Wednesday, July 28, 2021

State veterinarian retires, sort of

Amber Betts WSDA Communications

As Dr. Brian Joseph prepares to hang up his agency stethoscope for the final time this week, we’d like to take a moment to recognize the incredible career he’s had as the state veterinarian at the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA). State vet is just one notch in the belt of his career for this retired Army Reserve Veterinarian and humanitarian.

Dr. Joseph visited Belize in 2015, working
with public health officers to administer
rabies immunizations to dogs, and vaccinations
and deworming for pigs, goats, cattle, and horses.
With a 23-page resume of publications, presentations, veterinarian jobs, and humanitarian trips, Dr. Joseph leaves WSDA in a semi-retirement state. Retirement includes continued consulting for aquaria and dolphin facilities across the country. He also plans to continue volunteering for LifeStock International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the livelihoods of livestock holders in developing countries. LifeStock, the Army, and consulting work have taken him all over the world, including a recent trip to Kurdistan, instructing veterinarians and laboratory supervisors in highly contagious diseases in animals and how to properly report those diseases.

Collaborative relationships

When COVID-19 hit Washington state, Dr. Joseph was on a mission to help educate families on what role their family pets had to play in the spread of the virus. There was the potential for a lot of hysteria around companion animals.  Could they become infected? Could they infect each other? Could they infect people? 

“There was so much we didn’t know,” Dr. Joseph said.

Dr. Joseph collaborated with colleagues across the state to develop guidance for testing and care of Washington pets in shelters and COVID-19 positive households. In doing so, they blazed the trail for other states.

Dr. Joseph performing a physical
examination on a camel and training
another Army veterinarian how to
work with camels.

Dr. Minden Buswell immediately arranged a conference call with Dr. Peter Rabinowitz, head of the University of Washington One Health Program; Hanna Oltean, zoonotic disease epidemiologist at the Washington State Department of Health; Dr. Tim Baszler and Dr. Kevin Snekvik of the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory; Dr. Sandra Newbury of the University of Wisconsin Shelter Animal Medicine Program; Dr. Leonard Eldridge, USDA APHIS Area Veterinarian in Charge; Dr. Joseph and regional veterinarians. 

“We included Center for Disease Control experts and came up with the best guidance that we could based upon the information we had. It was sound, and the present guidance from USDA and CDC largely mirrors the path we set early on,” he said.

Dedicated WSDA staff and the strong collaborative relationships with partner agencies and organizations is what he’ll miss the most.

“There are several things I will miss the most,” he said. “I will miss the dedicated staff that we have at WSDA.  I will deeply miss the strong collaborative relationships we have with the University of Washington One Health program, the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, Washington States’ School of Veterinary medicine, the Washington Department of Health, our USDA APHIS colleagues, our WSVMA colleagues; the Beef Commission; all our livestock organizations; and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.  These strong relationships make us more productive and facilitate animal health management and a strong agricultural economy in Washington.

“We are truly fortunate, but maintaining these relationships takes the investment of time and shared responsibility,” he added.

The path that led us here

Dr. Joseph delivering school supplies to children
in Obo, Central African Republic in 2016. 
Of the four career choices Dr. Joseph was considering, veterinary work was last on the list.

There was a lot to consider for his future and becoming a veterinarian was the least desirable, in the end however, he chose it, and I think we’re all glad he did.

“I chose this path because I believed it would be the most influence over improving the lives of animals,” he said.

With the countless veterinarians he’s trained, humanitarian trips he’s taken, animals he’s treated, and the many times he’s loaned his expertise, we can definitively say he’s done just that.