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For the Love of Public Health and Wildlife Medicine
It took a pandemic for Tatyana Kalani, V21, to come back to her true passion as a wildlife veterinarian
May 10, 2021
Photo credit: Paul Rutherford for Tufts University

By Meredith Berg 

When it comes to veterinary school, keep an open mind, advises Tatyana Kalani, V21, who found this mantra to be especially true when the pandemic hit as she neared the end of her time as a Tufts veterinary student. 

While there is something to be said about going into professional school with specific interests and goals in mind, your passions “may very well change and you may find new things that you’re interested in,” she said. That was certainly the case for Kalani, whose interests shifted from wildlife medicine to public health and back again over her time at Cummings School.  

With an undergraduate degree from the University of California, Davis in wildlifefish, and conservation biology, Kalani started graduate school with a strong interest in becoming a wildlife veterinarian. The year before veterinary school, she had completed a master’s program at Tufts with a focus on conservation medicine (https://grad.vet.tufts.edu/ms-conservation-medicine/). Going into her veterinary degree directly afterward was a natural progression, Kalani said, in part because of her interest in focusing on One Health, or the intersection of human, animal, and environmental health.  

She explained: “I had gone into grad school wanting to study wildlife medicine because that was my undergraduate degree. Then I found out about public health and wanted to do research and public health work. I even did an internship at the Department of Public Health my first year and was certain that was where my career path was going to take me.”  

Then, nearly overnight during Kalani’s third year at Cummings School, the world went on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I had too much time to think about what was going to happen after school. I spent a lot of hours emailing and talking with wildlife and public health veterinarians to figure out what I enjoyed most,” Kalani said of her time during the initial COVID lockdown in early March 2020. “When I got into clinical work and medicine, I found that I really did enjoy the medicine aspect. I realized I still loved wildlife medicine and still wanted to pursue it.” 

Kalani graduates with a dual degree in veterinary medicine and public health. Following graduation, she will stay at Tufts for a sixth year and begin an internship at Tufts Wildlife Clinic, a specialty hospital for wildlife 

“What I love about wildlife rehabilitation is that you can practice individualized clinical medicine while still having population health impacts. I can still interact with the public and educate them because a lot of wildlife are impacted by humans,” she said. 

Kalani added that one of her favorite aspects of wildlife medicine is releasing birds back into nature after weeks of rehabilitation. “It’s very hard to describe the feeling of opening the box and watching an animal fly away. The weeks you spent doing physical therapy mean something, and it’s a very cool feeling to have,” she said. 

Kalani was the class co-president for the last three years, which she said was a great way to connect with classmates. As one highlight, she enjoyed planning ways for the class to maintain a work-life balance by de-stressing and socializing. 

She said she’ll always take with her the connections she’s made with classmates, professors, and researchers. “Tufts is such a supportive environment, and it really feels like a family. Everyone wants you to succeed, and it’s a great atmosphere. These connections and the people I know will be lifelong friends and colleagues,” said Kalani.