Friday, January 29th, 2016 was a memorable day for many reasons. Not the least of which, was that it marked the transition of Dr. Mike Loomis, long standing Chief Veterinarian for the North Carolina Zoo and Associate Professor (adjunct) in Zoological Medicine at NCSU to emeritus status with the North Carolina Zoological Society. A celebration of his contributions to the NC Zoo, zoos and zoo animals around the world, and the discipline of zoological medicine organized by the veterinary health staff of the NC Zoo was fittingly attended by friends and colleagues from across the state (and further) who have enjoyed the opportunity to work with Mike Loomis throughout his career.
As the celebration, attended by 100’s of well wishers began, Mike released an owl that had been rehabilitated in the Schindler Rehabilitation Center, part of the NC Zoo’s veterinary complex. The symbolism of Mike’s release to focus on his family and research and teaching interests was not lost on anyone. Then, after some brief speeches attesting to his many contributions throughout his career, NC Representative Allen McNeil, on behalf of Governor McCrory, presented Mike with the prestigious Order of the Long Leaf Pine, one of the highest honors that the state can bestow on a citizen. The honor was a complete surprise to Mike and he was fighting back tears as he accepted the award and thanked the many friends and colleagues that were there to share the moment.
Stories at the event abounded as slides commemorating many key events in Mike’s very productive career, including slides of all of the zoological medicine residents he has helped mentor over the years in the highly respected residency program he helped to found. Many EMC colleagues were in attendance to help Mike celebrate his transition. Dr. John Cullen, Professor of Pathology first knew Mike when he was a veterinary student and Dr. Cullen was a resident at U.C. Davis. Dr. Michael Stoskopf and Dr. Suzanne Kennedy-Stoskopf helped recruit Mike back to NC from the San Diego Zoo so that he could join them as the triumverate that established the first 3 year residency in zoological medicine. Dr. Greg Lewbart, long a key part of the residency program was there with his trusty camera making sure the festivities were well recorded. Dr. Craig Harms traveled from his post in Morehead City at CMAST to be there and congratulate Mike. Now a Professor of aquatic health at NCSU, Dr. Harms was the second resident and the first with an aquatic emphasis to train with Drs. Loomis, Stoskopf and Kennedy-Stoskopf in the new residency program. Dr. JB Minter, senior veterinarian at the NC Zoo and Dr. Emily Christiansen represented recent graduates of the residency program that are now helping lead it into the future.
Few people are aware that Mike Loomis helped to establish the long partnership between NCSU’s newly founded, then School of Veterinary Medicine, and the rapidly growing new North Carolina Zoo. Through the vision of Founding Dean Terry Curtin and founding Zoo Director Bob Frye, Mike developed cooperative program with the Department of Companion Animal and Special Species founding head, Dr. Stephen Crane that has lasted over 30 years. Mike left the NC Zoo to explore the opportunities the San Diego Zoo could offer before Dr. Michael Stoskopf was recruited to fill the vacancy created when Dr. Crane took a position with Hills Foods. As the new Department Head at re-named College of Veterinary Medicine Dr. Stoskopf and his wife Dr. Suzanne Kennedy-Stoskopf, both diplomates of the American College of Zoological Medicine, looked for ways to create the critical mass of faculty needed to create a truly outstanding model residency for the discipline. Luring Mike Loomis back to North Carolina was the lynch pin that set in motion one of the most respected zoological health programs in the world.
Everyone who knows Mike Loomis knows that he is just transitioning and not retiring. Though certainly he will enjoy more time with his family including his much loved grand children, Mike intends to continue his important research on forest elephant movements in Cameroon and will be teaching veterinary students in selectives and other courses as part of his duties as Emeritus Chief Veterinarian for the NC Zoological Society.