Mexican school hosts fruitful, festive event

Work accomplished amid a celebration
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In August, the oldest veterinary school in North America observed its 150th anniversary, and with as much substance as pomp and ceremony.

King Charles V of Spain founded the Royal and Pontifice University of Mexico in 1551, and it became the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in 1929. Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna founded the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Zootechnics and the College of Agriculture in 1853, together and under the Department of Agriculture. In 1916, the veterinary school was separated from the agriculture college, but both remained under the agriculture department. The veterinary school was integrated into UNAM in 1929.

AVMA President Jack O. Walther and Drs. James E. Nave, Leon H. Russell, and Donald G. Simmons participated in the event. It was held along with a symposium on veterinary education and a meeting of the Panamerican Association of Veterinary Sciences.

The symposium—the World Meeting of Leaders in Veterinary Education—drew several hundred veterinary leaders from Europe, North America, and South America for two days of lectures, panel discussions, and seminars. Topics were of global interest—international accreditation, international recognition of professional education, international mobility of students, and biosecurity and animal welfare in the veterinary curriculum. Interesting projects being sponsored at various institutions were also shared.

Between them, the four U.S. representatives made presentations on subjects including the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues, accreditation by the AVMA Council on Education, the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates program, bioterrorism, mentoring, and AVMA/ student relationships. Dr. Russell is a vice president of the World Veterinary Association and an AVMA past president. Dr. Nave is the AVMA global accreditation surveillance monitor, a North American councilor for the WVA, and an AVMA past president. Dr. Simmons is director of the AVMA Education and Research Division.

During the informal PANVET meeting, held prior to the symposium, Dr. Walther fielded questions about how the AVMA attracts and retains such a large percentage of veterinarians and recent graduates as members. "(Retention of members) seems to be more of a problem south of the border," he said later. "So at the educational symposium, I talked about the Student AVMA, how it functions within the AVMA House of Delegates and has its own house of delegates, and how to stimulate students to join and stay."

Dr. Walther commented later on the symposium and overall event. "Frankly, I was expecting a celebration. Instead, it was far less ceremonial, and we got information on everything of importance to veterinary medicine. I found it a marvelous experience to get firsthand information on problems in other areas and how they deal with them. It was clear that the AVMA is looked to as the true leader of the world veterinary community."

Upon hearing about the meeting, AVMA executive vice president, Dr. Bruce W. Little, was equally impressed. "The Mexican representatives have a strong desire to continue dialogue on improving education through consultation and accreditation," he said, "and building strong relationships in the international community."

At the symposium, representatives from several countries gave special citations or proclamations to UNAM veterinary school Dean Luis Zarco recognizing the 150th anniversary. One was a proclamation approved by the AVMA Executive Board in May and presented by Dr. Walther.

University President Juan Ramon de la Fuente, MD, had begun the symposium with a dynamic presentation on the veterinary school's relationship to the UNAM and on funding needs. During the symposium, UNAM signed an agreement whereby Banfield, The Pet Hospital, will build a full-service teaching hospital at UNAM. Construction is to begin in early 2004 and be completed by the arrival of the 2002-2005 veterinary class.

Dr. Scott Campbell, Banfield chairman and CEO, said, in a press release: "According to the UNAM faculty ... , we could help the college the most with a state-of-the-art small animal teaching hospital and we are very proud that Banfield is able to help meet this need."

Banfield also plans to help UNAM remodel its campus veterinary hospital, which will focus on specialty treatment. Banfield intends to build other veterinary hospitals in Mexico as well. According to Dr. Campbell, "Our relationship with the university will help our practice find quality doctors for our future hospitals in Mexico."

The Panamerican Association of Veterinary Sciences holds a major meeting every other year. This was an intervening year, so the PANVET countries met alone. They discussed finances and reports from the seven member countries—Mexico, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, Panama, and Chile. The meeting was in Spanish, with an English interpretation provided.

Dr. Walther was invited to give a short address. Reiterating comments from his presidential speech to the 2003 AVMA House of Delegates, he said he was exploring PANVET operations so the Executive Board could decide whether the AVMA should rejoin the organization. The AVMA withdrew from PANVET in 1998 because of organizational concerns.

"I told the PANVET delegates I have every intention of submitting a recommendation to the board for our November (13-15) meeting," Dr. Walther said later. "There is great value in interacting with our neighbors to the south on accreditation, for disease reasons, for bioterrorism reasons."

Dr. Francisco Trigo of Mexico is PANVET president, Dr. Claudio Termicier Gonzalez of Chile is vice president, and Dr. Frank Clavel of Panama is secretary.

Dr. Trigo is the associate dean for postgraduate studies and research at the UNAM veterinary school. He expressed "great satisfaction" on behalf of himself and the PANVET Directive Council that the AVMA may rejoin.

"This (is) because of the great and solid organization AVMA represents worldwide," Dr. Trigo said, "and because the AVMA opinion in organized veterinary medicine in PANVET is important, particularly since PANVET represents the forum where the opinions of organized veterinary medicine in this continent are expressed."

"PANVET is now a different organization from the one AVMA participated in the early '90s," Dr. Trigo continued. "We have a formal organization with members fulfilling their obligations, with active participation in issues of continental interest for our profession."

If the board decides to rejoin, the AVMA application would be considered at the XIX Panamerican Congress of Veterinary Sciences, Oct. 24-28, 2004, in Buenos Aires. The Argentinian delegation updated PANVET representatives on the upcoming congress; see or the PANVET Web site, Scientific abstracts being submitted for consideration must be postmarked by April 30, 2004. In the meantime, the PANVET Directive Council will hold an executive meeting in Salvador Bahia, Brazil, from March 22-23, 2004.