Delegates inquire: what's the difference between ECFVG and PAVE?
Each candidate running for an AVMA council or the House Advisory Committee had a few minutes the afternoon of July 11 in Nashville to address members of the House of Delegates and make the case for why the delegates should elect them July 13. The occasion: an informal meeting of the HOD.
AVMA President James H. Brandt moderates the House of Delegates' informal meeting.
A series of brief updates on AVMA issues preceded the council introductions. AVMA president, Dr. James H. Brandt reported, for example, that the AVMA still has high expectations for the Minor Use Minor Species bill in this session of Congress, even though it was not included in the bioterrorism legislation (see related news story). And conceptually, Dr. Brandt said, the AVMA supports President Bush's proposed homeland security department. (Later during the convention, the AVMA Executive Board voted to support the creation of a new Department of Homeland Security, but without transferring the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to the new homeland security department. Instead, the AVMA recommends that an agreement be established between the departments to accomplish the homeland security tasks pertaining to agriculture (see related news story).
The AVMA president devoted special attention to an issue he called of vital importance to animal and public health, and to the future of U.S. veterinary practice—the assessment of educational equivalence for graduates of nonaccredited foreign colleges.
The 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico all recognize the AVMA's Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates program. For nearly 40 years, the ECFVG has provided graduates of unapproved foreign colleges the opportunity to prove that they meet the same high educational standards as graduates of AVMA-accredited colleges.
"Last year when we met at this time," Dr. Brandt recounted, "the California VMA and the House Advisory Committee came to you with their concerns about the efforts of the American Association of Veterinary State Boards to begin legislative and/or regulatory changes to state practice acts to have them accept an alternative Program for the Assessment of Veterinary Education Equivalence—the PAVE."
Recognizing that the PAVE had the potential to threaten animal and human health as well as to erode public confidence and respect for the value of the veterinary diploma, the HOD approved Resolution 5 in 2001, which stated:
Resolved, that the American Veterinary Medical Association develop a plan for both veterinary and public awareness of the impact that the American Association of Veterinary State Boards' Program for the Assessment of Veterinary Education Equivalence would have on assessing educational equivalency and accreditation standards in the United States.
Dr. Brandt told the delegates, "As a profession, we need to work together and improve communication—including the AVMA's communication with the AAVSB. We tried to do that." A proposed resolution had been developed by representatives of the AVMA Executive Board and AAVSB Executive Committee last September. The AVMA board had approved the resolution, but it was conditioned on a satisfactory legal review, which the resolution subsequently did not receive. In January, the board adopted directives to continue dialogue with the AAVSB and establish an AVMA committee to review and make any indicated enhancements to the ECFVG program. Later in January, however, the AAVSB voted to reinstate PAVE and declined to participate in a joint committee to discuss issues of mutual concern.
"Recently, the AAVSB has redoubled its efforts to institute the PAVE as an alternative to the ECFVG program," Dr. Brandt said. Therefore, consistent with the intent of Resolution 5, the AVMA has initiated an educational program to raise awareness about the importance of educational equivalence assessment, the value of the ECFVG program, and the potential negative impacts associated with adopting the PAVE.
The president said the delegates' active support of these educational initiatives is critical. Moreover, all AVMA members were called to action by a June 24 letter from President Brandt in which he wrote: "The time has come for us to call on you to write the members of your state veterinary regulatory board to express your concern about this issue."
Preserving high standards is imperative in preventing disease from crossing U.S. borders and in waging the war on terrorism, with its unconventional and biotechnologic threats. Trends such as globalization and the European Union's desire for a "seamless society" further illustrate the importance of maintaining high standards in a fluid world.
Delegates were invited to ask questions about ECFVG and PAVE. The first came from AAEP delegate, Dr. Peter Haynes. "Help us understand," he said. "Does successful completion of PAVE mean [a candidate is] credentialed, or do they still need a clinical year?"
"The step in the PAVE program we're diametrically opposed to," Dr. Brandt replied, "is the provision allowing students from unaccredited foreign schools to spend their fourth year at an AVMA-accredited institution, as a demonstration of clinical skills proficiency."
The question "How is the ECFVG clinical year different than the PAVE year?" struck at the core of the issue. Dr. Brandt answered, "The PAVE fourth year is not an evaluated year—it's the fourth year of the curriculum. In the ECFVG program, it's an evaluated, postgraduate year."
South Dakota alternate delegate, Dr. Vicky Wilkey said, "If this process changes, I have serious concerns." Florida alternate delegate, Dr. Ernest Godfrey said he believes that only 27 states are active in the AAVSB, and only a handful of state boards have approved PAVE as an alternative program.
Maine delegate, Dr. Douglas Andrews conveyed the concerns of Dr. Susan Chadima, a member of the Maine state board and the PAVE chair, that some of the wording in the AVMA letter to members seemed inflammatory, that there was an "us versus them" mentality, and that the timing of the letter just before the AVMA and AAVSB annual meetings was questionable.
Dr. Brandt said, "I want to emphasize that this is not an 'us versus them' issue. It reflects a desire on the part of the AVMA to ensure the protection of the public through maintenance of the ECFVG program, which is a proven, viable, dynamic, and responsible approach to evaluating the educational equivalence of graduates of foreign veterinary colleges."