WesternU receives full accreditation; decision made on UNAM

Published on March 18, 2010
information-circle This article is more than 3 years old

The newest veterinary college in the United States was approved for full accreditation March 2 during the AVMA Council on Education spring meeting in Schaumburg, Ill.

The COE voted to advance the Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine in Pomona, Calif., from limited to full accreditation.

Dr. Phillip D. Nelson, dean of the WesternU veterinary college, said he was "ecstatic" about the decision.

"It validates our attempt to develop a quality program that is equivalent to the standards of veterinary medical education that we in the United States are used to," Dr. Nelson said.

The veterinary college is currently the only one in the United States to operate with a distributive teaching model that focuses on problem-based learning in small groups.

According to the college's Web site, first- and second-year veterinary students gain clinical experience at on-campus wellness centers and other area facilities. Third- and fourth-year students complete off-campus rotations, largely at local private practices, rather than at a teaching hospital.

WesternU first pursued COE accreditation in September 1998 when it submitted a self-study report on the then proposed veterinary college and sought a letter of "reasonable assurance," which signifies the council is likely to accredit a veterinary college if it continues to demonstrate that its plans for the college will meet or exceed the council's "Standard Requirements for an Accredited or Approved College of Veterinary Medicine."

After twice failing to attain the letter—first in September 1999 and again in February the following year—WesternU sued the AVMA in federal court, claiming restraint of trade and denial of due process in not accrediting its proposed veterinary college. The suit was later dismissed following a review of evidence.

Just prior to the AVMA being served with another lawsuit in October 2000, the council had established an ad hoc committee to facilitate the college's reapplication for a letter of reasonable assurance.

Then, during a scheduled meeting in March 2001, the COE found that WesternU had improved its plan for the proposed college's curriculum and facilities, and the council granted a letter of reasonable assurance. The university dropped the suit soon afterward and proceeded with hiring faculty, recruiting students, and raising funds to complete construction projects.

WesternU's veterinary college opened in 2003. It operated under provisional accreditation from its inception to 2008, when the COE voted to move it to limited accreditation.

Veterinary colleges on limited accreditation must correct one or more specific deficiencies within two years, unless the COE allows an extension.

Dr. Nelson noted that the college has dramatically improved its research capabilities since 2008 and also acquired more faculty.

The council's recent vote confirms the veterinary college is in full or substantial compliance with all COE standards.

In other council action, COE members made an accreditation decision regarding the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia in Mexico City. Accreditation reports are confidential, although colleges can choose to share information from evaluations. Colleges are allowed 30 days to appeal an adverse decision before the accreditation status becomes public.

In spring 2006, the COE made a consultative site visit to Mexico City, and afterward, laid out recommendations for UNAM to implement to work toward accreditation. The school sent a video more than a year later for the COE to view, showcasing the completion of curriculum and facilities upgrades designed to meet conditions cited by COE officials in the 2006 consultative site visit.

Additional interim reports provided by UNAM and reviewed by the COE resulted in the council granting a request from the school for a comprehensive site visit, which occurred in November 2009.