Dr Felicia Nutter is always up for a challenge. She’s gone from trekking through dense African forests to aid the conservation of gorillas, to overseeing hospital operations, and the animal care of seals and sea lions, to providing strategic and technical support for an international initiative to improve prevention, and response to emerging outbreaks of infectious diseases.
Dr Nutter’s career serves as an example of the broadening role that veterinarians serve in our global society. She studied biology and psychology at Yale University and went on to earn her DVM from Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in 1993. She then completed a Fulbright Fellowship working with the chimpanzee and baboon populations of Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania. When she returned to the Unites States, Dr Nutter completed an internship in small animal medicine and surgery, a residency in Zoological Medicine, and a PhD in Comparative Biomedical Sciences at the College Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University.
From 2002 to 2006, Dr Nutter served as a regional field veterinarian for the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project in Rwanda. Using her expertise in free-ranging wildlife medicine and epidemiology, she oversaw domestic animal health and research programs for the critically endangered mountain gorilla population, co-founded an orphan care program, and helped start an employee health program. In the field, Dr Nutter monitored, prevented, and treated poacher-induced injuries, trauma sustained from human-gorilla and gorilla-gorilla conflicts, and infectious diseases, such as measles and pneumonia. She also trained national park staff and worked closely with the local communities who share the Albertine Rift Forest with the gorillas.
After her contract ended, Dr Nutter became staff veterinarian at the Marine Mammal Center in the Marin Headlands of Sausalito, California. It was familiar ground. She had completed a residency externship at the nonprofit hospital dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of ill and injured marine mammals.
In 2009, Dr Nutter returned to Tufts University as a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Infectious Diseases and Global Health and was appointed Senior Technical Veterinary Officer for RESPOND. RESPOND, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of the Emerging Pandemic Threats Program, is a multidisciplinary team tasked with creating more effective cooperation between veterinarians, doctors, and public health officials responding to outbreaks of infectious diseases. RESPOND employs this One Health approach with a focus on identifying and countering pandemics within wildlife and livestock before the zoonotic diseases reach the human population.
Dr Nutter has been with the RESPOND project since its inception in 2009. She provides strategic support to project headquarters in Bethesda and global support to project offices in Kinshasa, DR Congo, Kampala, Uganda, and Bangkok, Thailand. She also serves as the project’s liaison to partner faculty at the University of Minnesota, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). The ability to work on local, national, and global levels in the pursuit of optimal health for animals, people, and the environment drew her to the position.
Working at the intersection of animal, human, and environmental health is a common thread throughout Dr Nutter’s seemingly diverse pursuits. Dr Nutter, now the Director of International Veterinary Medicine at Cummings School, explains, “The hands-on, immediate impact of helping injured or sick animals is very satisfying. But to conserve populations, we need to identify and solve problems on a larger scale. Animal, human, and environmental health are bound together. The interdisciplinary collaboration between physicians, researchers, veterinarians, conservationists, public health officials, and educators is essential to ensuring sustainable global health.”