Florida A & M University officially opened its Animal Healthcare Complex Tuesday with a ribbon cutting at the facility on State Road 267, north of Quincy, in the St. John Community.
"The future of this country will rely on facilities like this one to keep us from getting pests and diseases that can destroy our food supply," said Charles Bronson, Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture.
He was among almost 100 people attending the ceremony for the $1.2 million complex that is one of 14 four-year universities that offer studies in veterinary technology.
Ray Mobley, FAMU's director of cooperative extension programs, welcomed people to the inauguration of the vet tech program, which grew out of a vision he had 7 years ago.
"This is a monumental milestone. We're on to something special," Mobley said.
The complex is designed to include diagnostic, research and teaching components. It contains ultrasound and radiology equipment, surgical rooms, cattle and goat facilities and a conference center. The first students, Mobley said, will begin classes in the fall.
FAMU President James Ammons said the complex will provide students with the educational experiences that will be necessary for students to succeed in the fields of animal science, veterinary medicine, veterinary technology and related careers.
"The best is yet to come. We know that there is a critical shortage of minorities in the field of veterinary medicine and this facility will go a long way in helping close that gap," he said.
According to information released by the university, three areas will be dedicated to teaching and experimental training: a wet laboratory area for student instruction and animal anatomy, microbiology and hematology; a computer laboratory and classroom; and a fully-functional surgery suite with Polycom capability to allow students to view and participate in surgical procedures while simultaneously broadcasting live surgical procedures through Internet/electronic transfer to other institutions around the world.
Chester Gibson, a FAMU graduate who is the USDA deputy administrator for animal care, said the commitment to the university from USDA will continue.
"We are proud of the fruit that has resulted from our labor," Gibson said.
The complex is funded by the USDA Cooperative Research Education and Extension Service. The USDA animal plant health inspection service provided financial support for the implementation of the new veterinary technology academic program.
S. Maye Jones of Quincy, who works in the Office of the Commissioner of Agriculture, said the office worked closely with the university to access grants and other funding sources to help finance the complex.