Elliott Garber (V'09/MPH'09)
National Institutes of Health Fogarty Fellowship & National Security Education Program Boren Fellowship
In sixth grade, Elliott Garber embraced his entrepreneurial spirit, as most children do at one time or another. But rather than setting up the traditional lemonade stand, the Tufts veterinary student spearheaded his own neighborhood egg business, raising more than two dozen hens and selling their eggs to parents while they waited in the middle school carpool line. It was an early sign that Garber had a knack for business—and an affinity for animals. "I was the kind of kid who brought every animal home and begged my parents to let me keep it," says Garber. "I always loved being outside."
Although he eventually turned a profit selling eggs, the Virginia native never seriously considered a career in the business world. Instead, throughout high school and early college, he toyed with the idea of studying medicine. After earning an undergraduate degree in biology and religious studies, however, he settled on a field that combined all of his interests: veterinary medicine. He headed to the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.
"I think veterinarians are in a unique place to cross normal boundaries of different types of vocations," says Garber. "I will be able to study diseases that affect humans and animals."
Through a prestigious Fogarty Fellowship, the National Institutes of Health is paving Garber's way to further explore the connection between human and veterinary medicine. One of only 19 students selected nationally for the award, Garber is the first veterinary student in history to earn the honor. In August, he will travel to Vellore, India, for 10 months to study gastrointestinal infections that are "zoonotic"—or communicable from animals to humans. Such diseases can be fatal.
Working with researchers at Christian Medical College—one of India's top medical schools and an internationally recognized research institution—Garber will explore how diseases that originate in livestock and wildlife impact humans in communities where people live in close quarters with animals. "In other parts of the world … there is a lot more forced interaction between different species," says Garber.
A student in Tufts' Doctor of Veterinary Medicine/ Master of Public Health combined degree program, Garber says he is "learning to look at the world through a different set of goggles." As a veterinarian with a public health focus, Garber says he'll examine disease at the population rather than the individual level and seek solutions that will benefit the masses.
Garber says he wants to try "to figure out how to create a more sustainable future for all the creatures on this earth." While protecting humans from disease will be a priority, he also is concerned with "finding solutions that allow us to live in harmony with our environment and the other creatures it supports."
When Garber returns from India in spring 2008, he'll barely have time to unpack his bags before he ships off to Africa to complete another fellowship—the National Security Education Program Boren Fellowship, which he received this year. Garber was able to defer his participation until next year so that he could finish the Fogarty Fellowship.
Through the Boren Fellowship, which supports the study of languages, cultures, and world regions that are critical to U.S. interests, Garber will spend six months in Angola and Mozambique learning the native language of Portuguese, and working with programs that seek to eradicate Newcastle disease, a devastating problem for poultry in these countries.
"The goal of this disease eradication program is to develop and distribute a heat-stable vaccine [that will] protect the chickens and the native wildlife," says Garber. He adds that ridding the region of the disease will also help rural farmers preserve their livelihoods.
Garber says that his experiences in India and Africa will prepare him "for when I eventually get out there and start doing it on my own." When he completes his studies at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, he'll work as a veterinarian in the U.S. Army for three years. His goal is to continue to explore the connections between animal and human medicine.
"I think it will be a neat opportunity to get to show some of the [people in] the human health field that veterinarians have something important to add to the mix as well," Garber says.
Profiles written by Meghan Mandeville, Office of Web Communications
Photos by Alonso Nichols for Tufts University. Homepage photo and top photo courtesy of Elliott Garber.
This story originally ran on May 14, 2007.