Amber Sylvestre VG22 always joined her mother when she was watching television shows about medicine and diseases, like “Mystery Diagnosis,” “Monsters Inside Me,” or “Dr. G: Medical Examiner.”
“Watching those shows I saw how people were affected by crazy things, but can have a good outcome and end up living a normal life. I always thought that was fascinating,” she said.
Ms. Sylvestre grew up in Rhode Island, and planning for a career in the medical field earned her bachelor of science in biology from Rhode Island College. She worked during her undergraduate years at PhysAssist Scribes to gain clinical experience. As a medical scribe, she documented patients’ experiences in the emergency departments at Our Lady of Fatima Hospital and Roger Williams Hospital in Providence.
“I recorded literally everything happening around them, basically a play-by-play from the time the patient entered until they left,” she said. “I absolutely loved it. I was getting paid to learn. The doctors explained their thinking to me, I got firsthand knowledge of an ER setting.”
Looking to broaden her experience in the field before applying to graduate school, Ms. Sylvestre accepted a position as a medical technologist in the immunology department at Athena Diagnostics in a specialty radioactive (or “hot”) lab within Quest Diagnostics, in Marlborough, Massachusetts. She worked for two and half years on a small team that tested for autoimmune illnesses using radioimmuno and nanoscale assays in a very technical and challenging environment.
“It made me think of how to find a solution in a creative way, in the lab and out,” she said. “I always enjoyed being in the lab at Athena. I love learning about how humans and animals interact with these infectious agents and potential therapies that can prevent or intervene.”
When Ms. Sylvestre was accepted into the 12-month, accelerated Master of Science in Infectious Disease and Global Health (MS-IDGH) program at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, she knew the opportunity before her and that she had to do it.
“Everything I’ve learned already I know will help me immensely, and that was just one semester,” she said. “Especially with Covid, now is the time to learn this. I can apply firsthand what I’m learning to experiences we’re having right now.”
Her favorite courses so far have been “Applied Immunology and Vaccinology” and “Dimensions of Infectious Diseases.” In addition to the course material, she appreciates the supportive environment at Cummings School among her classmates and professors.
“An alum at an open house told me the program changed the way they think about things, and that’s definitely true,” she said. “You come into it with some background on how to think and navigate, but the program helps you think about how these problems of the world, like Covid, can be tackled.”
Ms. Sylvestre is starting up her spring semester and will work on a research proposal this summer before graduating. Her career path is wide open as she contemplates whether to become a doctor, physician’s assistant, veterinarian, or possibly earn her PhD and pursue a career in research.
“I am very glad that I chose Tufts. I love my drive onto campus every day, the cows, the scenery, it’s beautiful.”