While it may not be an obvious choice, many veterinarians follow a career path that takes them into the military, which has a great demand for their specialized services.
Dr. Misty Jarvis Looney is a major in the Air National Guard and a graduate of the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine’s class of 2004.
“I’ve always had a desire to serve in the military,” Looney said. “I started as a welder in the Navy when I was 18 and spent eight years there.”
Looney worked her way through college while in the Navy and left the military to complete her veterinary degree.
“I knew in my third year of vet school that I wanted to pursue an alternative career path and go into public health,” Looney said. “The description of a public health officer in the Air Force was a perfect fit for what I wanted to do.”
Upon graduation from CVM, Looney served for three years as an Air Force public health officer at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, then three years as a contract public health officer at Columbus Air Force Base. She lives in West Point, Miss., and is assigned to the 186th Air Refueling Wing out of Meridian’s Key Field.
“The Air Force likes to recruit veterinarians for their public health officers because they have a medical background and a well-rounded education,” Looney said.
As a public health officer, she was responsible for such things as food safety, communicable disease prevention and control, medical intelligence and deployment medicine.
Dr. Richard Meiring is a clinical professor of pathobiology and population medicine and director of recruitment and admissions at MSU’s veterinary college. He said usually a few CVM graduates each year choose the armed services for a career.
“The doctor of veterinary medicine degree can allow the graduate to pursue many different career paths,” Meiring said. “MSU-CVM’s two-phase curriculum is excellent for preparing students to enter their chosen careers.
“Students are educated in comparative biomedicine involving multiple species. They also have opportunities to get experiential training during their fourth year that can be focused toward their career goal,” he said.
Chris Magee is a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army and a second-year veterinary student from Brandon, Miss. In May, he completed his bachelor’s degree in wildlife science, finished his first year of veterinary college and was commissioned in the Army. He is paying for veterinary college with an Army Health Professions Scholarship.
“The scholarship benefits start in your second year of veterinary college,” Magee said. “Right now, I am classified as individual ready reserve, but during my breaks between semesters, I’ll do 45 days of active duty training.
“After graduation, I will go active duty for three years. It’s a year-for-year commitment,” he said. “They pay for three years of school, and I give three years of service.”
Magee is interested in working as a veterinarian in public health issues such as epidemiology and disease monitoring. He chose to pursue this career goal as a veterinarian rather than as another health professional.
“I think the veterinary route gives you a lot of diversity,” Magee said. “Many of the diseases impacting us today are zoonotic. Veterinarians have the most in-depth knowledge of those diseases and are most ready to handle them.”
Dr. Danny McDaniel is a retired Army brigadier general who, although he was eligible for an exemption based on his grades in college, volunteered for the draft and spent 18 months in Vietnam as an Army Ranger.
He returned home, finished his degree at MSU and was accepted into veterinary college at Auburn University before MSU had a veterinary college.
“I had absolutely no plan to return to the military,” McDaniel said.
After 12 years in private practice in Jackson, a veterinarian friend convinced him to join the Army National Guard to meet its requirement for a veterinarian in each state. The Army is responsible for all the Department of Defense’s veterinary work. As such, it handles working dog maintenance, food procurement, and sanitation and quality for the Navy, Marines and Air Force. They are also responsible for the care of military dependents’ large and small animal pets.
“The veterinarians in the military are the only source for the jobs we do,” McDaniel said. “There are no other ways to take care of the working dogs. There are no other resources to evaluate, maintain and ensure procured foods are the right quality for our troops.
“When the first elements of our forces go into an area, hostile or not, a veterinarian also goes to evaluate threats to the force, such as indigenous animals that may carry zoonotic diseases such as rabies.”
McDaniel’s 34 years of active, reserve and guard duty included a combat role in Vietnam, 13 years at Mississippi’s Camp Shelby as the commander of one of the Army’s four medical training sites, and his most memorable assignment, that of the senior veterinarian/agricultural officer for Iraq and Afghanistan in 2006.
“I helped rebuild both countries’ agriculture industry and did herd health with the men involved in agriculture in both countries,” McDaniel said. “I dewormed, vaccinated, and treated wounds and illnesses in 3,000 head of goats, sheep, cattle and horses in two days in Afghanistan.”
McDaniel considers himself to have had three careers, that of a private practice veterinarian, an Army veteran and now a high school teacher in his current hometown of Oak Grove, Miss.