Alumni Spotlight: Beth Thompson

December 1, 2016

Perhaps it was some of her early memories of life on her family’s fifth generation South Dakota farm that cemented Dr. Beth Thompson’s interest in large animal medicine. “It’s always been livestock for me, and particularly swine,” says the executive director of the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, state veterinarian, and 2007 alumna of the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Thompson had an unusual journey to her current position. Originally interested in agricultural law, she earned her law degree from William Mitchell College of Law in 1992 and practiced for 10 years, mainly in insurance defense and prosecution. Still, the idea of a veterinary career seemed to tug at her over the years. While practicing law, Thompson began taking science classes at St. Cloud State University.

“You know all those advanced courses, such as biochemistry and physics, that most prospective veterinary students take in their undergraduate classes?” she laughs. “I still had those to take.” When she was accepted as a student at the College of Veterinary Medicine, she knew it would be swine medicine she’d pursue.

At age 40, she entered vet school and commuted every day back and forth to St. Cloud. “Although I had a lot of life experience,” she says, “I do remember those 22-year-olds running circles around me in the sciences!” The curriculum was intense, interesting, and so well-organized, she says. Learning from Drs. Montserrat Torremorell, Jerry Torrison, and Bob Morrison in the swine program were highlights.

Her favorite CVM memory? Her last two-week externship at a swine farm. When Thompson graduated from the CVM, she worked as a swine veterinarian with Holden Farms in Northfield, Minnesota, for a year. When an opportunity with the Board of Animal Health emerged, she was a bit torn. “I was happy with what I was doing at Holden, but I applied on the very last day, in the very last hour in which applications were being accepted,” she reports.

Since 2008, Thompson has served as the board’s senior veterinarian/program director and later the agency’s assistant director. In June, she was named director of the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, the first woman director in the organization’s 113-year history. “I am fortunate, because in Minnesota there are lots of women doing large animal medicine, including many at the CVM,” Thompson says.

At the Board of Animal Health, she oversees an agency that protects livestock in Minnesota, reports and monitors diseases, and provides field support to producers, veterinarians, and other agencies to eradicate diseases. In this capacity she works closely with the Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, and College of Veterinary Medicine’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. In the past year, the avian influenza epidemic, emergency planning, and tightening biosecurity measures have been a focus of the board’s work. “We owe it to the livestock producers in this state to be vigilant and wellprepared,” Thompson says.