If you are one of the more than 60,000 accredited veterinarians or you plan to become one, or if you are simply a veterinarian interested in disease prevention and emergency preparedness, you have an opportunity to help reshape the National Veterinary Accreditation Program.
The article on pages 1470-1472 of this issue delineates some new program components under consideration and the current philosophy underpinning those enhancements.
The program changes are directed at increasing the U.S. global market potential and strengthening our preparedness for emerging and foreign animal diseases.
Dr. Quita P. Bowman, manager of the National Veterinary Accreditation Program, said, "We want to share the new program initiatives now, so that the veterinary community can comment. It will take two or three years before a new program is implemented."
The Veterinary Services division of the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service administers the national accreditation program. Dr. Bowman is on staff with Veterinary Services, which has consulted extensively with the AVMA-USDA Relations Committee and two AVMA councils in drafting the initiative.
These changes have been developed over the past decade, according to Dr. Thomas J. Hagerty, who chairs the AVMA-USDA Relations Committee. "The driving force behind this is to be able to maintain international movement of animals. The purpose of this is to try to show other countries that indeed, accredited veterinarians are qualified to approve animals for international shipment."
Dr. Hagerty said the changes are intended to keep accredited veterinarians up to date, giving them the resources they need for disease prevention and emerging disease surveillance. "Historically, once they become accredited, they stay accredited, [but the changes would] require some continued training. We spent a lot of time discussing this and coming to a compromise position."
Some provisions may generate concern, Dr. Hagerty acknowledged—in particular, the requirement for supplemental training. Even so, many veterinarians should welcome the innovative format—Web-based training—and the opportunity to keep up to date on emerging issues. Accreditation renewal would be required every three years, with training modules to be completed during that time.
Besides the Web-based training, veterinarians could choose from a two-tiered system of accreditation—for limited and extended activity. Practitioners could also increase the marketability of their services by seeking accreditation in specialized areas.
The core accreditation program and supplemental training would be free, although veterinarians who seek accreditation in specialized areas would bear that cost.
"I do think veterinarians should comment on these changes," Dr. Hagerty said, "so the questions that the veterinary community has, are aired—comments both pro and con. It's important to have a discussion before the final rules are put in place."
Questions or comments should be directed to Dr. Quita P. Bowman, Program Manager, National Veterinary Accreditation Program, USDA-APHIS-VS, 4700 River Road, Unit 46, Riverdale, MD 20737; phone, (301) 734-6188; fax, (301) 734-3641; Quita.P.Bowman@aphis.usda.gov.
An excellent source of information about the National Veterinary Accreditation Program is its new Web site: www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/nvap. There you will find information about applying for accreditation and much more. If you are an accredited veterinarian who has not updated your contact information in the past year, you can do so through this Web site by clicking on "Update Your Information" in the lefthand column. Or you can click on "VS Area Offices" to contact your Veterinary Services area office.