Ever since he was a child, Jeff Gard ’08 has been intrigued by the Earth, its vastness and the diverse groups of life it sustains. Not only did he know from an early age that he would pursue a career in science, the Dubuque, Iowa, native made it a personal mission to travel and see the world.
As an investigator for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Gard has traveled the globe while promoting and protecting the health of all people. Understandably, the opportunity to protect public health and potentially save lives on a daily basis has already made for a rewarding career.
“This is truly my dream job,” said Gard, who received a bachelor’s degree in environmental science at UIU. “The work is never routine and I learn something new each and every day. I am continuously challenged by my duties, which require a comprehensive knowledge of the content and purpose of environmental health regulations, and a broad knowledge of business practices in the regulated industries.”
Gard explained the FDA is an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services and is responsible for promoting and protecting public health by assuring the safety and efficacy of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines, blood, and other biological products, medical devices and radiation-emitting products. Additionally, the FDA is responsible for assuring the safety of food, cosmetics, animal feeds, and dietary supplements; and for regulating tobacco products. He noted the FDA is responsible for the oversight of more than 2.1 trillion in consumption of medical products, food, and tobacco, and FDA-regulated products account for 20 cents of every dollar of annual spending by U.S. consumers.
Previously, the UIU alumnus was employed as an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) III, as well as the State Recall Coordinator and lead EHO in charge of the State of Alaska food safety database. As an EHO, he performed inspections, plan reviews, permitting, investigations, compliance reviews and enforcement actions of retail food establishments and public facilities. His duties included compliance with a variety of food safety and environmental health standards; provided training
in and promoted practices to restrict contamination or spread of disease; investigated disease outbreaks; and ensuring proper packaging, marking and labeling of products or materials.
“I consider myself extremely fortunate to be in this career field and I am extremely grateful to the UIU STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Department and environmental science program for providing me all of the required preparation,” Gard said. “The UIU education I received benefits me every day. The University’s environmental science major is interdisciplinary and lets one dip into all areas of the sciences instead of just one specific field. I have always said that in the working world an interdisciplinary approach is better since one gains an all-around feel and appreciation for the sciences.”
He explained that by focusing on internships, and thesis and senior projects, UIU’s environmental science program prepares its students for a successful experience in the job market or in graduate school. In addition, Gard praised Dr. Kata McCarville, Dr. Nigel George and all of UIU’s STEM professors for the extreme knowledge and passion for teaching that they share with all their students.
“I can only thank all the professors, students, friends and staff who made my time at UIU a rewarding one,” said Gard. “A friend of mine once told me, ‘The things in life we regret are the risks we never end up taking.’ Don’t regret anything and take risks in life. Take internships, take jobs, get out and explore the world, as there’s so much to see. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences and UIU was a great experience and the stepping-stone that led a path to my career. I’m fortunate to have obtained a great education and rewarding career that has allowed me to pursue my passion for adventure. Don’t let your dreams be dreams.”