Young Alum of the Month: Abbey Canon

Abbey (Avery) Canon
Title and Company: 
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Clinical Instructor and Veterinarian at the Iowa State University College of Vet Med Swine Medicine Education Center
Rowan, IA
Major and Graduation Date: 
BS 2007, Animal Science with secondary major of Int. Agriculture; DVM 2011; MPH 2011 (University of Iowa)
Major Job/Position Responsibilities: 

Before joining the Swine Medicine Education Center (SMEC) at ISU this fall, I was an Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officer with the CDC and active duty with the United States Public Health Service.  As one of CDC’s disease detectives, I was on the frontlines of public health emergency response, conducting investigations of human disease outbreaks such as E. coli O157:H7 and multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. (Kate Winslet played an EIS officer in the movie Contagion in 2011.)

When that assignment ended this past summer, I had the opportunity to go back to Iowa State and apply those skills to swine populations and teach students.  At SMEC, my responsibilities are a mixture of teaching, research, and clinical practice.  Teaching responsibilities are a combination of 4th year swine medicine veterinary rotations, introduction to production animal and population medicine, and veterinary public health.  I also develop educational material for practicing swine veterinarians and producers and conduct swine disease outbreak investigations.

What you like most about your job/position: 

I came back to ISU because I love teaching and sharing my experiences with motivated, excited students.  The most meaningful, career building experience I gained from Iowa State as a student was the opportunity to work with the outstanding mentorship my programs offered.  I had great academic role models that went far beyond what was required of an instructor.  I enjoyed and learned the most from classes that were taught by passionate professors.  I love being in a position where I can ignite and fuel students’ interests, and I strive to become that type of teacher.

What advice would you give to current students: 

1.  Get to know your advisors well.  If you don’t click, switch.  They can be invaluable resources during your time at ISU.  My academic advisors, Elisabeth and Steven Lonergan, were instrumental to my success at ISU.  They offered extraordinary mentorship and support, helped find summer opportunities, and were willing to help guide future career decisions.  They helped me gain additional experiences above and beyond normal coursework and what was required of my degree.

2.  Take advantage of summer internships. I spent my first two summers in Ethiopia and Ghana looking at animal source foods and human nutrition, and my second two summers wrangling on a dude ranch in western Colorado.  Those were extremely different internships, but so incredibly rewarding in very different ways.  Don’t go home and hang out for a summer – take advantage of being young and transportable, and use your time to explore different career paths you might be interested in.  Gain some new skills, try new things, get some experience in the “real” world, network, and have fun!

Favorite ISU class
One of my favorite classes during undergrad at ISU was “Medical Entomology” – renamed “Insects and our Health” so it didn’t sound so intimidating!  Wayne Rowley taught the course, and I was hooked on vector borne diseases!

My other favorite CALS class was AnSci 270 – “Foods of Animal Origin.”  That was my first introduction to meat science, and spurred me to investigate animal source foods and human nutrition during two summer internships in Africa.  The combination of my meat science classes and my summer internships really drove my career path.  That was my first look at the link between healthy animals, healthy food, and healthy people.  My purpose in going to vet school wasn’t to work on individual animals; I went to vet school to improve human health through animals.