feb 21, 2017
Dr. Dawn D. Walters
Dr. Dawn D. Walters, a public health veterinarian and current Enforcement, Investigations, and Analysis Officer for the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) discusses her role in food safety on tape.

Every month, USDA shares the story of a woman in agriculture who is leading the industry and helping other women succeed along the way. This month, we hear from Dr. Dawn D. Walters, a public health veterinarian and current Enforcement, Investigations, and Analysis Officer in Arizona. Dr. Walters has committed the past six years to food safety by working for the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). With her big smile and enthusiastic personality (yes, I’ve been lucky enough to meet her), it is no surprise that Dr. Walters also serves as an outreach liaison for FSIS. Dr. Walters has also served as an interim Frontline Supervisor and the District Veterinary Medical Specialist. She received a Bachelor’s of Science in Animal and Poultry Science and a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Tuskegee University.

How/when did you first become interested in studying animals?

I became interested when I was four years old after watching my poodle give birth to 6 puppies in our garage!

What does a typical day look like for you?

As an Enforcement, Investigations, and Analysis Officer (EIAO), a typical day may begin in my office conducting recall effectiveness checks and catching up on enforcement cases. These cases can involve establishments that have been suspended or provided a notice of intended enforcement if they are unable to bring themselves back into compliance with regulations. Alternatively, my day may start at an establishment to perform a food safety assessment, which determines whether the establishment’s food safety system is safe, scientifically sound and supported through documentation.

How do you impact food safety?

I ensure that every establishment understands that FSIS and the establishments are working together to keep the public safe from food pathogens. My role as an EIAO is to make certain the establishments continue to do their part to maintain a safe product, free of pathogens and wholesome, to enter commerce. This is my direct link to keeping Americans’ meat, poultry, and processed eggs products safe for consumption!

You have held more than one position at FSIS; what was your favorite part of each role?

My favorite part of being a supervisory Public Health Veterinarian was ensuring the humane treatment of animals. I also enjoyed developing great working relationships with the establishments and my inspectors.

My favorite part of working as a Frontline Supervisor was traveling all over beautiful Petaluma wine country and meeting a vast array of FSIS employees. Additionally, I enjoyed utilizing the GAD (Gather, Assess, and Determine) process when resolving issues within my circuit while both learning from and guiding my inspectors.

My favorite part of being an EIAO is the voluminous wealth of knowledge I have obtained in all food processing categories and the flexibility of my supervisor and the position. This flexibility allows me to be available for other duties and roles needed by my district and the Agency, as shown by my interim work as a Frontline Supervisor and the District Veterinary Medical Specialist.

What do you wish you knew before getting started at the USDA FSIS?

I wish I knew how important and needed veterinarians are to the Agency. There are so many roles that can be filled by veterinarians in FSIS and there is a lot of opportunity to find the position right for you.

Who are your role models?

Michelle Obama and my mother, Bonita G. Chaney

What is some advice you have for other women interested in a career in food safety?

Try not to limit yourself to any one area, and ask for what you want. If you have a desire to do something new, and you are willing to be flexible, ask for it to happen! The sky is the limit in the USDA and food safety, so keep reaching!

Category/Topic: Health and Safety Initiatives

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Mary Alvarez
Aug 01, 2016

Way to go Dr. Dawn Walters! Dr. Walters is an inspiration to all women in USDA and an example of the best of the best in Alameda District. She is personable but firm in her profession.

Angela McIntyre, DVM
Aug 02, 2016

Kudos for a great job Dr. Walters!

Tim Drake
Aug 02, 2016

Good to see you're doing well, keep up the good work!

Christie Royal, DVM
Aug 03, 2016

We are so proud of you Dr. Walters!!! Keep up the wonderful work!

Joel Bachert
Aug 03, 2016

Great to see you doing well! They picked the right person for this; as I can attest from my time in training with you in Texas and during the Escalade Leadership Development Program. Keep up the good work!

Le'Tonya Chavis, CSI
Aug 03, 2016

Love the article Dr. Walters. You have inspired me even more!!

Turnera Croom, DVM
Aug 04, 2016

Congratulations Dr. Walters. You are a role model not only for women in Ag, but specifically Black women in this industry. Thank you for your contributions and keep up the good work!

Lakeisha Davis EPI
Aug 04, 2016

Love the article Dr.Walters. You are very inspiring and a great role model for all women. Thank you for your contributions and dedication!!!

Brandy Davis, DVM
Aug 06, 2016

Wonderful job Dr. Walters!!!

Lorenzo Bandini, DVM
Sep 24, 2016

Very well done! I would like to say that you are a good example of a very well engaged SPHV, versatile and productive. I recognize the importance of the EIAO training and duties that complete professionally a SPHV and the flexibility and value that adds to the SPHV position in the accomplishment of the Agency Mission.
I hope the heads of the agency will realize that the EIAO training for a SPHV is very beneficial to both parties and should be offered to every SPHV and not to a very few selected ones. My congratulation for all your achievements. Keep up the good work!