AVMA Answers

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Buenos Aires, Argentina, hosted the XIX Panamerican Congress of Veterinary Sciences from Oct. 24-28, 2004. The Panamerican Association of Veterinary Sciences, or PANVET, sponsors the biennial event. It was the first congress held since the AVMA rejoined the organization.

Q:  What is the nature of PANVET, and who represented the AVMA at the congress?

Dr. Bonnie V. Beaver, AVMA president, responds:  

A:  PANVET has eight member countries—Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, Panama, Uruguay, and the United States. The member countries fund it, with ancillary support from organizations such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. The PANVET congress is similar to our convention—its primary purpose is to provide continuing education.

The AVMA was reaccepted as a member in 2003, after the AVMA Executive Board approved a recommendation from Dr. Jack Walther (2003-2004 president) to rejoin. Originally, the AVMA joined PANVET in the early 1970s, but we discontinued our membership in 1984 because of organizational and financial concerns.

As AVMA president, I represented our Association at the 2004 congress, along with Dr. Donald Simmons, director of the Education and Research Division. In addition, Dr. Leon Russell, a vice president of the World Veterinary Association, represented the WVA. Dr. Russell presented an invited talk on bioterrorism and extended an invitation to the 2005 World Veterinary Congress and the AVMA Annual Convention, both in Minneapolis from July 16-20.

Q:  What kind of reception did you get?
A:   It was wonderful. They were very kind. It's essentially a Spanish-speaking meeting, and it provided a great opportunity for us to meet a lot of colleagues from south of our border. Canada was there making their first request to join PANVET, with their formal request to be considered this summer.

Q:  Did you have an opportunity to address the congress?
A:   Drs. Russell, Simmons, and I participated in a panel discussion during an open meeting at the congress. My invited talk was on the AVMA functions and activities. I described our various divisions and the responsibilities of each of those divisions. Because all the PANVET member organizations are considerably smaller than the AVMA is, they don't have as many staff or the same presence in their capital cities that we do. They don't do nearly the kinds of things the AVMA does, so I thought it would be helpful for them to understand what a big organization does. The session was well-attended, and we received some good questions.

Dr. Simmons gave an invited talk about the AVMA accreditation process and global accreditation activities. The veterinary colleges in Latin America are not nearly as well developed as they are in the United States and Canada. As an example, from 1990-1999, there were 50 new veterinary colleges in Brazil. They have over 200, and they are on track to get another 50 in 2000-2009. In their country, anybody can say that they have a veterinary school, and their country will give them an economic incentive to do that. There is nothing to guarantee the quality of education. PANVET has a subgroup called COPEVET, which is similar to our Council on Education. The long-term goal of COPEVET is working with each country to improve the requirements of their veterinary colleges. COPEVET is many years behind where we are. They are only at the point of defining what courses should be taught and what should be taught within each course. We want to work with COPEVET to help them develop.

Q:  What else did you do while there?
A:   PANVET has a Directive Council that is similar to our Executive Board and meets yearly. We extended the AVMA's invitation for the Directive Council to hold its meeting and the meetings of the Pan-American Council on Education in Veterinary Sciences and the Council of Deans of South America in conjunction with the AVMA Annual Convention this July in Minneapolis.

Before COPEVET met, there was a meeting of the "Council of Deans of South America," although very few of the deans were there. I had the opportunity to meet with them. They discussed general considerations about what's happening in each country, and some of the concerns or issues that exist for veterinary education. Council members have a charge to develop a written history of veterinary medicine in their respective countries or at their colleges. Some had done them earlier, and others presented their information at this meeting. In fact, I brought books about schools in Cuba and Brazil back to AVMA headquarters.

Q:  What take-home messages can you share from the PANVET congress?
A:   There are a couple of things. One is that the veterinarians worldwide are good people, and we can all benefit from sharing experiences and ideas with each other. The second thing is that AVMA has a lot that we can offer to help Latin America improve in several different aspects of veterinary medicine. We don't want to be the leaders of that organization—we want to be part of that organization.