Top Animal Welfare Assessment Honors

Second-year D.V.M. student takes individual first place accolades at annual AVMA event
a smiling individual with long brown hair wearing a green sweatshirt holds an award
Sara Pantel, VG21, A15, proudly displays her AVMA award. Photo: Hannah Herrgesell, V26

Sara Pantel, A15, VG21 (she/her), a second-year student pursuing a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.) degree at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, earned first place for her individual live scenario assessment in the veterinary division at the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Annual Animal Welfare and Assessment Contest.

The 2015 alum of Tufts University and 2021 graduate of Cummings School’s M.S. in Animals and Public Policy (MAPP) program was joined at the contest by three current MAPP students—Helene Flittie, Violet McKeown, and Elizabeth Vo.

Sara had competed in the contest twice before and enjoyed the experience, but she had not planned to participate again this year—until the MAPP students reached out for advice. “I was chatting with them over Zoom about what to expect at the contest and it got me excited about it, so I decided to join.

“Since I did it my first year as a MAPP student, I’ve been hooked because it’s so much fun,” she says. Individuals may compete as undergraduate, graduate, or veterinary students. They are presented with a series of scenarios involving two animals, describing what type of enclosure they are in, their diet, climate, and other details of their care. The student is tasked to assess the welfare of all aspects of each species’ life, then decide which animal’s welfare is better and present their argument to a panel of judges who are experts in the field.

“I enjoy meeting and learning from these experts in animal welfare and being among all the other students and their coaches who are passionate about the welfare of animals,” Sara shares. 

“The MAPP program nurtured my interest in animal welfare and my MAPP degree gave me confidence in my academic abilities. Completing a research project, taking graduate-level courses, and succeeding made me feel that I could get through vet school. It also provided the advantage of perspective. I learned about many career options in veterinary medicine through numerous guest speakers.”

Before going to vet school, Sara took advantage of several opportunities to expand her knowledge of animal species through a variety of experiences. These included research on dolphins and whales in Greece, and working at the New England Aquarium, the ASPCA, and the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race in Alaska.

Despite her familiarity, choosing Cummings School to pursue a D.V.M. was “a tougher choice than I expected,” she says, “but I formed great relationships with MAPP faculty members. They were very supportive and I felt a part of the community.” It was also closer to home for the Westchester, New York, native.

During her time as a D.V.M. student, Sara has gotten involved on campus, having served as treasurer of Tufts Veterinary Council on Diversity (TVCD) and president of the Pathology Club. “I was inspired to get involved with TVCD after learning about the lack of diversity in the veterinary profession,” she explains. “I feel as though I am contributing in a small way by supporting the member organizations of TVCD with their events.”

Undecided about a career path in veterinary medicine, Sara is gaining interest in pathology. “It’s been fun to get to know some of the pathology faculty and learn from clinical and anatomic pathologists through events we sponsor,” she says.

Sara also enjoys her role as a student representative on the Animal Welfare Committee, where faculty and students address the community's welfare concerns about animals used in the curriculum or the School’s hospitals.

For her future, she aspires to find a career where she can be a clinician while researching methods to improve animal welfare. “It could range from ways to mitigate pain for farm animals or improving animal welfare in a laboratory setting,” she shares. “Maybe through teaching, advocacy, or another option.”

Advocate and Make a Difference in the World

Cummings School’s M.S. in Animals and Public Policy examines the changing roles of animals in our society. Students learn to effectively evaluate research and policy arguments preparing them for careers in animal protection agencies, conservation initiatives, and environmental advocacy organizations.