April 15, 2016


 Specialists seek to enhance trust in their credentials

Posted March 30, 2016

Starting this year, new veterinary specialists must take steps to maintain their certification.

The AVMA American Board of Veterinary Specialties sets criteria for recognition of veterinary specialty organizations. There are currently 22 organizations comprising 40 specialties.

The ABVS requires these specialty organizations to issue time-limited certificates for individuals passing board certification requirements in 2016 and beyond. The specialty organizations must set criteria for these diplomates to maintain their certification on a cycle of no longer than 10 years.

All the specialty organizations have developed or are finalizing a framework for maintenance of certification, with most using a point system rather than requiring re-examination. Diplomates may accrue points via a variety of activities, such as specialist-level continuing education, teaching, or publication. 

Dr. Carl Sammarco, a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine in cardiology, practices in Tinton Falls, New Jersey, at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital. (Courtesy of Red Bank Veterinary Hospital)

Dr. Bill Fenner, who represents the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine on the ABVS, said the ACVIM is among the organizations using a point system for maintenance of certification. Diplomates may accrue points through pathways such as attending or presenting CE, submitting questions for the certification examination, and publishing papers.

Each of the five specialties under the ACVIM may add to the organization’s overall template for maintenance of certification. The ACVIM is working on an online system for diplomates to submit documentation as they accrue points.

Dr. Mike Murphy, who represents the American Board of Veterinary Toxicology on the ABVS, said the ABVT is examining a point system for maintenance of certification. Diplomates may accrue points via avenues such as CE, publications, and other contributions to the advancement of the specialty.

Many diplomates of the ABVT are familiar with maintenance of certification because they are also diplomates of the American Board of Toxicology, which requires maintenance of certification on a five-year cycle.

Dr. Ed Murphey, AVMA staff consultant to the ABVS, said, “Requiring individuals to maintain their expertise and knowledge provides the public and profession some assurance that board certification represents a contemporary standard rather than a one-time achievement from some point in the distant past.”

Dr. Fenner said ACVIM diplomates in areas of public practice such as industry, government, and academia already have a strong expectation from employers that they will take steps to maintain their credentials. He said diplomates in private practice have the same expectation from referring veterinarians.

Dr. Murphy of the ABVT said veterinary toxicologists work in settings such as animal poison control centers, veterinary diagnostic laboratories, veterinary colleges, industry, and government. The ABVT produced an educational video about the relatively small specialty. He said diplomates also have an expectation in their workplaces that they will maintain their credentials.

Drs. Fenner and Murphy believe that requiring maintenance of certification will help enhance the credibility of veterinary specialists with the public and others.

“We are saying that we are going to do these things in order to maintain the trust that you have given us,” Dr. Fenner said.

Dr. Murphy added, “It’s more a matter of documenting it and making people aware of what we’ve actually been doing for quite some time.” 

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