Learning through redeployment: contact tracing for cows!

Kirsty Paterson has worked for Border Clearance Services at MPI since 2018, is a valued member of the Southern GWN Committee, and lives in Christchurch with her nine-year old son. As Covid19 started to cause a dramatic reduction of international flights to New Zealand, MPI had to redeploy Quarantine Officers at Christchurch Airport to different areas.

“I applied to work in the Mycoplasma Bovis Programme in the Disease Control Group” Kirsty explains. She continues: “As a Casing Advisor I am often the first point of contact with farmers. I collate information from the sources that farmers use and our own databases, to record animal movements. This allows us to assess the risk of disease on farm and decide if on-farm sampling of cattle will occur. I describe it as Contact Tracing but for cows!”

Mycoplasma is a disease-causing bacterium that results in a range of untreatable symptoms in cattle. The virus was first found on a dairy farm in 2017 and New Zealand is the first country in the world to try to eradicate the disease from the country. We are on track to achieve our goal of eradication.

“Obviously this is a big shift for me in terms of work structure”, says Kirsty. “At the airport we worked four days on, four days off in twelve hour shifts. I interacted with a huge number of people every day and I would describe the airport as an ever-changing environment.” Now Kirsty is working eight hour days in an office behind a 3 computer screens, but she enjoys the change in tempo. “I have been very lucky in that my new team are very supportive and welcoming, and have made the change very easy”.

So what does Kirsty’s role change mean for her career? “The impact of Covid19 means that my personal career goals have been well and truly side-lined and the last few months have been a mixture of adapting to exciting new opportunities”. Kirsty enjoys working in the Microplasma Bovis Programme, and aims to use her new skills to boost her CV to for a new career pathway, or enhance her personal and professional skills for her return to Border Clearance Services.

Kirsty Paterson at home with her son.

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