By STEVEN NALLEY
Janet Welter remembers when she and her classmates thought it was a big deal when Mississippi State University’s fledgling College of Veterinary Medicine required everyone to buy their own microscopes.
“Now I think the big deal is you’ve got to have a computer,” Welter, a member of CVM’s first graduating class from 1981, said. “When I think of Mississippi State’s vet school, I think they were a leader in using IT resources; I think they were the leader in sending out syllabi electronically rather than in paper; I think it prepared veterinary students as veterinarians to stay abreast of things.”
Welter is now chief campus veterinarian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she said the background in population medicine she got at MSU helps her tend to dairy herds, sheep, mice, rats and other groups of animals.
“I still think (population medicine is) a strong suit of this institution,” Welter said. “I still think that I was better prepared to do that kind of medicine than graduates from some other veterinary schools.”
This year, MSU celebrates 30 years of making a name for itself in veterinary medicine through benchmark research and graduates who make their mark in the field.
John U. Thomson, who served as dean of the CVM from 1999-2004, said MSU’s possession of one of only 28 veterinary colleges in the U.S. is unique in itself, but the veterinary graduates MSU produces distinguish the college further.
“We have outstanding individuals in every class,” Thomson said. “You think of the cumulative effect of all these different classes on society, and you can imagine what impact the CVM has had on society in general. We’ve had heads of agencies and federal agencies graduate from the CVM. That brings added reputation not only to Mississippi State, but to the state of Mississippi.”
The current CVM dean, Kent Hoblet, said the CVM has been known for innovation and creativity since the beginning, and current faculty and students are working to maintain that legacy for the future.
“The results speak for the way they’ve done,” Hoblet said. “On research, we’re on the cutting edge on a number of fields that affect both animals and human health.”
Brandi Van Ormer, an administrative assistant in Hoblet’s office, said one of the most important things CVM does to ensure its graduates’ success is to gets students out into the field more often than other, more traditional programs. Each student in the CVM gets a full year of externships, giving them experience across America, Van Ormer said.
“They get a lot of practical experience, and we turn out graduates who are very prepared for all aspects of practice,” Van Ormer said. “Students have responded well to that. Many of them who have made the choice to come to MSU, that’s one of the things they love about the school is that they can get out to the field sooner and more often.”
The CVM also hosts leading research in the field, Van Ormer said. For instance, she said, at CVM’s Aquatic Research and Diagnostic Laboratory in Stoneville, interim fish lab director Pat Gaunt conducts research critical to the state’s catfish industry.
“The catfish industry is struggling with disease in market-size catfish,” Van Ormer said, “and she’s been doing research that will identify the risk factors of the disease and identify some vaccines that would prevent losses to the catfish industry.”
Janice Chambers, director of MSU’s center for environmental health science, said a great deal of research she and other CVM professors do intersects with human medicine. Many of them are part of the One Health Initiative, she said, which identifies common ground between human and animal physiology, disease, and therapy.
“We’re primarily looking at pesticides and the effects that pesticides might have, and the defenses that people or animals have to them,” Chambers said. “One of the things we’re interested in right now is some of the old pesticides, called legacy pesticides, that were used back in the 1950s and 1960s that are not used anymore. Higher levels of those have been associated with Type 2 diabetes. One of our big projects right now is a Department of Defense-funded project. We were looking to develop antidotes to neuroagents that would be more effective than the antidotes we have at present.”
Chambers said MSU has done a great job of encouraging and facilitating CVM research.
“We have an excellent physical plant here,” Chambers said. “We have some laboratory facilities here that are truly excellent. We are encouraged to pursue research projects that are of interest and value to the American public, to funding agencies. We have the infrastructure in place to seek grants and support along those lines.”
Thomson said it has been gratifying to see the CVM and its achievements grow in the years since he was dean.
“Their college is continuing to exceed the expectations of everybody that it serves,” Thomson said, “and I’m sure that the future is extremely bright for the college and the graduates to come.