The partnership MSU CVM maintains with the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) in Gulfport, Mississippi, is a mutually beneficial one. The Institute and College both have access to resources and opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have, and the learning experience the relationship affords our students is one available at only one other US college of veterinary medicine.
IMMS has been a lifeline for stranded and sick or injured marine life—especially endangered and protected dolphins, sea turtles, and manatees—for decades, and now the well-respected animal care and research facility has landed top honors and a special designation for its commitment to caring for animals. According to IMMS President Dr. Moby Solangi, the Institute has garnered the prestigious American Humane Certified Seal, which recognizes the highest standard of animal care.
“This is a hard-earned, world-wide distinction, and we are delighted to have obtained it. It’s a first for Mississippi and the Gulf States region,” Dr. Solangi said. “This prestigious organization accredits and certifies animal welfare standards in the United States and worldwide.”
Dr. Solangi explained that the certification required a visit from an audit team, which included biologists and veterinarians, who spent two full days reviewing and evaluating virtually every aspect related to animal welfare at the facility.
“We work daily to raise the bar when it comes to research and the care of these animals,” Dr. Solangi said. “We were involved with the BP oil spill and now the Bonnet Carre Spillway fresh water incursion issue. We have taken a leadership role in these situations that have had a tremendous impact on marine life, and the partnership we have with Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine has been a significant part of our success.”
According to MSU CVM Dean Dr. Kent Hoblet, the College has two full-time veterinarians stationed at IMMS and considers the partnership it has with Dr. Solangi and the institute an important asset. “These two faculty members are actively involved with the stranding, rehabilitation, and research efforts of IMMS, and they provide veterinary care to the animals at IMMS. Their work there and the opportunity this relationship offers our College and our students is definitely a point of pride for us,” Dr. Hoblet said. “To be able to say that we are one of only two colleges of veterinary medicine in the United States that provides all students with marine animal medicine training is a feather in our hat. We know not all of our students will go on to work directly in this field, but the experience they gain is important for all of them; it helps foster an appreciation for ocean life and equip them to effectively serve as ambassadors for protecting our oceans and the amazing creatures within them.”
The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies and MSU College of Veterinary Medicine began working together in an official capacity the winter of 2018. Since that time, several hundred MSU CVM students have had the opportunity to gain hands-on training with marine animals.