#FacultyExchangeFriday- Eunice Omondi, USDA SEP Faculty Fellow

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By Mary Shelley-Snell

From August to December 2022, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture hosted nine Faculty Exchange Program (FEP) and five Scientific Exchange Program (SEP) fellows from four African countries. These programs are funded through the Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and they focus on veterinary teacher pedagogy and animal health governance. Marcy Souza, professor and associate dean for outreach and global engagement at UTIA CVM, served as the project lead for both programs. The visiting SEP fellows were all from Kenya, and the FEP fellows were from Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. They were matched with faculty members from three different UT colleges for mentorship for the duration of their programs. Learn more about each fellow and their mentor throughout this #FacultyExchangeFriday blog series.

Eunice Omondi is a large animal veterinarian who specializes in epidemiology and works as a laboratory epidemiologist for Central Veterinary Laboratories in Kenya.  Her core duties are generating reports, advising clients on what should be done based on lab results, participating in risk analysis for the annual hatchery inspection and making sure that health safety standards are met.  Read more about her experience as an SEP Fellow below!

Q: What interested you about this program?

One of my colleagues shared this opportunity with me and I was really interested in how I could participate, and then bring back the knowledge I gained to improve animal health services in Kenya. I looked forward to gaining knowledge in animal health governance, with a focus on food safety, and using that to create a benchmark for future improvements to animal health services in Kenya.

Q: What were some highlights of the program for you?

I have gained a lot of knowledge and skills while in this program!  One of the highlights of this program has been learning policy writing. My mentor is an expert in policy writing and public health, so it has been very beneficial for me to learn from her. I also enjoyed learning about the extension services available here.  It was a very good system to learn from and everyone involved is working as a team to ensure that animal health service delivery is meeting the required standards. Another highlight of this program was Dr. Muhammad’s presentation on policy document writing.  He explained what elements you should emphasize on and how to make your policy documents relevant and adaptable. 

Everyone that I have worked with while at the University of Tennessee has been so helpful and kind.  They have all been experts who are extremely knowledgeable and worked to help me have many experiences related to my area of interest.

Q: What are you next steps following your completion of this fellowship?

I plan to write a policy brief because I have learned so much about policy writing and public health in this program. This will lead to developing a checklist to update inspections of day-old chick facilities so that the policy will meet the OIU guidelines. I would also like for this policy to trickle down to the local level so that we can do everything possible to minimize disease outbreaks.

Q: Why do you view exchange programs like this one as being important?

I think the SEP program is very beneficial for professors and veterinarians to participate in because of the experiences that can be brought back to Kenya.  While in this program, I have had the chance to learn about the animal health services a developed country, like the U.S., is offering and how I can implement some of these practices in Kenya.  

After completing this program, I can use what I’ve learned to work toward improving trade ties and service delivery within the animal health sector, diagnostic capacities of labs to meet those requirements, the skills needed to perform those tests, and the extension services available.

Q: What was your favorite part about being at UT and in Knoxville, TN?

This was my first time in America, so I really enjoyed going on trips to other states and parts of Tennessee.  I was able to go to Minnesota and visit the Central Park, the Mall of America, and attend a conference there with my UT colleagues.  I also had such a fun time painting the Rock and networking with new people at the International Showcase!  Everyone that I have met has been so kind, friendly, and welcoming during my time at UT and in Knoxville.  The atmosphere in Neyland stadium is unmatched on game day and I will miss that energy and the Vols!

Over the next year we will highlight one faculty exchange fellow and their UTIA mentor every month and show how their participation in these fellowship programs helped #GrowGlobal across UTIA and beyond.