In June of 2019, I studied pathology under the mentorship of Prof. Dr. Jens Teifke at the FLI in Riems for a four-week internship. As a senior veterinary student from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the United States with a PhD in microbiology, it is my goal to pursue a career in animal infectious diseases. I chose to pursue an internship at the FLI due to not only the prestige of the institution and staff, but also the high level containment facilities, as the FLI studies pathogens that can rarely be studied elsewhere.
The United States is currently free of Foot-and-Mouth disease and African Swine Fever, however, due to international trade and movement between countries, the risk of transmission is always present. As a future veterinarian, I feel an obligation to be able to recognize, diagnose, and respond to major diseases that pose a threat to animal, human, and environmental health. During my time at the FLI, I saw firsthand, worked with, and performed necropsies on animals experimentally infected with the African Swine Fever and Foot-and-Mouth Disease viruses. I learned how these diseases are diagnosed, their prevalence around the world, how they are controlled, and their potential for economic impact if outbreaks were to occur in naïve populations.
For an insight into the German veterinary public health system, with official federal veterinarians, I visited a slaughterhouse in Teterow, where I observed the entire slaughtering and carcass handling process for pigs. We discussed how animals are inspected and cared for by veterinarians from “stable to table”, including measures, restrictions, and practices implemented on farms and upon arrival to the slaughterhouse, to euthanasia, and sample collection during carcass cleaning. We discussed major diseases and lesions being monitored, including Brucella and Trichinella screening, and batch processing in order to identify a point source of infection.
For pathology training, I learned how to process samples for histopathological analysis, and how to characterize and describe various lesions scientifically and succinctly. I assisted in writing case reports, especially for the case submission for the US Joint Pathology Center (AFIP) Wednesday Slide Conference training year 2019-20. This included microscopic descriptions and morphologic diagnoses, literature reviews, and case histories, on avian tuberculosis and foot-and-mouth disease.
Given my career interest to study infectious diseases, I also sought to learn more about how high level containment facilities are managed, and how biosecurity is maintained. Alongside engineers and biorisk officers, I saw the infrastructure of the FLI, including HEPA filtration of exhaust air, room decontamination by dry fogging, and carcass rendering to animal by products. I learned how the level 2-4 facilities are managed, and protocols for containment in the event of an emergency.
My experiences at the FLI were outstanding, and instrumental in my training as a veterinarian. I am grateful to every individual that I had the privilege to work with and to learn from, for their generosity and warm welcome, and to the Friends of the Friedrich Loeffler Institute for their financial support during my stay at an absolutely outstanding institution.