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This Future Small Animal Veterinarian Also Focuses on Diversity
Thanks to her time at Cummings School, Olivia Pea, V21, has a greater sense of who she is and where she’s going
April 26, 2021
A portrait of Olivia Pea, Vet student, V21. Photo Courtesy of Paul Rutherford for Tufts University.

By Meredith Berg

Olivia Pea is finally making her girlhood dream a reality.

The soon-to-be Doctor of Veterinary Medicine said her longstanding ambition of becoming a veterinarian dates to elementary school. In one memory from third-grade recess, Pea said that instead of playing on the swings, she and a friend would take notes on and draw the animals and plants they saw on school grounds. The pair would go to their respective homes after school, look up more details about each animal, and write descriptions; the next day at school, they would happily share their finished nature booklets with one another.

After four years studying at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, with a focus on wildlife rehabilitation, Pea said her time at Tufts helped to bring her childhood interests full circle in a way that makes her feel grateful and prepared for the future.

“As a veterinarian, I have an important role to help alleviate pain and suffering and help return animals to their appropriate functionality,” reflected Pea, who is mulling over a couple job offers at general practices on Long Island, New York. “Being at Tufts really helped develop who I’m meant to be while also enhancing who I am.”

Here are three things to know about Pea:

1. Her time at Tufts has made Pea discover who she truly is.

“I really grew into myself,” Pea said of her time studying veterinary medicine. “I became more self-aware and aware of others around me. It’s also been great working with a variety of different people.”

In particular, through working with Associate Professor Emeritus Mark Pokras, V84, over the summer of 2019, Pea said she realized she wanted to work with wildlife in the future. Pokras also became a sounding board on another level.

“I was mainly able to talk to him about things that weren’t vet-related,” Pea said of Pokras. “During the program and outside of the program, he was a person on campus who I connected with and could rely on.”

It was around this time that Pea solidified her goal to become a wildlife rehabilitator, which is a veterinarian who works with wounded wild animals by providing medication, nutrition, and any needed physical therapy. She hopes to one day pursue her wildlife rehabilitation license.

2. She’s a member of Tufts Veterinary Council on Diversity.

Pea joined the Veterinary Council on Diversity during her third year after an issue on campus made her feel “uncomfortable being a minority” and caused her to doubt what she experienced.

One thing she learned “It’s important to not be passive in situations because it may be a detriment to yourself” not to resolve an issue, Pea said.

Through her work on the council, she’s helped create change on campus, specifically within students’ relationships with the Grafton campus police.

“There was a move to get to know the police a little bit better so that people would be more comfortable around them. It had been an issue and because no one brought it to the forefront, it got pushed to the wayside. That pushed me to be more involved in the council,” she said.

All told, Pea said, the Veterinary Council on Diversity “is a great group of people who try to make Tufts inclusive for everyone.”

3. Outreach is important to her.

One area that Pea said became a priority is finding what she cares about outside of school, such as her work for two years with This is How We “Role.” The program works with elementary students who are educationally disadvantaged due to socioeconomic status, race, or ethnicity. Cummings School students help them learn about veterinary careers, what it means to be a veterinarian, prepare and provide materials for them to take home, and showcase diverse role models from different ethnic backgrounds who work in the field.

Pea said that as a child, she didn’t fully understand what it meant to be a veterinarian, so this program had particular significance for her.

Pea said she would encourage future Cummings students to try different things outside the classroom during their time at Tufts such as Gap Junction, which works with middle schoolers after school to learn about body systems and diseases, and another program, Adventures into Veterinary Medicine, is targeted to anyone interested in learning more about becoming a vet.

“This whole [veterinary] program is about figuring out what makes you unique as a veterinarian,” Pea explained. “Part of that process is figuring out who you are.”

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