Dr. Sarah Kuchinsky
Sarah Kuchinsky is a duel PhD/DVM candidate at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. She defended her PhD in September 2022 and plans to graduate with her DVM in 2025. Her dissertation research sought to understand pathogenesis and enzootic transmission of Usutu virus, a mosquito-borne zoonotic virus that is closely related to West Nile virus. After finishing up her duel degree program she plans to pursue positions in academic or government settings that utilize the strengths of both degrees so that she can help develop impactful solutions to protect human, animal, and environmental health as a One Health veterinarian scientist.
Sarah Kuchinsky received her bachelor’s degree in Biology from Butler University. Summers during college were spent gaining veterinary experience with the intention to apply to veterinary school soon after graduation. A semester abroad in Tasmania sparked her interest in conservation biology and served as the inspiration for her undergraduate thesis exploring comparative conservation efforts of endemic island species in Australia and the United States.
She felt that further veterinary and research experience as well as participation in a master’s program would better prepare her for veterinary school. Internships at a zoo and wildlife center solidified her desire to work outside of clinic walls. A fellowship with the Division of Veterinary Services within the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research exposed her to numerous facets of biomedical and veterinary research.
Sarah moved out to western Maryland where she obtained her master’s degree in Conservation Biology and Applied Ecology from Frostburg State University. At Frostburg she pursued her love of wildlife and veterinary research through the lens of zoonotic disease. She evaluated the prevalence of Lyme disease causing bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, in ticks and rodents in a local state park. Her research showcases the inextricable link humans, wildlife, and the environment share, with wildlife and zoonotic disease at the crux. This project sparked her interest in the One Health initiative.
Passionate about the concept of One Health, Sarah wanted to combine wildlife research with traditional veterinary medicine by pursuing a veterinary science, DVM/PhD dual degree. She joined the Duggal Lab, under the direction of Nisha Duggal, in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, in August 2018. Her primary research focus has been understanding the pathogenesis, transmissibility, and disease dynamics of Usutu virus, a close phylogenetic and ecological relative of West Nile virus. Sarah’s projects have included assessing the pathogenesis of different strains of Usutu virus in various animal models and evaluating the enzootic transmission cycle of Usutu virus, including identifying potential maintenance bird and mosquito host species of Usutu virus. Sarah transitioned into the DVM curriculum in Fall 2021 with the aim of working in the public sphere as a veterinary scientist addressing the needs of humans and animals in the face of rising zoonotic disease threats.
In today’s world many of our issues are multidimensional and require a multidisciplinary solution. Involvement with the IGC has allowed Sarah to take an active role in researching and evaluating the challenges facing human and wildlife populations in the scope of global change. She has gained insights on how to effectively communicate her science to diverse audiences, expanded her understanding of interdisciplinary research, and developed collaboration skills, all of which are essential in seeking resolutions to mitigate the impacts of wildlife and zoonotic diseases.