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Tampa General steps up for marine patients

Mark Parker



From left: John Couris, president and CEO of Tampa General Hospital, Kimberly Bruce former chair of the Florida Aquarium's board and Roger Germann, president and CEO. Couris will now assume Bruce's role as chairperson. Photo: Instagram.

The Florida Aquarium’s veterinarians will no longer have to rush enormous, endangered sea turtles over to Davis Islands for emergency CT scans following the expansion of a magnanimous partnership.

Thursday marked the opening of the Tampa General Hospital (TGH) Health Care Center at the Florida Aquarium. The facility will offer a behind-the-scenes look at procedures, educate visitors on animal medical treatments and – officials hope – serve as an inspiration.

Further cementing the interwovenness of the two regional institutions was the Aquarium’s Board of Directors announcing John Couris will serve as its new chair. Couris, president and CEO of TGH, called his latest leadership role an honor.

He also explained the importance of the hospital, and himself, taking an active role in the Aquarium’s operations.

“It’s simple,” said Couris. “If you have healthy oceans, you have a healthy planet. If you have a healthy planet, you have a healthy society. If you have a healthy society, you have a vibrant society that can drive economic growth and prosperity.

“It really does start with the oceans.”

He called ensuring the world’s waterways and marine wildlife can flourish an arduous task that takes time and commitment. Similar to water droplets slowly wearing away stone, he added.

The Florida Aquarium, said Couris, brings attention to the stewardship needed to protect and support the natural environment. He hopes to further that mission through his two-year term as chair of its board.

Visitors can watch veterinarians perform medical treatments on the Aquarium’s animals, like this African penguin. Screengrab.

Roger Germann, president and CEO of the Aquarium, said the facility attracts around 900,000 annual visitors, an integral aspect of helping save marine wildlife. He explained that when people receive an up close and personal look at the animals, it creates an emotional connection to their well-being.

“They hear stories about how our organization and others can come together to save our marine life – to save our ecosystem,” he added. “And ultimately, ourselves.”

Germann praised the veterinarians, staff and leadership at the Aquarium for their unwavering commitment to over 9,000 animals. He relayed that many employees have stayed overnight in sleeping bags and missed birthdays when medical issues inevitably arise.

He also thanked TGH for its longstanding partnership and noted how its onsite Animal Health Care Center would alleviate logistical issues.

Thursday’s third and final announcement was that a reimagined section of the facility called Shorelines Gallery is now open to the public.

The $1.2 million gallery, sponsored by longtime supporter Dan Doyle, highlights “the diversity of life, where water and land come together.” It occupies the former Bay and Beaches space.

Shorelines Gallery features a viewing window that allows guests to watch veterinarians care for animals. Germann believes those moments will help inspire the next generation of scientists and animal healthcare professionals.

A rendering of Rocky Shores, a new sea lion exhibit coming to the Florida Aquarium. Thursday’s announcements precede a $40 million expansion. Image provided.

Germann called it “a breakthrough time” for the Aquarium in an accompanying release, as Thursday’s announcements precede a $40 million expansion. An outdoor sea lion and African penguin habitat, and a multi-species exhibit featuring puffins, are among the planned projects.

The $40 million undertaking, Germann told Catalyst in an August interview, will elevate the Aquarium and region – both educationally and economically. It also marks the first major expansion since the facility opened in 1995.

“When I started my role at The Florida Aquarium (in 2017), I wanted to make sure we would evolve the aquarium to be a world-class destination,” he said. “That Tampa Bay deserves and is proud of.”


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