Brown Fellow Rachel Moore ’20 plans career in zoonotic disease research at Royal Veterinary College in London

Centre College Brown Fellow Rachel Moore ’20 (Helotes, Texas), biology major and environmental studies minor, will be attending veterinary school at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in London, England, as she begins her professional path toward a career in zoonotic disease research. Moore pointed to her Centre experience—including internships, undergraduate research and study abroad—for contributing to her confidence and readiness for this area of study.

“I am very excited to be attending the RVC,” she said. “I feel very blessed to be able to pick between all the schools I applied to. I am also so grateful for the experiences and education that allowed such a prestigious school to be in my list of veterinary school options.”

According to Moore, RVC is considered one of the most prestigious programs in the world. After hearing that they were ranked first on a global ranking of veterinary medicine programs, she was very interested in what they had to offer.

Rachel Moore '20 teaches veterinary medicine in Mongolia.

Rachel Moore ’20 teaches veterinary medicine in Mongolia.

“When I went for the interview, I got a taste for their quality over quantity mindset to education,” she added. “Instead of stuffing their students with as much information as possible for four years, they focus on quality and depth of knowledge that can actually be retained in the long run. When I spoke to their American graduates, I was struck by their competence in their respective fields and heard them speak highly of the quality of education they received at the RVC.

“I was also amazed at their response to the COVID-19 outbreak,” she continued. “Compared to other schools I applied to, the RVC seemed most involved in research about controlling this disease. Their professors are highly connected to the forefront of the veterinary side of this outbreak, working with the WHO, and other global health organizations, to better understand the source of the outbreak, as well as possible treatments.”

After veterinary school, Moore hopes to work at the forefront of zoonotic disease research. She also plans to earn a masters degree and take the veterinary licensing board exam to become a veterinary specialist.

“I’ve known since middle school that I was really passionate about science,” Moore said. “I thought I might want to be a doctor—my parents are physicians—but after shadowing doctors in high school, I was not very fond of the work environment or the insurance paperwork. I also had a passion for environmental conservation and couldn’t see how being a human doctor would help.”

Moore grew up on a ranch and enjoyed taking care of the goats and chickens. During the summer after her senior year of high school, she shadowed a vet for the first time, and she realized veterinary medicine bridged her passions for medicine and the environment.

“It had all of the scientific and clinical elements that I enjoyed about human medicine with the added bonus of a diversity of patient types and strong connections to the environment and conservation,” she added. “However, when both my parents were diagnosed with cancer during college, I briefly reconsidered human medicine. Seeing firsthand the very tangible needs of doctors in fields like oncology, I wondered if animal medicine was too far removed from helping people. But I discovered I could bridge my passion for helping animals, people and the environment when I began exploring zoonotic diseases—diseases that transmit between animals and humans. Examples of zoonotic diseases include rabies, foot and mouth disease and even COVID-19.”

Rachel Moore '20 holds a baby goat while out interviewing herders for her zoonotic disease research in Mongolia.

Rachel Moore ’20 holds a baby goat while out interviewing herders for her zoonotic disease research in Mongolia.

Moore said she sees her future career falling in this area of medicine, trying to better understand the connections between humans, animals and the environment and how it leads to zoonotic disease outbreaks.

As part of the Brown Fellows Program, Moore participated in summer enrichment experiences in South Africa and Mongolia.

In South Africa, Moore studied equine and wildlife medicine for four weeks at two different thoroughbred racehorse hospitals where she got a taste of the racing industry in South Africa. She also spent two weeks working with a wildlife veterinarian.

When Moore was in Mongolia, she focused on zoonotic disease research and teaching. She self-designed and conducted a survey across four counties in rural Bayankhongor, Mongolia to determine differences in herder’s understanding of disease pathogenesis and the government agencies’ attempts to control zoonotic disease outbreaks of things, like brucellosis and foot and mouth disease.

Additionally, she spent time teaching English and veterinary medicine. During this time, she realized that she enjoys teaching, and she hopes to one day teach veterinary medicine at a university after gaining field experience working with zoonotic diseases.

As far as Moore’s Centre experience, she said the close relationships she’s had with her professor, as well as internships and study abroad opportunities have helped shape her career path.

Moore took Ewing T. Boles Professor of Biology and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Peggy Richey’s microbiology course during her junior year, and Richey has been mentoring her since.

“She provided the basics necessary to investigate zoonotic diseases in a deeper way and has been a tremendous resource for everything, from practicing for vet school interviews to finding books on topics I’m passionate about,” Moore said.

In addition, studying abroad in Glasgow helped Moore explore medicine more deeply with the functional anatomy class at the University of Glasgow, which solidified her interest in medicine.

“I also think having studied abroad in the United Kingdom once before improved my chances of being accepted into the program at the Royal Veterinary College,” she added. “I also really learned a lot from a study abroad experience in Malaysian Borneo with Dr. Klooster and Dr. Godlaski. That course helped me see connections between wildlife medicine and environmental degradation and maintained my passion for environmental issues.”

Moore said she is also extremely grateful for the opportunity to do an internship for academic credit. She spent CentreTerm during her sophomore year working with a vet in Texas where she experienced a 40-hour work week and being on-call for the month of January.

“This helped me come to terms with the more difficult parts of the veterinary profession and decide if this is really something I want to pursue,” she added.

With seniors having to say goodbye to Centre earlier than expected, Moore said she knows Centre and the overall Danville community are places she’s always welcome back.

“I am incredibly grateful for the James Graham Brown Foundation’s support in my summer enrichment projects as well as the mentorship from Dr. Kinkade, Dr. Kilty and Dr. Falk in planning those projects,” she concluded. “I am also so grateful for Dr. Richey, Dr. Klooster and Dr. Young for the ways in which they challenged me and mentored me. Most importantly, they saw me as a person first and student second, and I hope to one day make an impact through teaching like they have done for me.”

by Kerry Steinhofer
May 4, 2020

Header image: Rachel Moore ’20 works with elephants in South Africa during her wildlife medicine internship.