Sarah Ventre
SUNY Upstate Medical University
Age: 23

"This past summer, the Kean Fellowship supported my rotation through dengue wards, the AFRIMS field site and the laboratories of the AFRIMS research institute. This rotation specifically enhanced my interest in pediatric infectious diseases."


I grew up in Colden, a small rural town in Western New York and attended Springville High School. I am the daughter of Michael and Sheri Ventre, my two loving and supportive parents, and my brother, Jeff, is working as a physical therapist. My family has been and will always be role models to me throughout my life.

After high school, I attended the University of New York at Buffalo and graduated in 2010 with a B.S. in Biomedical Sciences and a B.A. in Anthropology. I decided to minor in Spanish with the goal of effectively communicating with patients as a future physician. 

As an undergrad, I began spending time with refugees, especially those from Burma who had been living in refugee camps in Thailand before making their way to the United States. This gave me a stronger appreciation and clearer perception of the obstacles that refugees face, with adequate health care near the top of the list. I spent the summers of 2009 and 2010 in Nicaragua shadowing physicians in rural health posts as well as urban hospitals to get a better understanding of health care in developing countries. These experiences with refugees in Buffalo and patients in Nicaragua piqued my interest in international medicine.

Currently, I am working toward a combined MD/MPH degree and beginning my second year as a medical student at SUNY Upstate Medical University. With the help of the Kean Fellowship, I spent the past summer in Thailand learning about dengue hemorrhagic fever, current dengue vaccine trials and ongoing clinical research studies that are being performed at AFRIMS, a research institute in Bangkok. This experience complemented and heightened my interest in international medicine, specifically tropical medicine and the infectious diseases that are endemic within the developing countries.

In the future, I am interested in working as a physician in primary care or internal medicine with an emphasis on tropical medicine. I plan to work closely with the refugee population and to remain active in international medicine.

What impact will the 2011 Kean Fellowship have on your future?
This past summer, the Kean Fellowship allowed me to pursue my interest in international medicine and public health by supporting my rotation through dengue wards, the AFRIMS field site and the laboratories of the AFRIMS research institute. This rotation specifically enhanced my interest in pediatric infectious diseases, as children seem to be the most affected host to a majority of endemic infectious diseases in Thailand. I am excited to discover what lies ahead of me in tropical medicine.


Describe some of your most memorable travel or work experiences.  
One of my favorite experiences during my dengue rotation in Thailand was at the AFRIMS field site in Kamphaeng Phet, a rural province in Thailand about four hours from Bangkok. Throughout the week I learned the clinical research techniques that are currently being used to conduct dengue studies in the lab, hospitals, health centers and communities in and around Kamphaeng Phet. 

A highlight for me was the opportunity to interact with patients both in the hospital setting as well as in the patients’ communities and homes through my work with AFRIMS’ entomology and virology teams. With the entomology team, I learned how to conduct GPS mapping of households and mosquito collection based on the index case of dengue from the provincial hospital that consented to participate in the study. With the virology team, I interacted with the study participants, who were consulted on their clinical symptoms and were tested for the dengue virus with a blood sample. The virology team also demonstrated to me the importance of working with the community health leaders, who accompanied the teams to various households. 

What advice would you give to those just entering school or trying to determine their specialty or field of interest?
Get involved in opportunities that your community, university, or national organizations have to offer. Involvement in extracurricular activities can help you discover and enhance your interest in a particular career or specialty and give you a chance to participate in hands-on experiences that may shape your future.