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Pamela Okerholm MCM’13

Education:
• B.S. Evolutionary Biology & Ecology, University of Rochester, 2005
• M.S. Conservation Medicine, Tufts University, 2013

Current Position:
I am an Informatics Specialist with Boston Benefit Partners, LLC.

What were you doing before entering the Masters in Conservation Medicine (MCM) program?
Prior to the MCM program, I was a small animal veterinary technician on nights and weekends, and I was a senior research associate at a startup biotechnology firm during the day. I was the lead molecular biology associate on a team interested in treating both chronic respiratory disease and acute respiratory infections in humans. I did a lot of data crunching, report writing, and presentations, in addition to inventory and vendor management – all applicable skills to many professions!

What aspects of MCM led to your decision to join the program?
The faculty were a big draw, and the idea of studying “One Health.” I had previously worked at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University as a research technician in the Division of Infectious Diseases, and was thrilled to be back and to meet more professionals who take a holistic view of the world. I also thought that the one-year intensive program structure would make the MCM degree attainable, both in terms of time required and tuition.

In what ways do you use your Masters in Conservation Medicine degree in your current position?
I use my training in epidemiology every day! I’ve even impressed my colleagues with maps generated in EpiInfo. The MCM program really emphasized incorporating every stakeholder’s viewpoint into generating a solution, and that is something I like to weave into my daily life. It is quite interesting leaving pharma for insurance, and I strive to educate my colleagues, who are focused on one piece of the pie, about what is going on outside of their industry. Additionally, I am trying to note the lessons learned in human electronic health record development, while keeping informed of current trends in electronic veterinary medical records. I was afforded the opportunity to connect with the veterinary professionals working on EVMR initiatives in the US and UK, after speaking about my MCM case study / engineered solutions poster at the North American Veterinary Conference in January 2014.

Tell us about your MCM project or preceptorship. In what ways did it help you form your career goals?
My MCM summer preceptorship was at the local board of health in Concord, MA through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH). I spent the summer toting around a life-sized, articulated, scarecrow display to parks, pools, and public buildings educating the public about tick-borne illnesses in the area. I also created a brochure, trailhead signs, bookmark, and newspaper articles on the same topic, and created a comprehensive survey of area residents with the help of a Cummings School faculty member. At the end of the summer, I was selected to present my work at the MDPH closing ceremony. This preceptorship gave me a lot of confidence and was also a lot of fun. I continue to use the education and print media skills I acquired and hope to collaborate with my preceptorship director again soon.

What did you enjoy most about participating in MCM?
I really enjoyed the breadth of topics and the small class sizes. It was wonderful being able to work closely with faculty and to hear about research happening at Tufts. Being surrounded by others who understand and want to promote “One Health” and Conservation Medicine was also fantastic and made me feel at home.

Is there anything else you would like to share with prospective MCM students?
Network! You’re connections are key to your success. And have the confidence to try something totally outside of your comfort zone.