Human Health Champion
Cummings School Program: DVM and International Veterinary Medicine Certificate Program
Additional Graduate Studies: Master of Public Health (dual degree program at University of Minnesota, anticipated graduation in 2023)
Undergraduate Studies: Bowdoin College, BA in biology, Spanish minor
Favorite Courses: clinical procedures courses, as well as Public Health, Law and Veterinary Medicine and Immunology.
Capstone Research Project Title: “Challenges to IUCN Guideline Implementation in the Rehabilitation and Release of Trafficked Primates in Peru”
Externships: Large Animal Ultrasound at Tufts, Tufts Ambulatory Service, and the following anticipated this spring: Hometown Veterinary Care, Kneser Veterinary Services, Dr. Shepard DVM, University of California Davis One Health Institute
While growing up in Wisconsin, Siena Mitman, V22, remembers bringing home various animals—frogs, turtles, and stray cats—seeking a way to interact with them. “I’ve been interested in biology and always thought about veterinary school,” she asserts.
As a high school student she visited Costa Rica for an ecologically focused biology course where they walked the beaches at night and collected turtle eggs that had been laid. “We accompanied the turtle back to the nursery with her eggs to help reduce the poaching in the area,” Siena explains.
One night a native pointed out a man about her age and identified him as a turtle poacher, which changed her perspective. Siena thought about what his circumstances might be that he needed to do this … maybe to feed himself or his family. “I realized that there is a lot of gray space about what is right and wrong,” she reasons. “I wanted to go to veterinary school to be with other people to help make decisions to prioritize human and animal health and well-being. And I wanted to be more equipped when there weren’t clear answers.”
Both her parents are New England natives, where they spent summers with family. Siena earned a BA in biology from Bowdoin College in Maine. “After graduating I took some time to explore and decide if veterinary medicine was what I wanted to do,” Siena recalls.
Over the next two years, she spent time at Lilongwe Wildlife Centre in Malawi, where she participated in conservation and rehabilitation and release programs for primates. Siena later worked with the Wisconsin Humane Society to gain more experience with dogs and cats. These experiences convinced her to go to veterinary school.
Tufts was the obvious choice for Siena, with her familiarity of New England and Cummings School’s reputation. She has seized opportunities to explore, created deep friendships, and gained support from caring mentors.
“My experience has been shaped and impacted by the people that I’ve interacted with and learned from here,” she says. “My roommates became some of my best friends and along with others have created a support system.”
“Through connecting with amazing mentors I did a research project in Peru after my first year, looking at the use of IUCN [International Union for the Conservation of Nature] guidelines in the rehabilitation and release of primates, infectious disease risks they may pose and how you balance that with welfare and conservation,” Siena explains.
Following a lecture, she had an inspirational discussion about the aforementioned ‘gray space’ with Assistant Professor Dr. Felicia Nutter, V93, “In her I found someone who matched my passion,” Siena asserts. “She was so supportive and helped me to find the project in Peru. Her mentorship has been so impactful and critical to my experience here. I respect the way she sees the world and I hope to maintain our relationship moving forward.”
Siena traveled to Peru with Research Assistant Professor Dr. Marieke Rosenbaum, V14, and they later worked together on a few projects. “I looked at these two mentors and said ‘I want to do that’ and they have helped me to ‘do that.’ They helped me build confidence to do things I didn’t think I was capable of doing.”
For Siena, the exposure to different aspects of veterinary medicine fostered a comprehensive education. “I think Cummings School prepares you to be a good clinician and a lifelong learner,” Siena declares. In recognition of her academic achievement, she is the Henry L. Foster, DVM, Scholar for 2020-21.
Because she did not have to choose a veterinary specialty, Siena has discovered new loves and passions. “I came here with strong interests in shelter medicine and wildlife because that’s what I had done previously. However, the Peru experience made me fall in love with public health and that encouraged me to start a Master of Public Health online and ultimately led to my decision to take a year of absence from my Cummings School studies last year,” she confesses.
“I accepted a Fogarty Global Health Equities Fellowship that focused on antimicrobial resistance and the risk factors for the carriage of antimicrobial resistant E. coli in domestic animals. I don’t think those opportunities would have happened if I wasn’t at Tufts.”
Another important focus of her time at Cummings School was the concept of One Health, according to Siena. “Human, animal, and environmental health are intertwined and to maximize one, you need to maximize all three. I have become passionate about One Health and I think that approach moving forward will be really important for many of the things we need to tackle as a species.”
During her final year, Siena appreciated the new friendships she formed and the work accomplished on campus. “I have truly enjoyed working with people and their animals this year in the clinics. I’ve had many moments when I’ve been struck by the love that people have for their animals, their reliance on them, or their bond with them. It has been really rewarding to be a part of that.”
She is ready to move forward to a ruminant health management internship at North Carolina State University, inspired by her work with primates. “I am looking forward to further training with that species, and I’m hoping to spend the next couple years to be the best doctor I can be and combine clinical work with public health advocacy and research in the realm of infectious disease, zoonotic disease, and access to care,” Siena states.
“Tufts has given me the confidence to continue to grow, explore, and to keep feeling challenged and excited.”
Siena was also profiled by Tufts University as part of their Profiles in Inspiration series spotlighting 2022 graduates.
“Tufts Now invited all the university’s schools to share the names of members of the Class of 2022, so that we can convey to our readers the creativity, intelligence, and drive of some of Tufts' newest (soon-to-be) alumni. We hope you enjoy meeting some of this year’s graduates. Prepare to be surprised, delighted... and inspired.”