PJ Stanley Hamel

Photo of PJ Stanley Hamel

PJ Stanley Hamel (‘10) credits UMass Amherst with helping him translate his love for animals into an academic passion and career. PJ had a life-long goal of becoming a doctor—until he discovered the hands-on opportunities of working with large animals at the UMass Hadley Farm—and suddenly realized how he could combine his love of animals and interest in medicine.

When PJ came to UMass Amherst, he began volunteering for Dr. Steve Purdy, Director of the North American Camelid Studies program. The summer of his junior year, Dr. Purdy offered PJ the chance of a lifetime—the opportunity to travel to Peru in support of the Nunoa Project, an organization that helps to stimulate the Peruvian economy and increase the quality of life. While high in the Andes, PJ offered advice on Alpaca care and vaccination to Peruvian farmers—and even caught a glimpse of the elusive vicuña.

PJ calls the trip a “career-shaping experience” that helped him to narrow focus to what he loves most about veterinary medicine: working with large and wild animals, and more specifically, taking care of large and wild animals in impoverished areas.  PJ also worked on a project funded by Cornell scientists who are creating a vaccine to protect against a worm that is fatal to Alpaca. PJ was in charge of a trial run of the vaccine, charting the progress of infected animals. PJ was also a volunteer veterinary assistant at the Lichtenberg Veterinary Hospital in Pelham.

PJ is currently enrolled in the Tufts University Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Program, one of the country’s most selective vet schools. He spent this past summer at the San Diego Zoo working with epidemiologists studying Johne’s disease in wild, exotic, and rare hoofstock.  Tufts has allowed him to start his vet training in the fall of 2011 so that he can continue his research at the zoo this year.

While at UMass, PJ, who graduated in 3 years with honors, was president of the pre-vet club; an organization he says embraced him when he was a freshman learning the ropes. He says college would have been much harder without this tight-knit group: “We’re a small bunch, but I like that a lot.” He is also a pilot-in-training with a love of art, drama, and photography (he has his own photo business), and has served as a sports photographer and head photo editor for the UMass daily newspaper, The Collegian.