Share your thoughts: Future of veterinary education accreditation

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Editor's note: Updated on June 30, 2023, to include date, time, and location of feedback session at Canadian Veterinary Medical Association Convention 

The AVMA Council on Education® (COE) is formulating its strategic plan for the next five years and wants your input.

The council is seeking input on how innovation in education, the profession, and professional accreditation should be considered in the accreditation process and the COE accreditation standards. Specifically, the panel is looking for input on how to best serve students, the public, the profession, and veterinary medical colleges and schools into the future.

The COE is planning a series of live, facilitated feedback sessions to gather input over the coming months. 

If you prefer to submit feedback in writing or are unable to attend any of the live sessions, your input also can be submitted to the council coeatavma [dot] org (via email) through July 31, 2023.

Attend a live feedback session

Facilitated feedback sessions will be held in June and July.

Virtual sessions 

For details on how to join a virtual session, please RSVP by email to coeatavma [dot] org (coe[at]avma[dot]org) indicating the session you plan to attend. 

  • Student session: Friday, June 9, Noon – 1p.m. Central Time
  • Open session, focused on recent graduates (all welcome): Friday, June 9, 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. Central Time
  • Open session: Friday, June 16, Noon – 1 p.m. Central Time
In-person sessions 
  • Open session at the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association Convention, Quebec City: Friday, July 7, 10 a.m. Eastern Time 
  • Open session at AVMA Convention, Denver: Sunday, July 16, 11 a.m. – noon Mountain Time

Learn more about the COE and this opportunity to provide input.


Vet technician accreditation

We need to look at new avenues for technician training and therefore accreditation. Our state is starting an apprenticeship program. This keeps and trains our valued assistants in clinic.

Current trends in veterinary academia

It seems as though the COE has strayed a bit in the goal of training students to be veterinarians. In my opinion, the pendulum has swung too far from teaching medicine and surgery to other topics, such as communication and equity and diversity issues. At our institution, students cannot answer basic anatomy questions. At institutions across the country, there is less and less emphasis on surgery topics and skills. The answer seems to be, if it is a surgical issue, send it to a surgeon. Unfortunately, many owners cannot afford this level of care, and many procedures can be performed in general practice if they had the appropriate training. The sole emphasis on surgical training for veterinary students is centered on spays and neuters, and how many a student can perform during clinical years. Also, I think it is time to consider the model used in 95% of other countries, with direct admission to veterinary school with a 6 year curriculum rather than 4 years of nonspecific education, followed by 4 years of veterinary school. Think of how much more targeted a curriculum could be in the first 2 years, eg writing for the medical sciences, physics for medical sciences, chemistry for medical sciences.

Dr Millis, Proposals to…

Dr Millis,
Proposals to shorten the time in school go back nearly 40 years, including specializing for particular sectors of veterinary medicine. But somehow there has never been leadership to face the reality of how the expanding knowledge base of animal health needs to be addressed in modernizing the current obsolete veterinary curriculum purporting to produce a veterinarian competent in all segments of the profession. We know what needs to be done. The PEW Report on the Future of Veterinary Education made it very clear in 1988. Yet only one veterinary school in the world, the University of Guelph in Belgium, has students in their final 1-2 years training only for a particular sector like equine, small animal or ruminant medicine. Our schools and the COE standards are obsolete .

Surgical skills

The same seems to be happening here in Australia. Vets who work in the cities refer everything surgical. We are in a regional area so have to do most things ourselves. We had a locum recently who had never done a splenectomy as the practice he works at routinely refers those to a specialist centre. It is very sad.

Current student population lacking even in basic skills.

The capitalistic demand for doing everything faster to increase profit has ruined human medicine. Now it is creeping into Veterinary Medicine. We teach these new doctors to go faster, do more, and take more cases, all the while we are sacrificing our quality of care. I cannot count the number of mistakes that are corrected each day in our clinic pharmacy, which are 90%+ just poor attention to detail. I also find that basic communication skills, medical math, and just basic prescription writing fundamentals are all completely lost in the "advanced curriculums" that have slowly snuck in to our institutions. Yes automations have made many lazy, but if the simple things are not solidly in place, then how can we continually shift to this "faster" and "more" attitude that prevails. I would personally like to see a return to the basics and ensure solid foundations for these new clinicians to build off. They will have plenty of time to specialize. That being said, I would agree completely with a full "university" track that builds those fundamentals from the ground up. A comprehensive 6 year program or at least a restructuring of a 2+4 curriculum would go a long way in investing time in some of the areas that are lacking.

Strategic Planning

Since the term "animal welfare' was added to the AVMA Oath in 2010, all curricula should ensure that this subject is taught. This may be taught in conjunction with other subjects such as ethics and professionalism.

As ethical conflicts are a major source of work-related stress, training in ethics including how to recognize and navigate ethical conflicts should be mandatory.

Animal Behavior and Animal Welfare in the curriculum

I am personally aware that the COE has been ensuring that meaningful animal behavior is included in the curriculum of various veterinary programs - thank you for that.
An understanding of the breadth of animal welfare is becoming increasingly important, not just the medical aspects but the sentience and cognitive portions as well. To stay relevant, veterinarians of the future will need advanced knowledge in animal welfare, so I would encourage the COE to increase the emphasis of this topic in the profession. Thank you.

Training in Addressing Patient Mental Health

Innovation is needed (e.g., online courses) to address the lack of appropriate specialty staff to provide adequate training to veterinary students to allow graduate veterinarians to protect welfare and relieve (mental) suffering, as required by the veterinary oath. Veterinary medicine, as with human medicine, has historically seen mental health as separate from physical health. However, humans have mental health practitioners while animal mental health is pretty much completely neglected. Veterinarians serve as animal dentists as well as animal doctors, and we need to take on the role of animal psychologists/psychiatrists, too. Not every vet needs to be a specialist in this area. As with other specialties, practitioners just need a basic education, and they can then refer patients to specialists. To some extent, the need for mental health care is addressed (primarily in dogs and cats) by DACVBs. DACAWs can also help with patient mental health/welfare. However, we need more such specialists, because there are not enough to provide the basic education of students in every veterinary school. Therefore, the COE needs to consider how innovation can address this need. Perhaps, an online course can be developed for students at schools that don't have appropriate specialists on staff. As was noted by Dr. Kipperman, the AVMA Oath now requires veterinarians to swear to devote their skills to "the protection of animal health and welfare", as well as "the prevention and relief of animal suffering." Without appropriate training, veterinarians do not have the skills to protect welfare or relieve mental suffering. As a profession, we need to use innovation to address that lack.

Accreditation must require welfare and behavior curriculum

Veterinarians promise in their oath that they will take care of animal welfare, but no education on animal welfare and behavior is required for the accreditation of veterinary schools. The study of welfare and behavior must be part of the core curriculum. Behavior health problems are a leading cause of rehoming and euthanasia in small animals, and a public health problem (i.e. dog aggression), but they are not considered part of the fundamental curriculum. Large animal welfare is essential in farming, transmission of zoonoses, public health, food quality and safety... and is virtually ignored in the vet curriculum. Please revise the accreditation requirements accordingly.

Margaret M. Duxbury DVM, DACVB
June 16, 2023 Permalink

Strategic planning - Behavior is essential

I am so glad you are planning the veterinary curriculum to prepare our future veterinarians -- and appreciate that you are open to comments.

Veterinary behaviorists need to use their entire veterinary degree to properly assess and diagnose cases; medical conditions frequently have behavioral signs such as anxiety, fear of noises or isolation, house soiling or aggression as the sole signs of a medical condition. Veterinarians are asked more questions about behavior than many other topics, and it is essential that they know how to address these issues without causing more harm, for example for missing a medical contributor, failing to prescribe or adequately manage life changing behavior medications --- or as commonly happens, by sending them to a trainer they have not personally vetted, that they don't know how to vet properly, that makes what is often a physiological problem far worse with aversive based training. It is important that veterinary students receive foundational coursework taught by a behavior qualified veterinarian (eg. veterinary behaviorist or DVM with advanced scientific training in behavior (vs a trainer or other with no medical background), and whenever possible gain clinical experience in order to apply the knowledge effectively.

Many decision makers at Universities have not themselves had enough behavior education to understand its importance. If anyone working on strategic planning wishes to see for themselves how important clinical behavior knowledge is to veterinarians, you may contact me directly and I will do my best to arrange a clinical experience with a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists near you.

Thank you for your consideration!


DEI programming needs to be incorporated into all standards. This needs to be considered an operational necessity.

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