Friday, July 20, 2018

MSU-CVM Animal Health Center Employee Provides Quilts to Children in Need.

Brenda Cunningham
Brenda Cunningham has been working at the MSU-CVM since 2011, and getting to know people and watching their animals get better is her favorite thing about the job. But she has a special skill – a creative outlet of sorts – that many might know about her.
Before coming to work at MSU-CVM, Cunningham was a nanny to twin girls, one of whom had cerebral palsy. She noted that because of this, their bond was strong and she stayed with them much of the time. Ultimately, her sewing background made it possible to give something back to the girls.
“I have sewed my entire life, so I constantly wanted to make things for the girls,” Cunningham said.
One day, they were in a fabric store getting materials to make some outfits and the girls found a piece of fleece that they liked. They loved it, hung on to it and talked about that the whole time that they were in the store. Cunningham agreed to buy them each a piece and make them both a quilt. It became their car blanket and they used the blankets for a long time. Cunningham said seeing them cherish these blankets for so long is what got her started on this journey.
“I started this to give children something for the car, for safety and for just feeling comfortable about themselves and having something they really own.”
Even after the girls grew up, Cunningham still loved making these things. She tried selling them, but didn’t find much of a market for it. Finding that out though is exactly what led her to start donating them. Cunningham started by taking some to the hospital in Tupelo and then donating them locally to Oktibbeha County Hospital.
“I just wanted an outlet where I could keep making them and giving them away,” Cunningham said. “That’s when I learned of the Safe Haven for Pets program here at the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine, and so I’ve been collecting things for them ever since.”
Safe Haven for Pets is an organization through the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine that provides temporary care to the animals of domestic violence victims. Safe Haven partners with Care Lodge Domestic Violence Shelter in Meridian, Miss. to provide temporary shelter and medical care to the pets of individuals fleeing domestic violence situations. The program also does fundraisers throughout the year to provide much-needed supplies for the individuals served by Care Lodge.
“I’ve been making quilts and giving them away for about four or five years now and I just feel honored that I can do something to help someone else,” Cunningham said. “Children are our most vulnerable and it breaks my heart to know that they are in trouble or that they are sad.”
So Cunningham started making the quilts to donate to Care Lodge via the Safe Haven for Pets program a few Christmases ago. She received such good feedback from them and was told that the kids loved them. She said that’s all the confirmation she needed to hear, and so she kept making them.
“You know it is fun for me and gives me a creative outlet for myself,” Cunningham said. “I wanted the kids to keep them, something they didn’t have to borrow while they were there at the shelter.”
Cunningham said each quilt she makes is unique. It all depends on what fabric she has available and what she feels like making at the time. Some will have patches or lace on them, while others will have embroidery. She feels that making these quilts provides the children with something that they can have that will be their own. She wants each child that receives a quilt to feel that someone cared enough for them to give them something new that they can keep as their very own.
“Making a quilt and knowing that it’s going to a kid that can snuggle up in it and feel protected or feel like they are going to be okay makes me feel good and proud that I can do something small to help them,” Cunningham said.

More information about MSU’s Safe Haven for Pets program can be found on their Facebook page here:

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Day 3 Equine Lab

By Allie Allsup

This morning, the campers got the chance to experience Equine lab. Equine, is all about horses, so the morning was full of learning all about these beautiful creatures. The campers were split into three groups and taken to three different rooms to observe and participate in an eye exam, an ultrasound and the viewing of Nick’s (the ‘painted’ horse) anatomy, both skeleton and internal organs.

In exam room #1 was Dr. Brashier who was giving an eye exam on Tigger. Similar to when a human gets an eye exam, Dr. Brashier dilated the eyes so as to get a better view of all of the ocular structures, more importantly the fundus. Unlike a human though, Tigger had to be lightly sedated in order for a thorough ocular exam to be performed. If you don’t know, a horse’s head weighs around one hundred pounds, so the doctor has to be extra careful when treating the patient. As he got started, Dr. Brashier instructed the kids on basic eye anatomy and the turned off the lights to get a better view of the pupil. He taught the campers a little bit about what happens when light touches the eye and what to expect from it when it did. Before light touches a horses eye it is round, but once light shines on it, the pupil turns horizontal. Next, the campers learned about the tapetum, which is a light reflective tissue in the eye. The tapetum has two basic parts, the upper two-thirds of the eye is a greenish reflective color and the bottom is one-third blue grey. Dr. Brashier instructed the campers on how to hold a light probe in order to see the fundus for themselves. Each camper got to hold the lens up to the horse’s eye, and using a transluminator, they were able to also see the horse’s optic disc.

In exam room #2 was Dr. Crabtree and the mare, Blackfoot. Here, the campers were shown, through ultrasound, Blackfoot’s internal organs. They were able to see the lungs, kidneys and the spleen to start. Each camper got to grab the probe and place it just in front of the last rib in order to see both the spleen and left kidney. Dr. Crabtree says this is what every first year doctor is taught when getting into the program, so getting this hands on experience and knowledge is very beneficial to the teens and gives them each a head start in their future studies. Hopefully if they stay the route, the campers will be ahead of the game and be able to point out exactly where to place the probe to find each of these internal organs.  

After the ultrasound, it was time to move on to Nick the horse and Dr. Light. Nick, who is a white horse, was painted head to toe on both sides. One side was his full skeletal image and the other side was his internal organs. Dr. Light was able to point out and discuss what each part of the body did and how the strong 

For more photos and daily posts follow 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Overnight Camp Day 2

By Allie Allsup
We are back in action this week with a second session of our summer veterinary camp program, as our Overnight Camp welcomed 26 young campers as they embark on new experiences of learning and understanding that will hopefully inspire them to pursue a future career in veterinary medicine.

Similar to the previous week’s day camp session, this group of campers will get to take part in some educational hands-on activities, happening Wednesday, June 6 through Sunday, June 10. The Overnight Camp session is a little different, though, because there are longer hours to each day. This allows the campers really get their fill of all that veterinary medicine has to offer. Today, we are going to take a deeper look into what is happening in some of the labs.

Before heading to Micro lab, the campers got the opportunity to hear Dr. James Brett, Associate Clinical Professor, speak about all the different career paths within Veterinary Medicine. This was a good opportunity for the campers to grasp the idea of what areas might interest them as well as giving them an understanding of what job opportunities await them within the field. This lesson highlighted what a particular career in this field would look like and all the many different areas one can pursue. He also discussed the admissions process to veterinary school, which was sure to be helpful to inquiring young minds setting their sights on the future. It is the perfect way to get the campers ready for the next experience to come after lunch, Micro Lab.

After taking a quick lunch break, the campers got to experience Micro Lab with Dr. Frank Austin in the MDL. This lab, also known as the “dog mouth swab lab,” consisted of swabbing the cheeks of dogs in order to get a culture to search for different types of bacteria. Each camper was able to grab a cotton swab and proceed to swab a dog’s cheek and then streak it on three otter plates. Afterward, all there is to do is wait until tomorrow so the bacteria have enough time to incubate. Tomorrow, the campers will be busy looking into their microscopes in search of bacteria.

As to what the kids can get out of this lab, Dr. Austin says it’s the introduction to the whole that really matters here.  “This lab is what first introduces the kids to Micro,” said Dr. Austin. “It’s their first opportunity to analyze different diseases.”

Dr. Austin also says that the importance of being a microbiologist is to understand the first step of the process, which is to establish a pure culture. Afterward, you put all three plates in an incubator and wait until tomorrow to see what grows over night.

Dr. Austin, who’s been at MSU-CVM for more than thirty years, said it’s his goal to make this lab educational and fun.  “I want it to be a good, fun experience for y’all,” said Dr. Austin.

Earlier in the day, campers experienced Pathology Lab and Critical Care Lab. Later in the afternoon, the campers will get to observe and participate in a Canine Physical Exam, a Bovine lab and a Suture Lab, to name a few. After a full day’s worth of fun and learning, campers are sure to be tired. But they’re also likely awaiting tomorrow’s activities with eager anticipation.  “Pathology lab was so cool,” said one camper. “I’m super excited to see how our bacteria turns out tomorrow.” 
For more photos and daily posts follow

CVM Clinical Instructor Matches with Patient in Need

Dr. Jesse Grady, a Clinical Instructor at MSU-CVM, has recently been selected to be a donor for an organization called Be The Match. This is a donor organization that offers hope to patients with blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, sickle cell anemia or other life-threatening diseases. By joining the Be The Match Registry, an individual volunteers to be a potential blood stem cell or bone marrow donor. It also means that if selected, the individual would be ready to save a patient in need of a transplant. Grady generously wanted to contribute to the organization and was miraculously matched with a patient in need.

“I’m a big supporter of Be The Match, and I will likely be donating bone marrow through them within the next 60 days,” Grady said. “I matched with a patient in need two months ago and am now moving on to medical screening.”
         One way to get involved with Be The Match is to first register online at their website Here, a series of questions will be asked about one’s medical history to see if each individual meets the basic criteria for donating. Next, a cheek swab kit will be sent in the mail. This is so the organization can obtain a sample of one’s DNA, and after swabbing the inner side of the cheek, the individual will send it back to them. Afterward, depending on the genetic complexity of matching donors to patients, it could be weeks, months or even years before any individual is contacted about a potential match.
         Grady touched on his own particular story detailing on how long it has taken to be contacted and what he hopes to get out of the process.
         “After I created my account and passed the screening questions, I received an envelope containing cheek swabs from Be The Match, swabbed my cheeks, and sent them back,” Grady said. “Ever since then I’ve simply waited for the past 6 years.”
By donating, the individual is representing a patient’s best possible genetic match and perhaps their only hope for a cure. If contacted, all that is left to do is to donate to a person in need and hopefully save a life.
 “I hope to help better promote Be The Match around campus and show that doctors from MSU-CVM don’t just care for animals, but people as well; albeit in a unique way in this instance,” said Grady.

Friday, June 1, 2018

DAY 2 of Vet Camp

By Allie Allsup
Day 2 of MSU-CVM’s Vet Camp had another early start to it, with the campers up and going by 8 a.m. this morning. After a fun first day, they were excited for the fun and learning to continue into yet another day of camp.
First on the agenda for today was Equine Lab, which entailed all things horses. Campers got to see Nick, a white horse painted on both sides with anatomy. On one side of him was the entire anatomy of his internal organs and on the other was his physical skeleton. The campers were able to observe a physical exam and an ultrasound, and in the MDL, the campers learned about GI anatomy with Dr. Nabors.
After observing and learning several things from the Equine Lab, the campers were led on to their next experiences, the Parasitology and Suture Labs. Dr. Andrea Varela-Stokes provided the campers with a lesson about parasitology and afterward each camper got to do their very own fecal float. Now, for those of you who aren’t familiar, a fecal float is when one collects the feces of a cat or dog, in this case a dog, and adds sodium nitrate to allow parasite eggs to float. With a cover slip and waiting for approximately ten minutes, the camper can then place the cover slip on a slide to check under the microscope for parasites. This is how a veterinarian can tell what parasites are affecting the particular animal, and this is a great opportunity for the campers to learn that information, too
After the topic of feces was thoroughly covered in the Parasitology Lab, campers moved on to Suture Lab, which provided each camper with a stuffed teddy bear in need of repair. With supervision of the counselors and Dr. Jesse Grady, each camper was provided their own instruments to learn and practice how to correctly place sutures and the proper hand motion techniques to tie the knots. It was a very hands-on activity and a lot of fun as each camper worked to put their teddy bear back together again.
Shockingly, all this fun happened within the first half of the day. The campers have many more fun adventures awaiting them after lunch. These include learning about several different career paths in veterinary medicine, an Exotics Lab, and learning how to do a canine physical exam. The campers this year have been excited about all of the opportunities they’ve had so far and continue to have here at camp to advance their knowledge of the field of veterinary medicine.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

DAY 1 of Vet Camp

By Allie Allsup
As we embark on this year’s summer veterinary camp, our eighth one since its inception in 2011, we have 43 young campers joining us to listen, learn and engage the field of veterinary medicine.
Once check-in concluded around 8:30 a.m., campers and their family members were invited to join camp staff in the First Year (DVM) Classroom for a welcoming ceremony. This included a meet and greet of all the camp staff members and a brief summary about what the camp entails.
After initial greetings etc., we had a surprise guest, our mascot Bully, who is also affectionately known as Jak, and his handler, Lisa Pritchard. Lisa got to share all the details about Jak and his many habits, while also sharing a little bit about the history of our beloved mascot. As parents said goodbye, each camper got to take a group picture with their counselor and Jak to officially start camp.
Kaitlyn Junkin, Student Camp Director, is in charge of making sure camp comes together and has been preparing for this day for weeks. When asked about what she was most looking forward to about the camp, she replied that it’s getting the kids better prepared for the future that keeps her going.
“I’m really looking forward to teaching kids more about veterinary medicine,” Junkin said. “I wish I had this knowledge and opportunity when I was 15 or 16 years old and it’s exciting because we get to do stuff that us second year veterinary students haven’t even gotten to do as students yet.” 
In addition to a camp staff comprised of veterinary students, MSU’s summer veterinary camp program also has a clinician or faculty member overseeing each of the labs students participate in, to provide added oversight and expertise.
With camp officially underway, campers got to play some fun icebreaker games to get to know one another better. One of which was ‘Guess the Pet’, a game where the campers tried to guess the pet of their counselor. It was a great way for the campers to get to know the counselors a little bit better and a fun-loving activity to get them warmed up to what’s to come.
Next, it was finally time for the campers to experience their first Critical Care Lab, taught by Dr. Brittany Moore-Henderson. Before they got to enjoy some hands-on experiences in the lab, Dr. Marc Seitz came in and gave a 40-minute interactive presentation about Heat Strokes in Dogs. This presentation got them better prepared for what they were about to experience and allowed them to have plenty of discussion before diving into the lab activities.
It’s here that we learned of campers coming from as far as Tennessee, Kentucky and North Carolina. It goes to show that these students are really focused on exploring a future career in the field of veterinary medicine, as well as how far they are willing to come to make that goal happen. In fact, between the two camp sessions – day camp, which just kicked off today, and overnight camp, which will kick off next week – there are campers from a total of fifteen different states (coast-to-coast) and two countries (U.S. and Norway) represented. 

Finished with the presentation, campers were led into one of the MSU-CVM labs where they experienced seven different stations with hands-on activities. Each camper got to experience some type of medical task whether it be pumping the chest of a coding dog (stuffed of course) or putting a catheter into a dummy dog. They were each tasked with very real situations with our counselors providing constant care, attention and participatory efforts for the students to really learn and understand what they are being taught today. They got to learn and review different techniques for helping a coding animal and got to observe certain techniques used by veterinarians.
Day Camp Coordinator Mekayla Mekara talked about what she is hoping to achieve and what she wants the campers to take away from this camp.
“My goal is for the campers to walk away with hands on knowledge that will prepare them for future job shadowing, internships or any field after high school, whether it be veterinary medicine, a veterinary technician or any medical or science field,” said Mekara.
If this morning has anything to say, it’s that this camp is jam packed with activities that are fun and essential for aspiring young veterinarians to encounter, all aimed at encouraging them to consider a career path in the field of veterinary medicine.

For more information about the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine’s summer veterinary camp program, visit

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