Fall 2016

Knowledge Swap

Veterinary student exchange designed to curb the spread of disease 

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Tanjila Hasan, a visiting Bengali student, exchanges contact information with Amanda Nee, V18. Photo: Alonso Nichols

Perspective changes everything. That certainly was the case for visiting veterinary students from Bangladesh who attended Cummings School’s 26th annual research day, featuring science that spanned the globe and species from alpacas to wild macaques.

“The research we work on as students in Bangladesh is very limited,” said Harun Rashid, one of four veterinary students who came to Cummings School last fall as part of a new “twinning” project with Chittagong Veterinary and Animal Sciences University.

In Bengali veterinary education, in-depth research, whether in the field, the lab or the hospital, typically doesn’t happen unless veterinarians are pursuing postgraduate master’s education, which is similar to a U.S.-educated vet doing a residency and becoming board-certified in a specialty.

“If we could create opportunities for second- or third-year veterinary students to conduct research, it would have an impact on the proficiency of veterinary medicine in our country and help the whole world also,” Rashid said.

Harun Rashid gives a lecture about his homeland. Photo: Alonso Nichols

That is one of the goals of the new relationship between the two veterinary schools. The World Organization for Animal Health helped orchestrate the partnership to establish ongoing collaboration in curriculum development and research designed to help contain the spread of zoonotic diseases—those transmitted between animals and people.

As part of their seven-week visit to Cummings School, the Bengali students attended classes and participated in clinical rotations. In addition to the benefits of smaller class sizes and more hands-on learning, the Bengali students said they want to advocate for the importance of the advanced diagnostic tools, such as CT scans, MRI and polymerase chain reaction tests that can identify viruses and bacteria by their DNA.

“There are drugs and treatments here that differ from ours, too,” said Tuly Dey. “It was good to experience those so we can share that with our country and hopefully establish similar capabilities.”

The knowledge exchange goes both ways: three Cummings School students have already been to Bangladesh to study avian influenza, antibiotic residues, E. coli and rotavirus in food animals. Four Cumming School students traveled to Bangladesh this summer, and five Bengali students were expected to visit Tufts for two months this fall.

Some diseases are endemic to specific regions of the world, notes Bengali student Jabin Sultana. Working in Bangladesh, Sultana said, gives the Tufts veterinary students a rare opportunity to learn to recognize and handle cases of infectious diseases before they ever pop up stateside.

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