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Labs share resources, form 'essential network'
By Karen Templeton
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Two Mississippi State University pathology laboratories work together to diagnose animal diseases across the state and also serve two important yet different missions.
The College of Veterinary Medicine laboratories in Starkville and Pearl work within the Mississippi Veterinary Research and Diagnostic Laboratory System to provide veterinarians, producers and researchers with quality diagnostic services.
Both labs have an external focus and work with clients around the state, but the lab in Starkville serves an additional function: it is the diagnostic lab for the teaching hospital and the primary teaching lab for veterinary students and pathology trainees.
The laboratories in Starkville and Pearl functioned independently from one another until recently when they became part of the same laboratory system. Dr. Lanny Pace, executive director of the MVRDLS, said pulling both laboratories into the same system has been a tremendous benefit and has enhanced the services they offer.
“It helps us here in Pearl to have such good collaboration with the teaching laboratory on campus,” Pace said. “We have samples going both ways, and we often put our heads together to answer clinical questions. It is exciting to have the students up in Starkville involved in the diagnostic work.”
The Starkville lab offers a wide variety of diagnostic services to clients, while also providing important learning opportunities for CVM students.
“Veterinary students participate in the day-to-day operations of the lab,” said Dr. Jim Cooley, CVM associate professor in the Department of Pathobiology and Population Medicine.
CVM faculty and residents provide guidance to veterinary students in the Starkville lab by assisting them as they study and identify animal diseases and perform necropsies. Students also are given opportunities to travel to area farms to perform on-site testing.
“Our residents get experience here that prepares them for a variety of careers in pathology,” Cooley said. “Residents in anatomic and clinical pathology have the opportunity to pursue careers in diagnostic laboratories, teaching, research and the pharmaceutical industry.”
The Starkville pathology lab has a client base around the state but also serves an internal client, the MSU community. The lab can analyze samples from other schools and colleges, and the collaboration opportunities are endless.
“There is a great advantage to having the diagnostic service on campus,” said Dr. Bill Epperson, head of the Department of Pathobiology and Population Medicine. “The students get hands-on diagnostic experiences, and there are so many opportunities for cooperative studies here on campus. The lab works within the CVM and beyond by collaborating with the departments of Animal and Dairy Science, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Biological Sciences and others.”
The lab in Pearl receives and analyzes samples from clients around the state, primarily from industry groups and producers. The staff also manages all state and federal regulatory testing for diseases such as exotic Newcastle disease, avian and swine influenza, and Johne’s disease.
Epperson said the diversity of expertise between the two labs makes collaboration not only beneficial, but essential.
“It is one system, and we don’t do the exact same type of work at both places. For instance, the Starkville lab has expertise in toxicology, food safety, and unusual bacterial and fungal pathogens, while the Pearl lab has specialty expertise in bone pathology, molecular diagnostics, virology and disease field investigations,” Epperson said. “There is so much internal support within this system, and the labs complement each other in every sense.”
Cooley said communication is a two-way street between the labs.
“We utilize the expertise in Pearl, and they do the same with us,” Cooley said. “We often trade cases for a second opinion and communicate with each other about new and different techniques we can use.”
In addition to sharing knowledge and offering second opinions, the labs often depend on each other to perform additional testing.
“Our lab handles pathology and necropsy, so we send samples needing molecular analyses to the Pearl lab,” Cooley said. “Their lab handles molecular pathology, and we often work with their experts in that area.”
Similarly, the Pearl lab staff sends samples needing toxicology testing to the lab in Starkville since that service is not available in their laboratory.
“The partnership between the labs has become an essential network,” Epperson said. “Faculty and staff have developed such a strong and diverse skill set over the years, and we are fortunate that we have the opportunity to share resources.”
Contact: Dr. Bill Epperson, (662) 325-2827