Dr. Rachel Cumberbatch is the Director of Regulatory Affairs, Animal Drug Section at the Animal Health Institute (AHI). AHI represents the manufacturers of animal drugs and veterinary biologics before federal agencies, Congress, and international health and food safety organizations.
Dr. Cumberbatch earned a Bachelor of Science in Animal Sciences in 2007 from Purdue University. During her time as an undergraduate, she was appointed by Governor Mitch Daniels to serve as a Purdue University Student Trustee where she became part of the governing body responsible for strategic planning and for protecting the physical, human, and financial assets of the university system, and she was Awarded Top University Senior Woman in 2007. Dr. Cumberbatch earned her DVM degree in 2011, also from Purdue University. As a veterinary student, she took the mixed animal track, completed two internships at the USDA FSIS, and delivered the 2011 commencement student response at her veterinary school’s graduation ceremony.
Dr. Cumberbatch began her veterinary career as a clinical small animal veterinarian. She transitioned to public policy in 2013 when she was selected as a AAAS Science Policy Fellow at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Air and Radiation, Indoor Environments Division, where she became the “go to” science writer on health disparities, climate change and health, smoke-free indoor policies and indoor asthma triggers. The following year, she served as an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Congressional Fellow supporting Senator Al Franken’s healthcare portfolio. During her tenure in the Senate, Dr. Cumberbatch helped draft legislation adding Zika virus to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Priority Review Voucher Program, a measure that was signed into law by President Obama on April 16, 2016.
During her time in the Senate, she also worked to improve public health infrastructure by raising the profile of One Health – the intersection between animal, human, and environmental health, and she personally briefed Senator Franken prior to public appearances related to healthcare or animal agriculture.
Dr. Cumberbatch’s additional training since vet school includes the American Animal Hospital Association Veterinary Management Institute in 2011, Harvard University Risk Communications in 2014, and the National Institutes of Health: Program Evaluation also in 2014. In addition to her duties at AHI, Dr. Cumberbatch currently serves as the President of the DC Veterinary Medical Association.
During the interview, we discuss:
- (1:45) Why she chose veterinary medicine instead of human medicine
- (5:20) How she benefited from volunteering as an undergraduate student for Timmy Global Health
- (8:20) How vet school was the “best thing” she’ll “never do again”
- (9:32) The transition into small animal general practice, and why she went into clinical practice despite knowing it wasn’t what she wanted to do forever
- (11:15) Why she advises vet students who want to go into policy to get some experience in clinical practice first
- (14:15) Her experiences as an AAAS and AVMA/AAAS Fellow and how she was able to work on issues pertaining to both human and animal health
- (20:00) The challenge of getting others to understand what veterinarians can bring to the table and how veterinary medicine relates to human health
- (27:25) How her experience in the Veterinary Management Institute helped her understand the perspective of practice owners and hospital managers and made her a better associate veterinarian
- (31:28) Why she believes veterinarians should pursue continuing education on communication and negotiation as well as medicine
- (37:50) One Health: What it is, what it isn’t, what opportunities exist for veterinarians, and how to find them
- (39:00) Some suggestions Dr. Cumberbatch has for seeking work in One Health are:
- (40:35) The importance of being courageous and creative, thinking outside the box, and considering culture when you’re looking for a job
- (41:10) Her responsibilities as Director of Regulatory Affairs for the Animal Drug Section at the Animal Health Institute
- (51:00) Her advice for future veterinarians and what she considers the most important skill future vets need to master
- (53:30) How she got through vet school with minimal debt “one scholarship at a time,” and the sacrifices she made to become debt-free quickly
Click here to watch the interview on YouTube.
If you’d like to thank Dr. Cumberbatch for her time and advice, please consider making a donation to or getting involved with 4-H.
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