It’s been a long road to Virginia for veterinary anatomic pathologist Santiago Diab
October 31, 2023
Santiago Diab has joined the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine as an anatomic pathologist in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology. Diab’s research interests are primarily focused on food animal diseases, infectious diseases, and gastrointestinal diseases.
Clinics take up the majority of his appointment, and he will split the rest of his time between research and teaching. He’s excited for the rich opportunities for collaboration at the veterinary college.
Born in Argentina, Diab’s life has taken him zig-zagging to the United States, back to Argentina, and then back to the States again… and to academia, then cattle farming, and back.
"I've always thought of myself as a hybrid type of veterinarian, with a foot in academia and a foot outside academia — always understanding the problems of the farmers, because I was one. I've also worked for state institutions and public institutions. I am always trying to connect academia and the private sector, because I think there is a disconnect that's growing bigger,” said Diab.
After graduating from the School of Veterinary Medicine at the National University of La Pampa in Argentina, he completed a residency in food animal health at Argentina's National Institute of Agricultural Technology.
Though it wasn’t strictly a pathology residency, Diab’s interest in pathology ignited during his work there. He began working in a private pathology laboratory alongside practicing large animal medicine.
"I started working with a human pathologist, and I realized that I needed to learn a lot more. To me, he wasn't making the right diagnoses for animal diseases, but I didn't have enough pathology knowledge to argue with an experienced human pathologist," Diab said.
Having a lifelong thirst for knowledge, Diab began looking for a pathology residency and was accepted to the anatomic pathology residency at the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory at the University of California. In 2010, he received his board certification from the American College of Veterinary Pathologists.
His plan had been to go to the United States to become a pathologist and then return to Argentina to work, but after passing his boards, he was offered a job in the United States. He worked for the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory and the University of California as a pathologist and faculty member, and before he knew it, ten years had passed. He had developed his career in the United States, married an American, and was comfortable living here.
However, as Diab said, "It turns out that life has its own twists and turns!"
He took a leave of absence from his university job to go to Argentina to see and try to help his aging father and his cattle business, traveling alongside his wife and two-year-old child. He passed away four months after Diab and his family arrived.
This left Diab with the responsibility of the cattle farm, having to organize the business and divide it up between his four siblings and his mother.
"All of a sudden, I'm in charge of a pretty large operation. What I thought would take a few months to figure out, took six years,” he said.
Six years and one pandemic later, Diab has returned to the United States with his family. They are excited to live in Virginia — his wife has family in Giles County, and they love the beauty of the mountains and spending time with their kids outside.
“Blacksburg is one of the best-kept secrets, and I’d like to keep it that way! Every day is a beautiful day so far. I hope I’m mindful enough so it stays beautiful — I hope I won’t take it for granted.”