IACUC21 Blog Squad: Meet Whitney Petrie

Whitney Petrie, IACUC21 Blog Squad member

“Please list your family’s cancer history”. My list is very long, on both my mother’s and father’s side of the family. I learned from a very young age how devastating cancer can be, but I also learned that I wanted to be involved in oncology, just not as a doctor.

Instead of going to medical school to obtain an MD, I went to graduate school and obtained a PhD in Biomedical Sciences after completing a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from the University of New Mexico. This was my first experience working with research animals, specifically rodents, and when I realized firsthand their research value and importance. After leaving the deserts of New Mexico I moved on to the University of California, Davis where I started working with much larger —and much more pungent— agricultural animals during my Post-doctoral Fellowship in the Department of Animal Science.

I was then faced with a choice, to either start my own lab as a professor or pursue a career away from the bench. I was nudged by the facility manager of the vivarium where my research animals were housed to apply for a position in the IACUC office at UC Davis, home to one of seven National Primate Research Centers and the second largest and most diverse institution outside of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). I stayed at UC Davis for ten years where I jumped with both feet into every opportunity that I could to further develop myself in the field of animal research compliance, which is ever-changing and constantly progressing.

I currently serve as the Animal Care and Use Committee Vice Chair for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) at the NIH. The past year and half have been completely bonkers. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a monumental impact on global health, alongside an influx of research devoted to the virus. The need for vaccine development, efficacy, and safety testing is a reminder of how vital the use of animal models in research really are. While supporting NIAID’s mission and unique mandate, which requires the institute to respond to any emerging health threats, my job is to ensure animal welfare and compliance, facilitate the research missions of the Principal Investigators involved in this absolutely important work, and to be an advocate for animal research.

PRIM&R’s annual IACUC Conference is mixing pot of IACUC professionals, from newbies to experts in the field; representing industry, academic, and federal research institutions; big and small. In the pot you can also find those with expertise working with certain species, including rodents, aquatics, mammals, and unique animals such as grizzly bears and woodchucks. From the discussion panels to the breakout sessions, the conference brings something to the table for every attendee. Throughout the years I have found the conference to be an excellent place to fine-tune my understanding of regulatory requirement particulars, network, and bring back new ideas and processes that NIAID’s animal care program could benefit from. This year I look forward to focusing on information relevant to federal research institutions since I myself am a newbie(ish) to the NIH. I also hope to gain insight on how other institutions are faring and adapting to the pandemic.

With every vaccine, with every cancer treatment, with every family history questionnaire, I am reminded why I have chosen a career in biomedical research and animal research compliance. I hope to see you virtually at the upcoming IACUC Conference.

Whitney Petrie, PhD, CPIA, RLATG, is currently the Animal Care and Use Committee Vice Chair for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease within the NIH located in Bethesda, MD. Dr. Petrie earned her bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry at the University of New Mexico, in Albuquerque, NM. She then went on the obtain her PhD in Biomedical Sciences in the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology within the School of Medicine at the University of New Mexico. Dr. Petrie completed a Post-doctoral Fellowship in the Animal Science Department at the University of California, Davis and after completion remained at the University as member of the IACUC staff for nearly ten years. During this time, she co-edited the second edition of The Care and Feeding of an IACUC- The Organization and Management of an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Due to the size and diversity of the animal program at UC Davis, Dr. Petrie has a wide range of experience with various animal species including rodents, aquatic species, large animals, and agricultural animals.

Dr. Petrie also served as the IACUC representative for the California National Primate Research Center where she was responsible for IACUC oversight of all non-human primate protocols and lab and facility inspections. In her current role serving as the NIAID ACUC Vice Chair, she has developed specialized knowledge related to the animal care program which focuses on animal models used in infectious disease and allergy research.

Register today for PRIM&R’s 2021 IACUC Virtual Conference (IACUC21), which will be streamed virtually April 14-16, 2021. This online event will also include keynote and plenary sessions, breakout sessions, networking events, and in-depth workshops designed to help build and strengthen effective animal care and use programs, as well as provide ample opportunity to exchange ideas, discuss best practices, and work through the challenging issues that can arise when using animal models in research. Registration closes April 12, so register now!