Category Archives: Field Research

An Insider’s Guide to RX One Health Course in Tanzania (Part II): Learning How Much I Don’t Know!

Taylor Calloway (Class of 2018) was one of twenty-one students who participated in the new Rx One Health Course based in Tanzania and Rwanda during June 2017. This is Taylor’s personal narrative aiming to illustrate her daily experiences, a deeper understanding of the One Health approach in a real-world setting, and the big question of “why is this course important.”

Taylor’s journey Part II


Our group learing about Neema Crafts and how they create prints for their nonprofit organization.

Habari azobuhi (Good morning)!! Starting at seven am with the understanding that three lectures were to come after was not something everyone looks forward to and I certainly did not. Yet, the lectures morphed into deep discussions. There were “big picture” talks on the One Health approach used in Tanzania including the country’s infectious diseases and human-animal conflicts. This made my mind race with ideas on projects yet to begin. I am definitely where I should be to find my niche in veterinary medicine so I can include the One Health approach in life.

We had lunch after touring the place we were gathering for lectures called Neema Crafts. Neema= Grace in Swahili. They are a non-profit organization that employs the local disabled people of Iranga and teaches them trades like weaving, ceramics, metalworking, screen-printing, glass bead making and woodcarving. These are then sold to tourists and some locals for the continuation of the organization.

Our group learning about Neema Crafts and how they create prints for their nonprofit organization.

There was a story that stood out to me. One of the first deaf men employed was found under a basket, hidden away from the world by a family that believed they were cursed. He was given a sign name of hunchback (this is pointing to your back). He worked extremely hard and was promoted to teaching new members the different crafts. After some time, his colleagues did change his name. Now when people ask about him, his sign is two fists pounding downwards. This means I am capable.

Friends already. Mwokozi Mwanzalila and June Barrera are already getting along.

In the afternoon we toured the local markets. People were able to practice their Swahili, bargain for gifts and learn more about the Tanzanian culture. There was a little girl who ran up to me and smiled. I smiled back and said, “mambo” (hello to a friend). “Shikamoo” her little voice responding to me (a respectful hello). The clothes and personalities of everyone we saw and talked with were very unique. There was one man in a bright orange suit, a woman covered from head to toe in a brown cape and another woman with a fur sweatshirt. I am learning that the more I see, the less I know.

My young friend who welcomed me to Tanzania.

Fish at the downtown market place.

Downtown Iringa

First sighting of a veterinary clinic in Iringa .

The evening became a lesson in communication and leadership skills. The whole group discovered our unique styles from a communication and leadership exercise. Without giving too much away, we had to be able to work together to “zoom” in and out of a story. Confusing right? Well we thought so, but in the end we did pull through and find a solution. The exercise reminded us that we all have our own set of skills to bring to the table and by communicating properly, we can help each other figure out a finished product. By the end of it, we were all very proud and tired. Dinner was served and a lecture, led by Dr. Mazet, on soft leadership skills (communication) finished our day around 8:30 pm.

Swahili Words of the Day: Bafum, Shower; Choo, toilet Continue reading

Mongolia Adventures in Research

Contributed by Devin von Stade, Class of 2017

group_Serguleng photo

Members of the research team from left to right: Gar Waterman, Devin von Stade, Samantha Lawton, Emily Iacobucci, Douglas Lally and Devin Byrne. (Photo: Soyolbolod Serguleng)

This summer I realized a dream I had left on the back burner for over a decade: exploring Mongolia with one of my best friends. Inspired by old National Geographic articles and pieces of historical fiction and non-fiction alike, we had declared it the ultimate personal adventure. Having grown up (a little) since then, I briefly considered that my excitement at the prospect was perhaps misplaced, that now as a scientist my idea of adventure no longer applied, but I was so very wrong.

An adventure for me is an unusual experience where I face natural and cultural challenges, where I encounter new animals while camping under a foreign sky—an experience where preconceptions are broken down and questions have to be answered from scratch. This idea is as much entwined with the fantasy of youth as it is with a scientific approach. I went to Mongolia to test a field microscope as part of my summer STAR research project where I was assessing the capabilities of a low-cost digital microscope for veterinary tele-medical applications and preconceptions would only hold me back. Continue reading

Making a Difference in Chile

Contributed by Marlene Belmar, Class of 2018

Photos courtesy of Dr. Gerardo Acosta

Marlene Belmar in Chile

Marlene Belmar in Chile

My life long career goal within veterinary medicine is to specialize in epidemiology and apply my knowledge and skills towards a better understanding of zoonotic diseases. This past summer, I had a wonderful opportunity to go to Chile to participate in a research project entitled “Control and Prevention of Hydatidosis/Echinococcosis in the communes of Punitaqui, Monte Patria and Combarbalá within the province of Limarí in the region of Coquimbo,” under the mentorship of Dr. Gerardo Acosta-Jamett.

Hydatidosis is a zoonotic disease of high public health concern within Chile, where dogs are the intermediate host and herbivores and humans are the definitive host. Studies evaluating risk factors associated with the presence of E. granulosus in dog feces have only been initiated recently. Having the opportunity to participate in a project that is striving to improve the lives of people and animals in underserved areas of Chile sparked all of my interests. Continue reading

Learning Compassion and Research in Uganda

Contributed by Cody Blumenshine, Class of 2018

Cody Blumenshine surrounded by village kids in Uganda.

Cody Blumenshine surrounded by village kids in Uganda.

My interest coming into veterinary school has been to pursue a career in zoonotic disease research. With my interest in zoonotic diseases, the idea of One Health resonates with my perspective on life. I was fortunate to find a research project with Dr. Beatriz Martinez Lopez that allowed me to incorporate a One Health approach. With aid from the Office for Global Programs and Students Training in Advanced Research, I was able to spend six weeks in Nwoya District, Northern Uganda, performing research on African Swine Fever (ASF). ASF is not a zoonotic disease, but because of the disease dynamics in how the hosts, people, and the environment interact, it embodies One Health.

At the beginning of my stay I was very fortunate to have a friend and colleague, Dr. Esther Kukielka, aid me. She helped me prepare for my research, but she also helped me transition into the lifestyle and expectations that were associated with staying in Uganda. The latter was more important to me, because this was my first international travel experience. Esther introduced me to locals, team members, and she made sure I was well situated with the accommodations of our mud-hut in the village of Lutuk. Prior to leaving, Esther allowed me to help facilitate a participatory epidemiology exercise for her study. The exercise consisted of using group activities with local pig farmers to gain a deeper understanding of their collective knowledge of ASF. Continue reading

Thinking Outside-the-box Proves Valuable to Fieldwork

Roxann with lambFormer VSTP Pfizer Fellow Roxann Brooks Motroni on thinking outside-the-box for career options and appreciating California’s cattle ranchers

Roxann Brooks Motroni – a Veterinary Scientist Training Program (VSTP) Pfizer Fellow – holds a PhD in Comparative Pathology (2012) and a DVM (2013) from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. She was an important part of the team working on developing a vaccine to prevent foothill abortion in cattle under Professor Jeff Stott.  She sat down with us by phone recently to share her experiences at the school during a pivotal time for the foothill abortion vaccine and what she is doing now as an AAAS Fellow for the Department of Homeland Security in Washington DC.

Tell me a little about your background. What got you interested in veterinary medicine?Like every other veterinary student, I wanted to be a vet since I was three and never thought of anything else. I’m originally from Virginia. At 16, the state of Virginia offered a ‘Governor’s School of Agriculture’ at Virginia Tech that gave me the opportunity to work in a research lab. Through participating in this program I realized I really liked research. It was my first time thinking outside-the-box about my career choices and I pursued every research experience I could. I ended up with a full scholarship to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County where I studied biology. This was the time when West Nile Virus entered the U.S., and it got me thinking about infectious diseases and the wildlife-livestock interface. For example, how wildlife management protects livestock and how cattle can graze without effecting wildlife.  Continue reading