Essam Otefi

Tell us about your background.

My name is Essam Otefi, and I grew up in Egypt’s beautiful coastal city of Alexandria. I earned my veterinary medicine degree from Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Alexandria University in 1999. I currently work as a Supervisory Public Health Veterinarian (SPHV) for the United States Department of Agriculture-Food Safety Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS). I have over a decade of food safety work related experience, and I enjoy working autonomously and as a part of a multidisciplinary team of food safety scientists. I conduct food safety assessment of multiple slaughter and processing establishments to ensure processes, procedures, facilities, and equipment are technically and scientifically sound and meet regulatory and public health protection regulations. As a public health veterinarian, I also ensure that plants meet requirements of the Pathogen Reduction and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulations. I direct ante-mortem and post-mortem inspection of livestock and poultry to detect, identify and diagnose conditions that may render food product unfit for human consumption. Furthermore, I oversee the humane handling and slaughter of livestock and provide veterinary medical expertise on the proper disposition of animals and carcasses.

How did you become interested in the Master of Veterinary Science degree program?

Dr. J. Lowe had drawn my attention to the new MVS program during the VCM 560 (Livestock Infectious Disease) class. Dr. Lowe has a wealth of academic and practical knowledge, and I was impressed with his instruction and believed the class was outstanding. Therefore, I decided to apply for the Master of Veterinary Science degree program. In addition, earning a master’s degree within the veterinary profession is a natural progression, to build upon my experience and take my knowledge to the next level. Furthermore, I selected the MVS degree program on the basis that it would provide me with a good academic foundation for a wide variety of potential promotional career options within the USDA-FSIS. Finally, there is no argument that the last two years have significantly changed and affected our lives. Isolation has forced us to slow down and assess our own priorities and personal goals. Thus, getting out of the COVID-19 emotional rut was also one of the reasons that I selected the MVS degree program.

Tell us about your favorite course in the program?

My favorite course in the program was VCM 562 (Understanding the Host Response to Infection). I liked that Dr. Brian Aldridge made the class fun and came up with activities that challenged us to enhance and develop clinical reasoning skills and become expert clinical diagnosticians. The course environment felt like a welcoming place to express our ideas and learn how to establish a Case Definition blueprints easily. The course assignments (readings, assigned problems, videos, etc.…) facilitated my learning and made it worthwhile. The course focused on developing our diagnostic skills in an unconventional way, and it was organized in a manner that helped me understand the underlying concepts. The lecture provided me with unique view on disease, changed the way that I approach its detection and the way I think about health problems in general. Therefore, I was able to develop a solid foundation in a clinical problem-solving approach that applies the basic principles of health science in the investigation of respiratory, gastrointestinal, reproductive, and systemic health problems in individual animals that are part of a livestock production system. In addition, the course increased my ability to collaborate and work in teams. As a whole, the experience made me realize that things seem less overwhelming once I actually dive in, and that is something I plan to keep in mind as I continue my professional life.

Now that you are finishing the degree program, what will you do next?

Upon completion of the MVS degree program, I will continue to work as a supervisory public health veterinarian for the USDA-FSIS. The knowledge I gained from the MVS degree program provided me with a foundation of skills, that I think are so incredibly valuable for my existing career. Moreover, my advanced knowledge and practical skills will put me in a strong position to move on to a PhD or a research career if I want to.

What is one thing about the program you would say to someone considering this degree?

The structure of the MVS program provides the flexibility to complete it at a pace that work best with your busy life. The program will increase your ability to identify, formulate and solve problems. All instructors effectively organize and facilitate well-run learning activities and environments. The UIUC association and reputation even for online students carries a lot of weight and will help open doors that might otherwise be closed. Sometimes your path feels long and challenging, and it can be difficult to maintain your energy and ambition. However, think of the significant impact receiving a master’s degree can have on your professional life. I hope you take this opportunity to contemplate and reflect on the importance of further learning through this exciting MVS program.