Thousands of veterinarians sign up for new tiered accreditation

USDA reaching out to veterinarians while developing required education
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About 10,000 veterinarians had opted to participate in the revised federal accreditation program by early March, Dr. Timothy R. Cordes said.

A Department of Agriculture spokeswoman said the department does not have a target number of participants. But Dr. Cordes, senior staff veterinarian for the National Veterinary Accreditation Program, said the response by the start of March had been excellent.

Veterinarians who want to keep their USDA accreditation need to apply under one of two new categories in the recently revised NVAP. Those who do not apply will lose their accreditation Aug. 2.

At press time, the USDA was still developing protocols for veterinarians who allow their existing accreditation to expire. Under the new tiered system, veterinarians will need to meet supplemental training and renewal requirements beginning in the next three to five years.

USDA spokeswoman Madelaine Fletcher encouraged veterinarians to submit applications for accreditation as early as possible.

"Getting 10,000 early is good, but there's the reality of a lot of paperwork, and it'll be easier for everyone if people sign up early," Fletcher said.

A Federal Register notice published Dec. 9, 2009, and the revised NVAP regulations stated that the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service was implementing tiered accreditation categories and requirements for accredited veterinarians to receive continuing education and file renewals every three years. The department estimated prior to the revisions that about 71,000 U.S. veterinarians were accredited.

Veterinarians accredited under one tier will be able to perform accredited duties, such as issuing certificates of veterinary inspection, on all animals except food or fiber species, horses, birds, farm-raised aquatic animals, other livestock, and zoo animals that can transmit exotic animal diseases to livestock. The second tier will allow veterinarians to perform such work on all animals.

The USDA did not have separate data indicating how many veterinarians were signing up under each category.

Dr. Marianne Ash, director of biosecurity and emergency planning for the Indiana State Board of Animal Health and chair of the AVMA Council on Public Health and Regulatory Veterinary Medicine, said it has been challenging to keep private practitioners updated on government regulatory programs and tasks, and changes to the NVAP are long overdue. Veterinarians need to be well-educated and informed, she said, about how they can assist the federal government in protecting animal health and public health.

Dr. Ash said that, until veterinarians participate in the revised NVAP, it will remain unclear whether the program will meet their expectations and needs. But she is optimistic about the impact of the changes.

Two veterinarians examining dairy cattleTo gather more participants, USDA officials are reaching out to veterinarians and collecting registrations at veterinary association meetings. For example, Dr. Cordes and Sheri L. Gillham, an NVAP coordinator with a USDA office in Nebraska, talked with veterinarians about the program at the booth they staffed during the annual meeting of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, March 8-9 in Omaha, Neb.

Dr. Cordes said 34 practitioners filled out paperwork during the AASV meeting to participate in the NVAP, and Gillham said most others she spoke with had previously submitted applications.

Dr. Cordes said the USDA was also continuing development of the educational program for veterinarians who become accredited. He expects supplemental training will be available online starting in December 2010, and the department will provide announcements when it becomes available.

The 19 training modules, which were created by the Iowa State University Center for Food Security and Public Health, will be available at no cost to U.S. veterinarians. Those who complete the reading materials and knowledge assessments can print certificates of completion for use during NVAP renewals.

Veterinarians in the more restrictive accreditation category need to complete three units—or about three hours—of continuing education prior to renewing their accreditation every three years, while veterinarians allowed to perform accredited work on all animals need to complete about six hours.

Some states have expressed interest in counting the USDA training modules toward their own continuing education requirements for renewing licensure, but Dr. Cordes said none had made commitments by early March. He said officials with the American Association of Equine Practitioners also expressed to him an interest in including the USDA's supplemental training at the AAEP annual conventions.

Sally J. Baker, spokeswoman for the AAEP, said her organization's board of directors voted in January to support the new accreditation process and consider how to help members register with the NVAP. The board considered a suggestion to help with the accreditation process at the AAEP annual convention, but nothing had been decided.

The USDA-APHIS has also continued work with ISU on developing the agency's Initial Accreditation Training. Starting in July 2011, veterinarians not registered with the revised NVAP will need to complete the APHIS-approved Initial Accreditation Training program to become registered. The training will be available to veterinarians through links on the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges Web site.

The eight modules of that initial training will be available free of charge to U.S. veterinary colleges and veterinarians and for a fee for use in foreign veterinary colleges. They will cover emerging and infectious animal diseases, and are being incorporated into the regulatory and foreign animal disease curriculum at some colleges.

The USDA might allow some organizations that create their own continuing education courses to offer those courses as partial fulfillment of NVAP education requirements, provided the instructors give the USDA copies of the course materials for review 90 days in advance.

The USDA has additional details about the revised NVAP at