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A career in government service and in international consultancy
  1. Philip Corrigan

Abstract

In 1972, Philip Corrigan planned to leave Ireland to go to Australia for a year, in order to satisfy his wanderlust. He never returned to live there, and has since worked all over the world

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I JOINED vet school from a strong agricultural/livestock farming background, graduating in 1969 from Trinity College Dublin (TCD), one of two veterinary schools in Dublin at that time, the other being University College Dublin (UCD). Uniquely, both schools shared the same college facilities.

Although I was professionally qualified in 1969, I am the first to admit I was probably too young and that I needed a lot of personal development. I went into mixed practice in Ireland – very enthusiastic, very ‘James Herriot’, but probably more Tristan than James, and certainly not Siegfried!

But, during my undergraduate years, the thing that probably had more influence on my later career was my attendance as a delegate for the TCD school (accompanied by Brendan Walsh UCD) at the World Veterinary Students congress in Edinburgh in 1968. There, I was exposed to veterinary students, veterinarians and ideas from all corners of the globe.

Three years later, although enjoying life and developing as a veterinary practitioner, and probably personally as well, my wanderlust had not been satisfied. I decided to go to Australia, with the idea of working there for one year before returning to Ireland. But, while I travel back to Ireland regularly now, I never returned to live there.

Helping a dairy farmer in Guyana. There are many career streams within the veterinary profession that may not be readily recognised early on, but which are essential to national economies and prove to be satisfying professionally and personally

Initially, I worked in a six-person general practice in Colac, western Victoria (primarily dairy, but seeing other farm and companion animal species too) from 1973 to 1976, with one equine stud season spent in Mata Mata, Waikato, New Zealand. During this period, I was offered and was discussing practice partnership, only to witness the sudden economic collapse of the Australian cattle industry resulting in the practice quickly requiring only two or three veterinarians.

Australian government service

Through a personal contact, I was offered and accepted a position as a field officer with the Australian Federal Government's Ministry of Agriculture, in the state of Victoria. My belief was that this was to be only a short-term assignment, and I would return to practice some time soon. However, like my intention to go to Australia for a short period, I was to stay with the Australian Government and through it ‘see the world’ until retiring in 2004.

I enjoyed the work of a government veterinarian and the collegiate atmosphere of working in an organisation with a large number of fellow professionals. Because of my personal flexibility I worked throughout the state of Victoria, as well as one ‘dry’ season in the Kimberleys in the north of Western Australia.

Masters in public health

In 1979, I was offered and accepted full employment support to complete a Masters degree in veterinary public health at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. This proved to be one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling personal and professional experiences of my life – living at International House on the idyllic Queensland university campus.

I subsequently worked for a short period in the Melbourne state office, and then in the national headquarters offices in Canberra, before being invited in 1983 to establish and head up an autonomous regional office in Darwin, Northern Territory. I did this for one year, before being posted to Perth as the senior veterinarian managing the operations in the state of Western Australia.

I then moved back to Canberra, and headed a group that examined the risk basis of meat hygiene objectives and practices, making recommendations for technical changes and inspection efficiencies while maintaining essential market access. Australia at that time was the largest world exporter of red meat (beef and lamb), exporting to 132 different countries of the world (the United Nations has 193 member states).

In 1986/7, for a 12-month period, I undertook a development course sponsored by the Australian Public Service. This executive development scheme included course work and work placements in the then Department of Trade and the office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet – an all-round very valuable and productive year.

Following that, I was promoted to the senior executive service of the Australian public service as national manager of meat hygiene and certification operations. I was responsible for maintaining access to all markets, while implementing the updated and politically contentious government policy of 100 per cent cost recovery and still rationalising operations and staff numbers. I was also involved with considerable international travel, regularly visiting most of Australia's major bilateral trading partners, in particular the USA, Canada, the EU, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, as well as Codex Alimentarius representation.

In late 1994, I took time off from the Australian public service, having been selected for the position of operations manager in the newly created Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) in the UK, and was tasked with implementation of the policy decision to form a single national meat hygiene service, integrating services previously delivered by local government. The MHS was successfully launched on April 1, 1995.

I returned to Australia at the end of that year, initially heading a development unit exploring options for a more radical delivery of meat hygiene, utilising industry-employed inspection operating under approved hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) and International Standards Organisation (ISO) principles, with government oversight and system verification. This was followed by managing the national meat hygiene and certification programme.

Introducing my daughter, Savannah, to a camel in Abu Dhabi

Working in Washington

Four years later, I was appointed Australia's agricultural/veterinary counsellor to the countries of the Americas, based at the Australian embassy in Washington DC. I did this until 2003, representing Australia's interests and developing close working relationships, in particular with US industry and government agencies, as well as Canada's and Mexico's competent authority agencies, CFIA and SAGARPA, respectively, and other countries organisations and industry representatives on a needs basis.

During this time in Washington, I met my wife, a diplomat with the Government of Barbados at the Barbados Embassy. As a result, in 2004, I left Australian public service and moved to Miami, where my wife had been posted to the Barbados Consulate.

It was in Miami that I began doing international project/consultancy work, with my initial project being two short missions to Haiti on a voluntary basis for the Florida Association for Volunteer Action in the Caribbean and the Americas (FAVACA). I worked with an impressive Haitian women's organisation, ‘Femme en Production’, seeking to improve market access for Haitian rural produce to the USA. This resulted in me being recognised as a ‘FAVACA volunteer of the year’.

I continue to work on trade facilitation/animal health/food safety issues for international funding agencies, such as USAID, Europe AID, AusAID, the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and the Asian Development Bank in a wide range of countries. Currently, I am involved in ongoing projects in such diverse places as Swaziland, Kazakhstan, Guyana and Malaysia/Brunei.

Following Miami, we returned to our home in Barbados, where, between projects, I worked in veterinary practice with John Duckhouse (Bristol 1974) as an assistant vet in his three-person all-species practice – back exactly where I started my professional career years ago as a veterinary assistant in general practice, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Life in New York

We currently live in New York, where my wife is on a diplomatic posting. We have a four-year-old daughter to whom I am chief nanny (with a supporting team) when not travelling. The family and I return to Ireland on an annual basis for a family reunion. Two years ago I attended the 40th reunion of my graduating class at TCD/UCD. This was a very satisfactory day-long meeting, where a lot of history and stories were shared, including a guided tour of the impressive new veterinary school facilities at the UCD campus in Belfield, Dublin.

When not involved in nanny duties in New York or project work internationally, I do regular volunteer work with an organisation called ‘GallopNYC’, which provides horse riding opportunities for disabled and challenged people.

While it was government service that gave me the opportunity for further development and new experiences, I never forgot and always appreciated the training and experience that I received both before training as a veterinarian, during my veterinary training and as a veterinary practitioner. As it turned out, government service and international consultancy work worked best for me, providing me with tremendous ongoing professional satisfaction, and satisfying my interest in global development programmes and travel.

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