The same year the University of Mississippi Medical Center received its reaccreditation by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC), the organization elected a UMMC faculty member as its vice president.
Dr. Andrew Grady, director of UMMC's Laboratory Animal Facilities, previously has served on the organization's council, acting as an on-site reviewer who at any time visits one of the group's roughly 950 accredited institutions.
After three non-consecutive stints on the AAALAC Council, Grady will serve in his executive capacity beginning July 1.
"I will continue to be a lead site visitor for other accredited institutions," said Grady of the volunteer role. "But as vice president, I'll have committee leadership responsibilities and I have to review everything. So my reading time will go up exponentially.
"I wasn't sure if it was to be considered a thing of accomplishment or something of a punishment," he joked.
While participation with AAALAC is voluntary, UMMC has maintained its accreditation since first earning it in 1997, said Grady.
"This is the highest level of accreditation (in this area) that assures everything is being done to the utmost standards," said Grady.
AAALAC not only checks on the care and humane treatment of a facility's research animals, but reviewers also check on the health status and safety procedures for workers, ventilation and water systems, and a slew of other areas to ensure a safe environment for the animals and workers, he added.
Grady "has really transformed our entire laboratory animal facility in running it in a very professional way," said Dr. Richard Summers, associate vice chancellor for research. "He's built himself a national reputation and is a real leader in the AAALAC organization."
Grady makes site visits on behalf of the AAALAC to other laboratory animal facilities, reviewing their quality and accreditation, Summers said. The AAALAC is "one of the major accrediting bodies for people using animals in research."
As the organization's vice president, Summers said, Grady will be in a position to influence implementation of policy and help guide the future direction of the ethical use of animals in research.
Grady has been instrumental in the growth of UMMC's laboratory animal facility, which today is at 97 percent capacity. "That's one of the reasons we're dedicating an entire floor of our new Translational Research Center to animal research," Summers said. "It's an expansion of our current program."
UMMC also serves as only one of three institutions that have two members serving on the AAALAC Council which is comprised of 58 total members. The other two - Texas A&M and University of Georgia - are the only other organizations who can claim that now.
Grady's colleague, Dr. Linda Fulton, assistant director of UMMC's Laboratory Animal Facilities, has served on the Council since 2010.
"For me, it's probably the best method of continuing education," said Fulton of the site visits she routinely conducts on behalf of AAALAC. "I don't think I've been on an AAALAC site visit where I didn't walk away with an idea on what we could do here."
Grady also pointed out that the board of trustees that oversees AALAC also has a UMMC connection. Dr. Greg Timberlake, a trauma surgeon at the Medical Center, serves on the board, putting UMMC as one of the - if not most - represented institutions in the organization.