11/17/2020 - N. Grafton, Mass. - Dr. Yuki Nakayama, V14, Adjunct Lecturer of Clinical Sciences, poses for a photo with a cat at the Lerner Clinic on campus at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University on November 17, 2020. (Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)
“I was the kid that just never left. I was there all the time, all summer,” said Dr. Yuki Nakayama about volunteering as a teenager at the Humane Society, an experience that sparked a lifelong passion for helping animals.
The staff at the Humane Society took her under their wing, teaching her about veterinary services and exposing her to technical procedures. She left her home state of California to attend Wellesley College to study biological sciences on her way to becoming a veterinarian.
Dr. Nakayama spent two years after graduation as a research assistant at Massachusetts General Hospital in the neuroendocrine unit, researching the genetics of pituitary tumors. She then began her veterinary studies at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, before transferring to Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University to complete her DVM.
“I like the small community at Cummings School and especially fell in love with Tufts at Tech. I spent as much time as I could there,” said Dr. Nakayama.
The Tufts at Tech Community Veterinary Clinic was in her core rotation, and she began volunteering there as well, gaining hands-on experience and primary case responsibility.
Dr. Nakayama’s earlier work at Mass General fostered her interest in research, particularly in the field of molecular biology. As a student, she researched vaccines in shelter pets under the mentorship of Dr. Claire Sharp.
This research earned Dr. Nakayama the Merial Veterinary Scholar Award in her third year at Cummings School.
“I wanted to work on research that incorporated benchwork with clinical medicine in shelter animals,” she said. “It was an ongoing project that took up all my summers and free time when I was in vet school. I spent a summer at the MSPCA to gather data from cats, and my work there resulted in the award.”
After graduating from Cummings School, Dr. Nakayama worked as an associate veterinarian at a few practices and hospitals in Massachusetts, while volunteering regularly at Tufts at Tech and the Luke and Lily Lerner Spay/Neuter Clinic. She became an adjunct lecturer at the Cummings School in 2017.
Cummings School hired Dr. Nakayama with a PetSmart Charities grant in 2020. Her role was to work directly with students to help them gain primary surgery experience. She trained students at both Tufts at Tech and the Lerner Clinic. Dr. Nakayama was then hired as an assistant clinical professor for community medicine at Cummings School, teaching in clinic at Tufts at Tech. She is also the co-course director for a third-year dentistry course.
Dr. Nakayama was honored with the Henry E. Childers Award in 2020 for making extraordinary contributions to educating veterinary students.
“I love teaching and working with students, particularly in providing primary level care to animals,” said Dr. Nakayama. “Students are the doctors at Tufts at Tech.”
Under her direction, students evaluate and assess the pets brought in to Tufts at Tech. She discusses the cases and their treatment plans, but lets her students serve as their patients’ main doctor.
While she hopes to incorporate research back into her career at some point, Dr. Nakayama describes her experiences over the past nine years—from veterinary student to volunteer to professor—at Tufts at Tech as “amazing.”
“I’ve been involved from the beginning because I’ve loved it. I’m very excited to call Tufts at Tech my home.”