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MSU veterinary graduate joins military as public health officer
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A Mississippi State University veterinary graduate pledged to serve the U.S. Air Force as a public health officer during a June ceremony at the Wise Center.
Dr. Misty Purvis, a May 2004 College of Veterinary Medicine graduate, will be based at Eglin Air Force Base, one of the largest military bases in the world, near Fort Walton Beach, Fla. She will be responsible for the health of the troops based there, dealing mainly with zoonotic and communicable diseases.
“Misty is an example of what students in MSU's veterinary program can accomplish,” said Dr. Hart Bailey, a CVM pathobiology/population medicine associate professor and mentor to Purvis. “She is an example of what can be done. Misty was determined to do it a different way and she succeeded.”
Purvis is not new to the military: she joined the Navy after graduating from high school in West Virginia. She served as a top Navy welder for eight years before setting her sights on veterinary school.
As a third-year veterinary student at MSU-CVM, Purvis enlisted Bailey to help her gain experience in alternative paths in veterinary medicine.
She successfully completed externships during her fourth year of school with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service, and Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi. Her mentor at Keesler was Dr. Charles H. Blakeslee Jr., a 1981 graduate of MSU-CVM.
“Misty came to me at the end of her sophomore year and asked me to be her mentor, and I was more than happy to help her,” Bailey explained. “I tried to facilitate, make contacts for her and encourage her. It was gratifying to work with Misty because she was energetic, enthusiastic and determined enough to go out and make things happen.”
Even with determination and enthusiasm, a student still can't make it far without the help of professors with the power to open doors.
“Dr. Bailey has done so much to help me and motivate me,” Purvis said. “He has taken me on this new career path, and I'm really excited about spreading the word and encouraging undergraduates to follow in the food safety/public health path.”
Purvis received numerous awards for her work as a veterinary student, including the Peco Foods Award of Excellence and the American Association of Public Health Veterinarians award.
Bailey said he hopes to encourage veterinary students to “think outside the box” when it comes to their professional futures. Building relationships between the veterinary college and outside organizations is key to placing MSU veterinary students in roles where they have a chance to see the options available to veterinarians.
“We're looking for new opportunities all the time that we can offer to our students,” Bailey said. “The various courses our students take -- and the options they have available to them during fourth-year externships -- make them uniquely qualified to move into areas that traditionally have been filled by people in other fields.”
These areas include homeland defense, food safety and public health. Some veterinary students work with poultry companies or organizations that serve commodity groups, while others work with the FSIS or the CDC. A 1987 CVM graduate, Dr. Barbara Masters serves as acting administrator of the FSIS.
Bailey said he and others at the CVM strive to make new contacts in these areas whenever possible.
Contact: Dr. Hart Bailey, (662) 325-7726