Candace Jacobs, DVM, MPH, Dipl. ACVPM, of Olympia, Wa., received the 2017 Food Safety Veterinarian of the Year Award from the American Association of Food Safety and Public Health Veterinarians. This annual award honors a veterinarian who has gone above and beyond in the field of veterinary food safety.
Jacobs currently serves as the assistant director leading the Food Safety and Consumer Services Division of the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA). The Division has about 125 employees in six program areas.
Her team works together on legislative activity, rulemaking, compliance, strategic planning, stakeholder outreach and the like. Some of the more unique issues include licensing and inspecting Marijuana Infused Edible firms in their Food Safety Program, doing Whole Genome Sequencing (DNA fingerprinting) in their lab, and approving materials for Organic farm use or input.
Jacobs was recognized for her leadership in implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 at the state level. The act aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it. WSDA was the second state to implement all of the standards required under the Manufactured Food Regulatory Program Standards rule in the Food Safety Program.
Now her team is well on its way to a similar accomplishment for implementation of the Animal Foods Regulatory Program Standards rule in the Animal Feed Program. WSDA has also initiated a Produce Safety Program to address elements of the Produce Safety rule after successfully receiving a multi-year grant from the FDA.
In addition, Dr. Jacobs developed strategic plans for all the Division’s program areas and created a public-facing Recall, Notifications, and Alerts webpage to increase awareness of food/feed recall activities in which the WSDA is involved.
Originally from Lincoln, Neb., Jacobs became interested in veterinary medicine during her undergraduate studies in zoology at the University of Arkansas.
“I was interested in research and saw a veterinary degree as a marketable skill and attribute for breaking into scientific research,” said Jacobs. “Additionally, my family’s veterinarian was Dr. Ordella Geisler, one of the few women veterinarians in practice in those days. She was a wonderful mentor and great role model.”
Jacobs chose Oklahoma State for her veterinary degree as it was one of a handful of institutions with contracts for Nebraska residents.
“Oklahoma State was the first institution that accepted me as a veterinary student,” she said. “It was a great choice for me as I love being an OSU Cowboy!”
After earning her DVM degree (’78), Jacobs earned a Masters of Public Health with an environmental health concentration from San Diego State University (’88). In 1991, she became board certified in veterinary preventive medicine. She is also certified as a Six Sigma Green Belt from the American Society of Quality and a Certified Food Scientist from the Institute of Food Technologies.
Throughout her career, Jacobs has been in practice, a military officer doing research on marine mammals, and the state toxicologist in a health department. She has worked in the food and beverage industry in regulatory affairs, in environmental management, and in quality assurance. She was in the grocery business and held multiple positions with the WSDA, both in policy and programs.
Her advice to veterinary students is to “keep an open mind and open eye out for interesting professional opportunities. Veterinary degrees are applicable across a wide spectrum of jobs. Follow your passion. My passion was food safety—something I did not consider during my years in veterinary school.”
Earlier this year, Jacobs also received the 2017 Sanitarian Award from the International Association of Food Protection for Excellence in Food Safety. Jacobs and her late husband, Martin J. Yates, are members of the OSU Heritage Society where they have arranged for an endowed chair in Comparative Medicine at the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences.
Pictured above: Dr. Kelly Vest (’87) presenting the award to Dr. Candace Jacobs. Dr. Vest is the president of the American Association of Food Safety and Public Health Veterinarians.