Siena Mitman, V22

School: Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine 

Degree: Doctor of Veterinary Medicine 

Home: Originally Wisconsin, but my family now lives in Maine, where I also went to college

How did your area of focus evolve at Cummings School? 

I originally came into veterinary school intending to pursue wildlife medicine or shelter and community medicine. I loved how they require you to navigate the complexities of the human-animal relationship and balance the needs of individuals with those of populations.  

Then, during my first year at Tufts, I heard a visiting veterinarian discuss the infectious disease risks associated with wildlife rehabilitation and release. The concern is that these animals, who are often exposed to other species during their time in captivity, including humans, may carry pathogens that can spread into other animal or human populations. So, there is a real balance among conservation needs, individual animal welfare, and risks like infectious disease in this work. 

I hadn't thought about this complexity between infectious disease and wildlife rehab before. I told my advisor, Felicia Nutter, V93, about my interest in this area, and she connected me with Marieke Rosenbaum, V14,  MG14, VG14, who does a lot of work with infectious disease and primates. Both mentors helped me to design a research project about the use of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) guidelines for the rehabilitation and release of trafficked primates, which are intended to help minimize risks like infectious disease, and the challenges faced by people trying to use such guidelines. For this project, I spent a few months in Peru and this experience launched me on a path toward the field of public health and infectious disease. 

I loved this work so much that I took a year off between my third and fourth year to work as a Fogarty Global Health Equity Scholar, which was something Dr. Rosenbaum had done during her time at Tufts, too. It’s incredible how people shape so much of what you do. For the Fogarty fellowship, I worked on a project assessing risk factors for antimicrobial resistance in domestic animals of small-scale livestock production settings outside of Quito, Ecuador. I enjoyed the opportunity to work with livestock and small-scale producers in Ecuador, and I recognized I would benefit from further developing my clinical skills with livestock species, so I am headed to North Carolina State University for a ruminant health management internship next year! 

What surprised you most about your time at Tufts? 

Veterinary school is all consuming, and I was surprised at the level of friendship I made with the people surrounding me. We had a study group of five or six of us who got together before every exam and eat candy as we studied late into the night. Those memories now are some of my favorites, even though they were stressful at the time. I know these people will remain my friends, colleagues, and support system for life, and I am very thankful for that. 

I was also very lucky and surprised that I ended up at Tufts with one of my best childhood friends from Wisconsin, who is currently a fourth-year student at Tufts University School of Medicine. It’s been such a gift to have this time together. My friend is also very interested in public health and we often dream about finding ways to combine our human and animal medical knowledge down the road. 

Also, my roommate and I spontaneously adopted two rats during our second year of veterinary school. Never thought I’d be a rat co-parent, but indeed I was! 

Complete the following sentence: “In 10 years, I will be...” 

It’s easy to think that things are either right or wrong, or good or bad, when so often the reality lies in the gray space in between. That’s what I feel excited about, working with others to find solutions in those areas where things aren’t always so clear. In 10 years, I hope I’m still working in that gray space. 

This profile originally appeared as part of the series “Profiles in Inspiration: Commencement 2022 Spotlights."

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