Addressing the need for more Clinical Proficiency Examination slots

Western Veterinary Conference and AVMA rise to the challenge
Published on May 15, 2005
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By Kate O'Rourke

More testing sites are on the way for individuals waiting to take the Clinical Proficiency Examination. At press time, a temporary site was scheduled to host its first test-takers on May 23, and a permanent site was scheduled to open in 2007. Each site will be capable of processing at least double the number of candidates that go through a typical CPE site per year. The new sites should address the increasing demand for the examination.

Taking the CPE is one of the four steps of the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates certification program, which most foreign-trained individuals who want to practice veterinary medicine in the United States go through. In recent years, there has been a steadily increasing demand for the CPE, a 3 1/2-day, hands-on clinical skills examination currently administered at several university-affiliated sites. At press time, all examination slots for 2005 were full and requests to take the examination continue to come in.  

The Oquendo Center 

The Oquendo Center for Clinical Education will serve as home of the first permanent, high-throughput CPE site. Roughly a year-and-a-half ago, the Western Veterinary Conference was in the process of planning to construct the Oquendo Center on property that it had purchased adjacent to WVC's headquarters in Las Vegas. The center, which will be completed in October 2006, is being constructed to increase the number of interactive or "wet" labs that WVC will be able to offer during its annual meeting.

"We are providing 18 to 20 wet labs now, but we think we could probably, if we had the room to do it, give 70 or 80," said Dr. Jack O. Walther, immediate past president of the WVC. "This is something that people coming to the convention really want more of."

While plans for the Oquendo Center were in the works, Dr. Walther was serving as president of the WVC as well as president of the AVMA. "It was about that time that I got involved with the students and the ECFVG and realized what a tremendous problem we had with the backlog for the CPE," Dr. Walther said. "I was president of both AVMA and Western and thought, if we have this facility and we are really only going to be using it 10 days a year for our needs, why not build it such that the CPE could be given there the rest of the year?"

In June 2004, the WVC board of directors voted to offer the CPE at the Oquendo Center. "The Western board said, 'This is a great idea. This is going to help the profession,'" Dr. Walther said. "It is a little bit out of our goals and objectives for the Western Veterinary Conference, but it is something that is badly needed for the profession." Western started working with the AVMA and ECFVG toward the goal of Oquendo serving as a high-throughput CPE site.

Western hopes money collected from candidates who take the examination will cover the expense of giving the examination. "We are not looking at it as a moneymaking venture," said Dr. Randall Ezell, secretary and treasurer of the WVC. "The first business model we came up with, we thought we could probably break even."

When completed, the 64,000-square-foot structure, designed by clinicians for clinicians, will offer wet labs during WVC's meeting as well as throughout the year. It will also serve as a home for the veterinary technician program at the Community College of Southern Nevada. The state-of-the-art instructional facility will include conference and laboratory sections; an operating suite; dental suite; imaging center; animal management areas; a bovine, equine, and small ruminant center; and much more.

Dr. Walther anticipates that other veterinary groups will use Oquendo Center to offer their own interactive labs. "We've got lots of interest," he said, pointing out that three groups have already approached the WVC about using the facility for (veterinary) dental demonstrations. "There may even be human health groups that will want to use it." 

A temporary solution

Because the Oquendo Center isn't expected to be operational until 2007, it does not, however, provide an immediate solution for ECFVG candidates currently waiting to take the CPE. Thus, this past year, the AVMA and WVC teamed up to establish a temporary site in Las Vegas to offer the examination. 

The temporary Topaz Center in Las Vegas offers the small animal, pathology, and radiology sections of the CPE. The Rocking K Cutting Horse Ranch, a privately owned ranch in Las Vegas, was donated for the food animal and equine sections of the test. The AVMA provided the money for the temporary site, a lease, and the site improvements. Western Veterinary Conference is supplying the expertise, staffing, and funding to give the test.

On March 30-31, the temporary CPE site passed its first evaluation. During the first evaluation, the site was appraised as to whether it could provide care for those animals, qualified personnel to administer the test, and adequate facilities and equipment. A CPE consultant and an outside testing consultant conducted the evaluation and submitted their report to the ECFVG, which approved it.

At press time, the site was scheduled to host its first test-takers in May and undergo its second evaluation. The second evaluation will focus on administering and scoring the CPE.

If the site passes its second evaluation, it will come on board as a fully approved CPE site. The temporary site should be able to process at least a hundred candidates per year.

Equipment from the Topaz Center and the Rocking K Cutting Horse Ranch will be moved to the Oquendo Center, when it is completed. The Oquendo Center will also undergo a two-part evaluation.

Dr. Walther says that when the Oquendo Center starts offering the CPE in 2007, he hopes it can process far more than a hundred candidates. "Our goal is 200 per year," Dr. Walther said.  

A big boon

A site that can process between 100 and 200 candidates per year is a big boon for the ECFVG. "Most universities administer the CPE three times per year, and at each sitting, they can process, say, eight candidates," said Dr. Deborah Kochevar, chair of the ECFVG, who represents the AVMA Council on Education. The temporary and permanent sites will offer the examination at least 10 times per year, with at least 10 candidates per sitting.

Previously, Mississippi State University was considered the highest-volume site, processing 45 candidates per year. Other ECFVG-approved CPE sites are Oklahoma State University, Tuskegee University, the University of California-Davis, and the University of Glasgow-Scotland. The University of Missouri-Columbia also recently proposed offering the CPE and, once evaluated, is expected to examine 16 candidates per year, for at least two years. In addition, four AVMA-accredited schools in Canada administer the CPE for the Canadian National Examining Board.

Because offering the examination is such an involved endeavor, Dr. Kochevar said, it is difficult for universities to increase their capacity. While other private sites have looked into offering the CPE, the WVC will be the first private site to be successful in following through.

The launch of the temporary site and the Oquendo Center is welcome news for individuals waiting to take the CPE as well as everyone involved with the ECFVG.

"I am thrilled about the high-volume sites," says Dr. Beth Sabin, assistant director of the AVMA Education and Research Division and staff consultant to the ECFVG. She says the new sites, combined with the five existing ECFVG-approved sites, should eliminate the wait for candidates who want to take the examination.

For more information about the ECFVG, visit