Preparations continue for education consortium

Board of directors, facilitator named to lead NAVMEC
Published on November 01, 2009
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The North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium has seen further progress with the announcement of more leadership appointments and hires.

In early October, leaders from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges named the consortium's board of directors, who will lead the effort in charting the course of veterinary medical education (see JAVMA, May 1, 2009).

The board comprises members representing education, accreditation, and the licensing and testing arms of veterinary medical education. The board members are as follows:

  • Dr. Eleanor M. Green, dean of the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine.
  • Dr. Bennie I. Osburn, dean of the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
  • Dr. Willie M. Reed, dean of the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine.
  • Dr. David L. McCrystle, immediate past chair of the AVMA Executive Board.
  • Dr. Janver D. Krehbiel, past chair of the AVMA Foresight Committee Task Force and an AVMA Executive Board member.
  • Dr. David E. Granstrom, director of the AVMA Education and Research Division.
  • Dr. Mike Thomas, past president of the American Animal Hospital Association and member of the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.
  • Dr. Jonathon E. Betts, past president of the American Association of Veterinary State Boards.
  • Dr. John Lawrence, president of the Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine and director-at-large for the American Association of Veterinary State Boards.

The nine-member board met the first week of November in Washington, D.C., with AAVMC executive staff and Dr. Mary Beth Leininger, who was appointed project manager in July (see JAVMA, Aug. 15, 2009).

The NAVMEC board looked at developing recommendations concerning governance policies; criteria and procedures of the consortium, including admitting new NAVMEC participants; and drafting the final report to be recommended to the AAVMC leadership. The board also planned to finalize when and where the national meetings would take place.

The members of AAVMC, veterinary colleges, are producing a product—we are producing veterinarians. The ability of our schools to successfully educate the next generation depends on the ability of our schools to cover a breadth of views reflected by society.


Over 12 months, the consortium will hold a series of national discussions on several questions related to the future of veterinary education in North America. These include the following:

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

NAVMEC participants will take part in consortium meetings to discuss and deliberate these issues and make recommendations to the NAVMEC board, which will submit a final plan to the AAVMC leadership.

Invitation letters were sent to 431 organizations. Those invited were asked to join the consortium and participate in the discussions at the national meetings, irrespective of any financial contribution. So far, 164 have said they would participate.

To ensure the process goes smoothly, the AAVMC hired a facilitator—Kenneth J. Andrews, PhD, founder of High Impact Facilitation, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Dr. Andrews assisted in 2007 with the association's Foresight Report, a long-range planning study for academic veterinary medicine. He also has consulted for the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues and the Canadian VMA, among other veterinary-related entities.

Dr. Leininger said Dr. Andrews has a good understanding of "veterinary speak" and an optimal mix of skills in program design, meeting management, hands-on facilitation, and participant engagement. She explained that Dr. Andrews' role will be to ensure all views are heard and that no one view dominates any of the discussions.

"We're not looking for a consensus," Dr. Leininger said. "Our goal is to gather input from these many stakeholders and come to an agreement and develop a road map for veterinary education."

Dr. Michael Chaddock, AAVMC deputy director, added that having a professional facilitator who is not connected to any of the participating groups will allow for all opinions to be allowed equal consideration.

"The members of AAVMC, veterinary colleges, are producing a product—we are producing veterinarians. The ability of our schools to successfully educate the next generation depends on the ability of our schools to cover a breadth of views reflected by society," Dr. Chaddock said.

He continued, "It's important that these views and ideas are talked about and exposed so that as (veterinary) education prepares our new graduates, they have a solid background and foundation when they go into practice or industry or government, and that's why it's so important we have a broad view of ideas."

Dr. Lawrence said bringing together differing viewpoints helps to enlighten everyone to the needs and desires of all areas of veterinary medicine.

"Sometimes, professionals become myopic while struggling with their own problems," he said.

Ultimately, the national report from the consortium will not be prescriptive, Dr. Chaddock said, but instead, will provide insight and ideas for colleges and licensing and accreditation bodies to consider as the colleges institute curricular changes needed to meet changing societal needs. The goal is for the plan to allow the colleges to be creative with curricula yet retain high standards of accreditation.

Dr. Krehbiel, who is also a professor emeritus at Michigan State University, acknowledges that it will take several years to accurately gauge the success of NAVMEC. But the consortium is needed now, he said, because the profession is at a crossroads.

"We need to band together to find the best solutions to the challenges we face," he said, mentioning student debt load, new and emerging diseases, food safety, animal welfare, diversity, economic issues, and how to educate students as areas that need attention.