A Message to AVMA Members Regarding Foreign Accreditation

Dear Colleagues,

As the Chair of the AVMA Executive Board, I want to take a few minutes out of your busy schedule to explain to you the Board’s decision to continue the accreditation of foreign veterinary schools by the Council on Education.

First, please know that this decision was not made lightly, and that all of the comments and responses we’ve received from members have been heard and given due consideration. We understand your concerns because most of us, like you, are also working in the real world and facing the same challenges in practice.

After careful and deliberate consideration, including the advantages and disadvantages of continuing foreign veterinary school accreditation, your Executive Board decided that the benefits outweigh the risks. While there has been criticism about the philosophy behind accreditation (domestic as well as foreign accreditation), there has been no question among our members that COE accreditation is the global gold standard for quality assurance of veterinary education. And even when you take into consideration the challenges our profession is facing right now, the U.S. veterinary workforce remains globally respected. The world looks to the United States and to the AVMA for leadership in veterinary education. Allowing international schools to seek accreditation and recognition according to established COE standards improves the quality of global veterinary education. With the growing focus on One Health and the global community, it’s more important, now more than ever, that we foster international collaboration and communication; accreditation serves a vital function in this regard.

It’s important to keep in mind a few basic facts. First, the same standards are applied regardless of the location of the school being considered. Foreign veterinary schools are evaluated by the exact same standards as U.S and Canadian veterinary schools. This will not change.

Second, despite concerns that foreign accreditation has or will lead to an influx of veterinarians into the United States, I’d like to point out that in the 40 years that the COE has been accrediting foreign schools, there has never been a rush of foreign graduates to the United States. Foreign veterinary school graduates, including those who are U.S. citizens, comprise approximately 10% of the U.S. veterinary workforce.  More than one-third (36%) of foreign graduates are, in fact, from schools with high proportions of U.S. citizens. Almost seven percent (6.9%) of our workforce are foreign veterinary graduates, and 27% of those foreign graduates have degrees from COE-accredited international schools (the remaining 73% graduated from non-accredited schools).  These figures underscore what may be most important to remember; with or without accreditation, foreign veterinarians have a path to licensure in the United States. Stopping foreign accreditation will not stop veterinarians from seeking licensure and employment here.

As I mentioned previously, graduates from some of the biggest foreign institutions were already U.S. citizens before they began their veterinary education. Ross University and St. George’s University classes range in size from 320 to 375 and 130 to 150, respectively and are typically 85 to 97 percent U.S. citizens. Their graduates generally return to the United States to practice, regardless of accreditation status. Ross has been in existence since 1982 and St. Georges since 1999. Accreditation of these schools doesn’t change the number of graduates returning to the United States; instead, it removes the additional expense and barrier of completion of the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates (ECFVG) process to practice in the United States, where they had always intended to return. The effect of accreditation on both schools has been the introduction of external accountability, quality assurance, and the expectation of continuous improvement. These graduates have much to offer our profession, and discounting their knowledge or contributions is a disservice to our profession.

I know that some of you may never support or agree with this decision. I also know that this explanation may not be acceptable to some of you.  However, it is the responsibility of the Executive Board to garner input and advice from its volunteer leaders and its members, to then weigh that advice carefully and discuss it thoroughly, and to ultimately make sound decisions based on fact and on what will have the most positive impact on the veterinary profession as well as individual members.  In this case, we felt the best decision was to continue the accreditation process.

Dr. Janver Krehbiel
Chair, AVMA Executive Board