Veterinary Student Pioneer

Alissa Jagielski aims to become first graduate of WTHS veterinary assisting program to earn D.V.M. from Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
a veterinarian dressed in surgical gear performs a surgical procedure on an animal in the operating room
Fourth-year D.V.M. student Alissa Jagielski performs a procedure during a lab at Luke and Lily Lerner Spay/Neuter Clinic. Photo: Cassie Munroe, V24

In 2012, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University collaborated with Worcester Technical High School (WTHS) to operate a teaching veterinary clinic where students learn about the field while helping to provide low-cost care for family pets from local underserved communities.

Each year, up to 25 WTHS junior and senior veterinary assistant students — after learning anatomy, medical terminology, and client communication skills during their first two years — serve alongside Cummings School faculty members and fourth-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine students on their clinical rotations and support staff to run Tufts at Tech Community Veterinary Clinic.

“The veterinary assisting program at WTHS provides veterinary exposure and a foundation of learning that prepares the students for entering the profession,” says Dr. Greg Wolfus, V98, director of Tufts at Tech and associate clinical professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences

“While they all graduate with NAVTA AVA [National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America Approved Veterinary Assistant] certification, many enter the profession as veterinary assistants. With advanced schooling and training, many grow to become certified veterinary technicians.” 

In May, Worcester resident Alissa Jagielski (she/her) is poised to become the first WTHS veterinary assisting program graduate to earn a D.V.M. from Cummings School. Wolfus contends, “Alissa is paving the road for others to continue their education and training to become a veterinarian. She has been a joy to teach and work with, and I’m honored to have witnessed her personal and professional growth.”


Alissa is paving the road for others to continue their education and training to become a veterinarian. She has been a joy to teach and work with, and I'm honored to have witnessed her personal and professional growth.

Dr. Greg Wolfus, V98


The path to Cummings School
As a middle school student, Alissa discovered the veterinary assisting program while attending a WTHS open house. Interested in the veterinary field from a young age, she later found her calling as a student in the program.

an young individual with long dark hair wearing blue scrubs observes a veterinarian wearing blue scrubs examine a small dog
Alissa Jagielski learns from Tufts at Tech Clinic Director Dr. Greg Wolfus, V98, as a Worcester Technical High School student in 2016. Photo submitted by Alissa Jagielski

“It was a great experience that solidified my idea of going to vet school,” she says. Working in the [Tufts at Tech] clinic and getting involved in community medicine awoke her passion for veterinary medicine. “We provided pet care to clients that otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it and I love that feeling. It is so fulfilling to see how thankful the clients are.”

Wolfus lauds the influence the students have had on their fellow area residents. “Our high school students are from the same target community as our clients,” he says. “It gives them pride to positively impact their community in such a meaningful way. Tufts at Tech directly improves the lives of over 5,000 animals per year, each of whom has a loving and grateful family.”

As a high school student at Tufts at Tech, Alissa met two supportive mentors in Wolfus and Dr. Jenni Grady, V12, an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences.

“Dr. Wolfus let me sit in on the vet student rounds because he knew I wanted to go to vet school and we regularly talked about career options and life in general,” Alissa shares. “And Dr. Grady has been a really helpful mentor to me in vet school.”

After graduating from WTHS and earning an approved veterinary assistant certificate, Alissa attended Becker College in Worcester. She completed a B.S. in veterinary/animal health technology and became a certified veterinary technician. During this time, she gained a wide range of veterinary experience. Alissa worked part-time as a vet tech at a local clinic, returned to WTHS for a summer externship, and completed an internship at Cummings School’s Henry and Lois Foster Hospital for Small Animals, as well as an externship at its Hospital for Large Animals. She also volunteered at Luke and Lily Lerner Spay/Neuter Clinic’s feral cat clinics, helping provide preventative care.

For Alissa, pursuing a D.V.M. at Cummings School was a natural progression. “It was always my first choice, because of my connection through Tufts at Tech, the cat clinics, and my other experiences,” she says. “I knew them well, so it was the obvious choice for me, and it was close to home.”

Her Cummings School experience
Alissa’s background and familiarity with Cummings School made her transition a bit easier than most. “I feel like I got a head start from my Worcester Tech, volunteer, and vet tech experiences,” she explains. “I had a foundational knowledge and my vet school education built upon that. And this year, when we started to get into clinics (clinical rotations), I was already comfortable with blood draws and running lab work, which helped a lot.”

The education and experience Alissa received, at Cummings School and through her previous endeavors, has prepared her well, despite some early trepidation. “Going into clinics, I was unsure about myself as a doctor, but over my six months in clinics, I have learned so much and become more comfortable and confident in my abilities.” she says.

Alissa is glad that her final core rotation will occur at Tufts at Tech. “I look forward to being the doctor there,” she explains. “The clinical year is key to putting everything that you learn from your didactic education into practice.”

Looking to continue her work in shelter and community medicine, Alissa is pursuing opportunities in those areas. “I’m focused on community medicine and affordable care, following my Tufts at Tech experience,” she says. “There is a shelter medicine specialty, so that may also be a part of my future.”

According to Wolfus, other students are following Alissa’s lead in veterinary medicine. “I know Alissa is the first of many future veterinarians who were first exposed to the profession at WTHS. The hope is that they will be the next generation of role models to provide community veterinary care.”

Tufts at Tech Community Veterinary Clinic provides low-cost care for up to 600 pets of underserved residents in the Worcester area each month. Compassionate services are provided by Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine faculty, fourth-year D.V.M. students, and Worcester Technical High School students enrolled in its veterinary assisting program.