Stakeholders interested in processes to certify the educational equivalence of graduates of non-AVMA-accredited veterinary colleges gathered in Philadelphia June 26 to comment about existing programs and to talk about the feasibility of establishing a single, independent program.
The two current programs designed to measure educational equivalence are the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates program, administered by the AVMA, and the American Association of Veterinary State Boards' Program for Assessment of Veterinary Education Equivalence.
The AVMA established the ECFVG program in 1959 to aid state licensing boards and regulatory boards by certifying graduates of non-AVMA-accredited veterinary colleges as being on par educationally with graduates of accredited colleges.
All state veterinary boards accept ECFVG certification as a method for foreign graduates to meet the educational prerequisite for licensure, although not all require it. Also, graduates of certain nonaccredited veterinary colleges are exempted from ECFVG certification in some states. Graduates of Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in St. Kitts, for example, do not have to complete the ECFVG program to sit for licensure in Ohio.
In 2001, the AAVSB introduced the PAVE as an alternative to the ECFVG program. Since then, 10 states and the Virgin Islands have adopted the PAVE in addition to the AVMA program.
Among the more contentious issues between the programs is how they assess clinical proficiency. Under the ECFVG program, foreign veterinary graduates must complete an assessment of clinical skills by either passing the Clinical Proficiency Examination or finishing a postgraduate year of evaluated clinical experience at an AVMA-accredited veterinary college.
To satisfy the PAVE's clinical proficiency requirement, veterinary students at nonaccredited veterinary colleges have only to spend their fourth year engaged in clinical study at an accredited veterinary college.
As debate over the best way to assess educational equivalence continues, the AVMA and AAVSB are attempting to find common ground for what requirements foreign veterinary graduates must meet to sit for state licensure. Three representatives each from the ECFVG and PAVE Board met for the first time in February to discuss the philosophies and processes of their respective programs.
The representatives subsequently recommended, and their boards approved, a public meeting in June for interested parties to voice their thoughts about educational equivalence.
Numerous stakeholders, from deans and state veterinary board members to veterinary students and professional representatives, submitted written comments. Many of them traveled to Philadelphia to personally address the ECFVG and PAVE Board panel.
Comments ranged from support or criticism of the ECFVG program and PAVE, to recommending joint recognition of both the ECFVG program and PAVE, to expressing hopes that a certifying entity independent of the AVMA and AAVSB might be established.
Several state licensing boards wrote to commend the two organizations for working together and to endorse the concept of a single foreign graduate educational assessment program. But some boards weren't so willing to compromise.
A letter submitted by the New Jersey Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners stated that New Jersey regulations do not recognize the PAVE, nor are PAVE-certified graduates eligible to sit for the state's licensure examination.
"The NJBVME is not considering amending its regulations or adding new regulations regarding alternative credentialing requirements for nonaccredited veterinary school graduates at this time," the letter stated.
The Utah Veterinarian Licensing Board wrote to say that the board believes it is a conflict of interest for the AVMA to determine the qualifications of candidates for licensure. "The AVMA should move out of the licensing function and leave it to the states' licensing boards," the licensing board wrote.
AVMA President-Elect Jack O. Walther told stakeholders that the AVMA's only intent in administering the ECFVG program is to ensure that the education of graduates of nonaccredited veterinary colleges is equivalent to that of graduates of accredited colleges. He explained that the ECFVG program is an educational assessment process, not a licensing process. There is no effort on the part of the AVMA to generate revenue for itself through the program, nor does the Association profit financially from it, he added.
"We believe strongly," Dr. Walther said, "that continued AVMA involvement in educational equivalence assessment is critically important because public protection is best ensured when state licensure processes are combined with quality educational assessment programs."
Speaking on behalf of the AAVSB Executive Committee, Dr. Georgie Ludwig said that, while the AAVSB supports creating an independent organization to administer the program, they believe it makes more sense for the AAVSB to do so.
Dr. Ludwig suggested that such a program would be psychometrically sound because of the AAVSB's working relationship with the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners and economically feasible, since administrative costs are reduced when run in conjunction with an established organization such as the AAVSB. In addition, Dr. Ludwig indicated that the AAVSB believes their administration of a single program would be legally defensible, since conflict-of-interest and restraint-of-trade concerns of the AAVSB would be removed.
Seeking input at the end of the comment period, the ECFVG and PAVE Board representatives presented their preliminary thoughts regarding a possible organizational structure for an independent credentialing body. They suggested it could comprise 13 members: three from the AAVSB, three from the AVMA, two from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, two from the American Association of Veterinary Clinicians, one from the Canadian National Examining Board, one from the public sector, and one who holds a certificate from either the ECFVG program or PAVE.
The representatives also suggested that none of the 13 members could serve in a leadership position with their constituent organizations while serving on the board. Attendees' comments about the proposed organizational structure will be taken into consideration by the six representatives.