Talks between AVMA, Mexican veterinary officials have positive outcome

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U.S. and Mexican delegationsU.S. and Mexican delegations

Mexican veterinary leaders have asked the AVMA for assistance as they improve the accreditation process for Mexico's veterinary schools. Of Mexico's 38 veterinary schools, only five are currently accredited by Mexico's National Council of Education for Veterinary Medicine and Zootechnics, or CONEVET.

The request was made during the latest round of talks between the AVMA and the Mexican veterinary leaders. Held Feb. 27-28 in Henderson, Nev., the meeting had been approved by the AVMA Executive Board following a summit last year in Puerto Vallarta (see JAVMA, May 1, 2001, page 1399).

That was the first time veterinary officials from both countries met formally in several years.

The February meeting was intended to expand talks to areas of common interest. In addition to school accreditation, food safety, and emerging diseases, the leaders also discussed U.S. veterinary economics and Mexico's disaster preparedness.

AVMA participants characterized the meeting as very positive and more productive than expected. "We talked about things that you would expect that two countries that share a border as long as ours would be able to discuss," according to Dr. James E. Nave, AVMA immediate past president. Mexican veterinary officials could not be reached for comment.

Bioterrorism was also a source of anxiety for both parties. "They're very concerned about that, as we are, because an attack here could spread across the border to them quickly," said AVMA President-Elect Joe M. Howell, the meeting moderator.

The Mexican delegation comprised representatives from the Mexican Council on Veterinary Education, National University of Mexico College of Veterinary Medicine, Pan American VMA, Pan American Federation of Colleges of Veterinary Medicine, and Mexico VMA.

Those representing the AVMA in addition to Drs. Howell and Nave were Dr. Leon H. Russell, North American Councilor to the World Veterinary Association; Dr. Donald G. Simmons, director of the AVMA Education and Research Division; Dr. James L. Voss, Council on Education representative from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges; Dr. Bruce W. Little, AVMA executive vice president; and Dr. Janet D. Donlin, AVMA associate executive vice president.

At the Nevada meeting, the Mexican veterinarians said they are reevaluating the process for accrediting the country's veterinary schools. Historically, there has been little incentive for veterinary schools to be accredited by CONEVET, according to Dr. Howell. As a result, veterinary education standards at the schools are inconsistent and vary in quality. Schools are being encouraged to seek accreditation, however, and if deficiencies are found, supplemental federal funds of up to $5 million are available to correct the problems.

"I think they realize that they have a lot of veterinary schools that are just not up to standard," Dr. Nave explained.

The Mexicans want the AVMA to advise them as they attempt to raise accreditation standards to a level equal to the AVMA's own. "They very much want to use the AVMA as a resource and a benchmark to help them accomplish that, " Dr. Howell said, adding that the Association should support these efforts.

An outcome of the initial 2001 meeting was to send a member of the Council on Education to observe a site visit at a Mexican veterinary school. Both sides agreed this growing understanding between both parties should continue. When the AVMA Executive Board met this April, it authorized COE attendance at another site visit and a 2003 meeting between AVMA and Mexican leaders (see page 1591).

Relatedly, the board had previously approved attendance of a CONEVET member at a COE site visit of an AVMA-accredited veterinary school or college, but the event has yet to take place. Maintaining open lines of communication helps veterinarians on both sides of the border, as well as promotes animal health, according to Dr. Howell. When he is AVMA president, Dr. Howell will continue nurturing this relationship with his Mexican counterparts by working with them on other common, cross-border issues.