Where rubber meets the road

NAVMEC plans to turn ideas into action
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In an ideal world, every veterinarian would communicate effectively, demonstrate business acumen, and act ethically. Each would possess a lifelong desire to learn, adapt to changing environments, and promote public health and the one-health concept. Oh, and of course, each would have multispecies clinical expertise.

Vet 2.0

These are the defined skills and competencies veterinarians should possess to meet current and future societal needs as outlined by participants at the first meeting of the North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium Feb. 11-13 in Las Vegas (see JAVMA, April 1, 2010).

This past year, the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges announced that the top priority in its new strategic plan would be to shape the future of veterinary education. The association, by establishing NAVMEC and engaging broad involvement from stakeholders across the profession, aims to develop a flexible road map for veterinary education. This would be supported by changes to the accreditation, testing, and licensure processes so as to allow veterinary schools and colleges to more easily adopt creative curricula and teaching delivery systems. The anticipated result: a veterinary profession able to meet changing societal needs.

Participants at the first NAVMEC meeting
Participants at the first NAVMEC meeting discuss skills and competencies veterinarians should possess to meet current and future societal needs.

Great expectations

Work started at the first of three consortium meetings in Las Vegas with approximately 90 participants representing a spectrum of veterinary sectors (public and private), principally from the United States but also Canada, the Caribbean, and South America.

The objective of the first meeting was to discuss global changes projected to occur from now until 2030, explore what the public will need from the veterinary profession in that time, and define the core veterinary skills required to meet these needs.

Participants determined that first and foremost, the public will expect core veterinary skills to be much broader, according to an executive summary of the meeting. From zoonotic disease to emergency preparedness to human-animal interactions, the public will assume veterinarians to be experts in all these areas and more.

Compounding these expectations, veterinarians will need broader knowledge to communicate with an increasingly more informed—and sometimes misinformed—clientele who seek out the wealth of information available online and demand access to diagnostic technologies that provide immediate results.

Food safety and animal welfare, specifically, will continue to be big issues in which the public will look to veterinarians for their expertise. Food shortages will create new roles and pressures, and new agricultural technologies will change food animal production, participants concluded.

On a bigger scale, veterinarians will have to adapt to a continually evolving clientele.

"Veterinarians will be expected to be sensitive to cultural and societal diversity and show leadership on the national and global cultural differences related to one-health and animal welfare," according to the summary.

Looking at skills and competencies, participants envisioned veterinarians in the future having enhanced diagnostic and therapeutic skills in areas such as animal behavior, wellness, and welfare. Those are in addition to being able to prevent and treat common health problems.

Other emerging core skills NAVMEC attendees envisioned veterinarians should possess are an increased awareness of ethical issues, including genetic modification; knowledge of eco-issues such as climate change; and competence in a broader spectrum of digital technology in the areas of communications, diagnosis, and therapy.

More than words

So what happens now?

After having already compiled stakeholder input from the first meeting, Dr. Mary Beth Leininger, NAVMEC project manager, will do the same for the second meeting, recently held in Kansas City, Mo.

The third meeting will integrate much of the information from the first two, Dr. Leininger said, with the focus to center on integrating new veterinary education models into the accreditation, testing, and licensing processes.

Dr. Leininger said that meeting, which will take place from July 14-16 at the Oquendo Center for Clinical Education in Las Vegas, will also include participant input toward the development of an implementation plan.

Dr. Bennie I. Osburn, dean of the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, explained that initially, NAVMEC was just to be a program to provide recommendations to the AAVMC, but, he said, "Let's not drop the ball with that. It's important that we continue our efforts and not slow down."

He continued, "At that time we'll take your suggestions and formulate that into a package that can go forward as a recommendation to the AAVMC board."

NAVMEC is just one of the ways the AAVMC has followed up on the 45 recommendations from its 2007 Foresight Report, which is essentially a long-range planning study for academic veterinary medicine.

The association has also adopted plans to increase diversity in veterinary medicine, and, with the AVMA, has advocated for federal funding of facilities and programs to increase veterinary enrollment and repay student loans for veterinarians working in shortage areas.

Several veterinary schools and colleges, for their part, have participated in the Centers of Emphasis Program. The program encourages these institutions to develop areas of professional focus, such as food animal medicine, and provide training to students from multiple veterinary colleges.