Future of veterinary education up for discussion

Topics to include curriculum, licensure, accreditation
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Shaping the future of veterinary medical education has emerged as the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges' top priority in its new strategic plan.

The plan's first objective, "Develop a plan to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of veterinary medical education to meet societal needs," will be addressed in part through the activities of the newly formed North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium.

NAVMEC will chart the course for the future of veterinary medical education. It will happen through a series of national discussions aimed at reaching a shared understanding of competencies required of veterinarians to meet societal need. A spectrum of educational models will be explored along with the relationship between education, college accreditation, and licensure. Partners of the consortium include the AVMA, academia, national and state VMAs, industry, multiple veterinary specialty groups, state licensure boards, and government, among others. The anticipated outcome of these discussions will be the production of a national, flexible, coordinated plan for veterinary education.

NAVMEC was inspired by the Foresight Report, a long-range planning study for academic veterinary medicine coordinated by the AAVMC. To see the full report, visit jvmeonline.org/content/vol34/issue1/index.dtl.

The objective of the study was to determine a vision of and future direction for academic veterinary medicine. It also sought to explore models for a responsive and flexible educational system that would prepare veterinarians for myriad opportunities and challenges arising now and over the next 20 to 25 years.

A key finding was the recognition that meeting the educational needs of the profession will involve open communications and creative ideas concerning curriculum, licensure, and accreditation.

The report brought attention to the need to provide sufficient numbers of graduates with a DVM/VMD degree having expertise in the areas of companion animal medicine, food supply veterinary medicine, public health, biomedical research, and several others, to meet societal needs. Since the release of the Foresight Report, many discussions have focused on its findings with a range of perspectives and opinions on the 45 recommendations.

Dr. Pappaioanou
Dr. Marguerite Pappaioanou hopes the North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium will provide a blueprint for the future of veterinary medical education.

Dr. Marguerite Pappaioanou, AAVMC executive director, said, "The Foresight Report caught the attention, enthusiasm, and vision of leaders across the veterinary profession, and laid an important foundation for NAVMEC in charting the course for veterinary education."

During the first half of 2009, AAVMC with its NAVMEC partners and co-sponsors will form a steering committee, which will develop in more detail the consortium's scope, goals, objectives, activities, and outcomes, Dr. Pappaioanou said. The first meeting of the steering committee is anticipated for late summer or early fall 2009.

The AAVMC also is in the process of crafting a job description for a project manager, talking with partners to spread the word about NAVMEC, and identifying a consultant to start the planning process. To date, approximately 118 partners have joined to form the consortium, of which 86 are also co-sponsors.

Given the sour economy, Dr. Warwick A. Arden, AAVMC president-elect and chair of the AAVMC strategic planning steering committee, said he was surprised at how successful fundraising for NAVMEC has been.

"That says there is a lot of passion for veterinary medical education," he said.

Dr. Pappaioanou agrees, saying the funding efforts have shown NAVMEC meets a need recognized by many in veterinary education and the profession. At the same time, she extols the fact that the consortium has broad representation across the profession it its partners and co-sponsors.

"It's not pay-to-play. This is—if you want to be part of discussions and you can get to the meetings, you're in," Dr. Pappaioanou said.

Over the next 12 to 18 months, the consortium will focus discussions on many important questions for future veterinary medical education, including the following:

  • What is meant by meeting societal needs, and what knowledge, skills, and competencies should all new graduates of veterinary medical colleges possess at graduation to ensure societal needs are met?
  • What are different educational models that will prepare all new graduates to meet societal needs?
  • What are essential principles and relationships between colleges, accreditation, and licensure that will ensure that new graduates meet societal needs?

The AAVMC is hoping for some sort of "blueprint," Dr. Pappaioanou said, that would be open and nonprescriptive for colleges.

"We don't want to stifle creativity but want the colleges to build on their strengths and build collaboration among them, help them form curricula that meet the needs of society," she said. "It's not for any one view to hold. It's to get people to think about getting together and thinking about it."

A panel of experts presented their perspectives at the introduction of NAVMEC on March 15. They included Dr. James M. Harris, Mayfair Veterinary Clinic, Hobart, Tasmania, speaking on veterinarians being prepared to meet societal needs; Dr. John R. Boyce, executive director of the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, speaking on the relationship between education and licensure; and Carol A. Griffiths, chief of the Accrediting Agency Evaluation Unit for the Department of Education, speaking on the role of accreditation and education.

"This was an outstanding beginning to the launch of this initiative, and AAVMC with its partners looks forward to its outcome with great anticipation," Dr. Pappaioanou said.