A lifelong ambition
Understanding why something happens is the foundation for shaping the future. Pathologists, like Dr. Andrew Miller who are trained to look for the pathogenesis behind diseases, use this knowledge to work toward prevention strategies and cures for deadly conditions like cancer or type II diabetes.
Dr. Miller is an Instructor of Pathology at the New England Primate Research Center (NEPRC), Harvard Medical School, having joined the Division of Comparative Pathology in 2008 after completing a residency in Anatomic Pathology at Cornell. In September 2008 Dr. Miller successfully completed his ACVP board certification examination. As part of his position at NEPRC, he works with nonhuman primates to study the effects of aging on naturally and experimentally occurring diseases.
"My work is fascinating because I study all aspects of disease with a goal of understanding the underlying conditions that enable the disease to take hold and flourish," said Miller, who earned his DVM in 2005. "My work puts me at the forefront of understanding and diagnosing conditions that deny us the quality of life that we all desire."
Dr. Miller became interested in pathology as a specialty in veterinary medicine after completing a summer job with the Department of Environmental Conservation. The position, he says, allowed him to explore the wide spectrum of wild animal diseases. When he began his veterinary medicine training at Cornell, he met several pathologists and residents who "showed him the ropes," allowing him to spend extra time on the necropsy floor, and making it possible for him to work with histology sections in his first year of veterinary school.
Today, he does what he can to return the favor, helping to oversee an externship program that enables students to rotate through the Primate Research Center's pathology labs. Students from a variety of veterinary schools, including Cornell's Koji Yasuda, DVM '11, have completed the externship, learning in-depth information about just one of the many specialized areas in which veterinarians can focus. In addition to receiving an introduction into research pathology, Koji learned how to perform and interpret data generated from several techniques including immunohistochemistry and computer spectral image analysis. Other students in the program have learned molecular techniques including DNA and RNA isolation from tissues, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), cloning, and sequencing.
Koji Yasuda, from the Class of 2011, recently completed an externship with Dr. Miller at NEPRC. "I had high expectations for the externship," said Yasuda, adding that his expectations were exceeded. "Dr. Miller is sharp. He's quick and willing to share what he knows. My experience at the Center was career-defining. I will spend the next one and a half years preparing for the three-year residency program at the Primate Research Center."
Dr. Miller is also an Adjunct Lecturer at the College. In a recent presentation to the College's current group of Anatomic Pathology residents, Dr. Miller presented a talk on nonhuman primate neurologic diseases. In addition, Dr. Miller has been involved in the recent identification of a novel protozoal pathogen discovered in simian immunodeficiency virus-infected rhesus macaques. The work, which will appear in Veterinary Pathology, characterizes a Spironucleus that caused mesenteric abscesses and interstitial pneumonia not previously reported in rhesus.
"With this information, researchers can look for a similar agent at work in patients infected with HIV," said Miller.