Skip to main content

Veterinarian Supports Biosafety and Biosecurity Efforts

Jean Richards, PhD

2010-12 S&T Policy Fellow; Health, Education & Human Services Program; Department of Health and Human Services

When Jean Richards reveals to contacts in the biosafety and security policy realm that she is a veterinarian, sometimes she receives a quizzical look. Most don’t expect that background outside of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Yet, her expertise in infectious and zoonotic diseases enables her to support policy addressing public health and agricultural disaster prevention, preparedness and response.

As a AAAS S&T Policy Fellow in the Health, Education & Human Services program (HEHS) placed in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Biosafety and Biosecurity, Jean leads the development of a biorisk management policy newsletter that aims to connect policy makers and promote awareness among those working in the areas of biosafety and biosecurity policy. She also supports the efforts of the Federal Experts Security Advisory Panel, which was tasked by an executive order to provide recommendations to the Select Agent Program for optimizing laboratory biosecurity. In addition, Jean represents her office on several federal committees and working groups addressing issues ranging from mitigating the risks posed by high consequence animal diseases, to animal rights extremist groups, and enhancing preparedness of pet owners in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.

“Since our patients can’t talk, veterinarians are trained to identify the problem using other means,” said Jean. “It strengthens problem-solving skills.” In a policy office, much of the work revolves around identifying a problem and working to reach consensus among departments and agencies within the federal government and relevant stakeholders outside the government. “This skill has certainly been useful during my fellowship.”

Disclaimer: The perspectives and opinions expressed in the above articles do not necessarily reflect the views of AAAS, the Science & Technology Policy Fellowships, the U.S. Government, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.