MSU CVM has continued to fulfill its primary responsibility of educating those entering the field of veterinary medicine, as well as to provide essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that veterinary care is available to agricultural and companion animals. Throughout this process, the College has adhered to Center for Disease Control, Mississippi Department of Health, Mississippi Board of Veterinary Medicine, Mississippi Governor’s Office, and the University’s guidelines to maximize the safety of faculty, staff, students, clients and patients.
In the final weeks of the spring semester, all necessary DVM and VMT classes and labs were converted to online instruction, enabling continued learning while protecting the health and well-being of students, faculty and staff. At the same time, both the Animal Health Center (AHC), located in the Wise Center on the CVM campus, and the Animal Emergency & Referral Center (AERC), located in the Jackson suburb of Flowood, remained open, but began accepting only emergency and essential cases.
The Mississippi Veterinary Research & Diagnostic Laboratory System, a group of four laboratories operated by MSU CVM, has remained fully functional throughout the pandemic, rendering vital services for veterinarians, individual producers, pet owners, and the livestock, aquaculture and poultry industries throughout the state.
MSU CVM also graduated 86 new Doctors of Veterinary Medicine and 31 new veterinary medical technologists and made it a point to publicly honor the graduates with pre-recorded events. The annual DVM awards program and class commencement ceremonies were live streamed by the University Television Center, and the videos, along with graduate bios, are currently available on the website.
“We are proud of these classes for the obstacles they overcame to complete their degrees and realize the dreams they had worked so hard for so many years to reach,” MSU CVM Dean Dr. Kent Hoblet said. “We know they are entering the field well-prepared to meet needs in our ever-changing world.”
In addition to continuing provide essential services for animals, successfully completing the semester and officially celebrating graduates, as the pandemic escalated, the College also worked with local, state and national leaders to do its part to help ensure the best possible outcomes for not only animals, but people during this unprecedented event.
“Early on, we were in touch with the appropriate agencies and physicians and emergency preparedness representatives at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) in Jackson, Longest Student Health Center (LSHC) on the MSU Campus and OCH Regional Medical Center (OCH RMC) in Starkville, regarding our ability to assist in their efforts to care for the public should they find themselves in need of additional resources and personnel,” MSU CVM Associate Dean for Administration Dr. Ron McLaughlin said. “We donated personal protective equipment and medical supplies to LSHC and loaned the only two ventilators we have that are suitable for human use to OCH.”
As the weeks passed, College leaders continued to meet regularly with University officials and other veterinary colleges around the country via teleconference to ensure everything possible was being done to create a safe learning and working environment at CVM locations on a day-to-day basis, as well as to prepare for the arrival of new students in June and the return of second-year students in July.
“As always, the safety and security of the CVM family remains at the forefront of our endeavors. By staying abreast of the latest CDC and AVMA recommendations and seeking guidance specific to MSU CVM from the College’s specially formed COVID-19 task force, we are doing all we can to create a safe learning and working environment,” Dr. Hoblet said. “The pandemic has required us to make many changes related to how we staff and operate our animal hospitals and clinics, as well as how and where we deliver instruction to students; however, with the commitment and hard work of our faculty and staff, we have risen to the challenge and been able to continue operations and instruction of the caliber expected at MSU CVM.”
Dr. Hoblet noted the AHC and AERC have gradually expanded their caseloads to return to full operations—albeit operations practiced within the guidelines of the “new normal.” Veterinary Specialty Center, another of the College’s clinics, which is located in west Starkville and was closed for a brief period, has also reopened under these guidelines as well.
Within CVM, efforts have been made to provide for social distancing, keeping the facilities sanitized, and other such measures known to reduce exposure to the COVID-19 virus. “Providing online learning opportunities has reduced the number of people in our buildings and the chances for exposure, as has reducing the number of students, staff, and faculty in the clinics at the same time. Not permitting clients to accompany their animals in the building and allowing students, staff, and faculty to work remotely when necessary has also helped,” Dr. Hoblet said, adding that other efforts taken to reduce risks have included increased frequency of cleaning in high density areas, providing additional hand wash and hand sanitizer stations, and propping open doors where possible.
In addition, all faculty, staff and students have been asked to self-monitor for symptoms of the virus and reduce risks daily, including staying home if they have fever or feel ill, washing hands frequently and using hand sanitizer, maintaining social distance as much as possible, and always wearing a face covering or mask.
“We have taken measures to ensure that the CVM is not a place that increases the risk for COVID-19 exposure. Our goal has been—and continues to be-- to ensure that each individual is in fact safer while in CVM facilities than they are elsewhere,” Dr. McLaughlin said.
“Our College remains focused on educating our students, advancing research, and providing diagnostic and specialty veterinary services. These key elements of our mission have not changed, but many aspects of have we accomplish them have,” Dr. Hoblet concluded. “Life has changed dramatically for all of us, but as a provider of essential services, MSU CVM must continue to move forward during this unprecedented time.”