The Division of Medical Toxicology was established as a formal medical specialty at University of Mississippi Medical Center in 1996, under the Department of Emergency Medicine. UMMC now serves as the toxicology referral center for the state of Mississippi.
The Medical Toxicology division serves as a consult service for all UMMC hospitals and clinics. The service assists in the management of approximately 300 ED patients, hospital inpatient and outpatient clinic patients per year. The service is involved in an extremely wide variety of clinical problems, ranging from acute overdoses to evaluation of chronic problems such as sick building syndrome. Due to the number of small rural hospitals in Mississippi, many patients are referred to UMMC for further evaluation.
The division also is the primary medical resource for the Mississippi Poison Control Center. The division's chair, Dr. Robert Cox, is the board-certified medical toxicologist in Mississippi. All physicians in Mississippi have ready access to medical specialists to help in the management of patients suffering from toxic exposures.
UMMC also has a state-of-the-art clinical toxicology laboratory that provides critical analyses, such as methanol or ethylene glycol levels 24 hours daily as well as having the capability to provide GC/MS and other analyses for more esoteric chemicals.
One particular problem that the Medical Toxicology service routinely manages is snakebites. Mississippi is home to four toxic snake species: the eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus), the water moccasin or cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus), the copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix), and the eastern coral snake (Micrurus fulvius). Bites from the first three are common. Contrary to common information in textbooks, serious envenomations can occur from water moccasins and copperheads.
The Medical Toxicology division is very active in education at UMMC. Emergency Medicine residents rotate on the service for 24 months. The resident rotation is also available to other medical specialties. There is a clinical rotation for fourth-year medical students. Medical Toxicology faculty lecture yearly in the pharmacology course for second-year medical students, and for the departments of Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, and Obstetrics and Gynecology.