Lexi Sack, GBS22

School: Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences 

Degree: Ph.D. in Clinical and Translational Science 

Tell us about your path to Tufts. 

I grew up on a farm around sheep and goats and horses, so I first wanted to work with large animals. Then in college, I became interested in public health: on diseases that affect not just animals, but also the people who interact with animals. 

After I got my Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and my Master of Public Health, what appealed to me about Tufts for my Ph.D. was the opportunity to be somewhere with a strong medical school, vet school and school of nutrition. I had amazing advisors from all three schools, across disciplines, and I also got valuable perspectives from my classmates—who were mostly medical doctors from different fields—as we read each other’s papers or discussed study designs.  

What’s the focus of your research?  

I chose the One Health track, which focuses on the health of humans, animals and plants and their shared environment with an interdisciplinary approach to improve the health of all three. I study zoonotic diseases, which have transmission cycles that involve animals. Think about how hard it’s been to prevent diseases, such as coronavirus, when they are primarily transmitted from human to human. Then you add dogs, snails, and other animals, and it can make it very hard to disrupt transmission. In Massachusetts, people will be most familiar with Lyme disease, whose reservoir host is primarily rodents. People are exposed when a tick bites a person, when the tick has already bitten an infected animal, such as a rodent.  

Why is it important to study these types of diseases?  

My current focus is neglected tropical diseases. These diseases often affect children, pregnant women, and people in lower socio-economic conditions, reducing people’s ability to work and increasing the cycle of poverty. I’m interested in prevention, rather than treatment. I’m currently working on schistosomiasis, a disease caused by parasitic worms. It’s in contaminated water, so children or adults who are in these environments, if they get in the water to wash clothes or bathe, they’ll get the disease again and again. My lab is working on disrupting this cycle through control of the snails that carry the worms, in an environmentally friendly, culturally relevant way.  

What’s your superpower?  

My ability to insert cattle into almost every topic.  

For full Commencement 2022 coverage, please visit now.tufts.edu/commencement-2022.

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