Even though the last of its three planned meetings was completed several months ago, work continues for the North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium.
The consortium's nine-member board recently compiled and refined draft recommendations developed on the basis of discussions among NAVMEC participants.
This draft document was to be submitted to the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges board of directors, which is meeting Oct. 31-Nov. 1.
NAVMEC board member Dr. Janver D. Krehbiel (foreground) listens along with other participants at the
first consortium meeting in Las Vegas.
The AAVMC will distribute copies of the draft report and give presentations to the many co-sponsor and stakeholder groups involved in NAVMEC throughout the winter. After receiving input from these presentations, the NAVMEC board anticipates compiling a final report for AAVMC board approval, perhaps as early as this spring, leading the way for implementation by the 28 U.S. veterinary schools and colleges and their educational partners.
A successful collaboration
Much of the groundwork has already been laid for the NAVMEC board.
The first gathering this past February in Las Vegas analyzed factors driving changes in society and what these mean for graduating veterinarians. In particular, participants discussed the core competencies new graduates should possess to meet societal needs, irrespective of the professional discipline they intend to pursue. All but one of the nine core competencies agreed on—multispecies clinical experience—pertain to nonclinical skills, such as business acumen, cultural competence, and communication.
The second meeting, which was held in Kansas City, Mo., this past April, examined how to create more effective, efficient, and cost-conscious methods of delivering veterinary education. Many solutions centered on colleges collaborating more through direct interactions or online sharing of resources, including distance learning.
The third meeting this past July, once again in Las Vegas, focused on how the areas of veterinary education, college accreditation, and licensure could work together most effectively to support the delivery of the core competencies that graduating veterinarians should possess to meet societal needs.
"What we've heard from the second meeting, in particular, was that many of the faculty who attended NAVMEC went back and are already using what they learned in terms of best practices shared in this open environment ... to move their programs ahead."
DR. MARGUERITE PAPPAIOANOU,
ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN VETERINARY MEDICAL COLLEGES
NAVMEC board members and the AAVMC leadership say they are pleased with the work of the consortium to date. Approximately 400 individuals from 150 groups participated in the NAVMEC meetings.
Dr. Bennie I. Osburn, NAVMEC board chair, said, "The meetings brought together veterinarians from all walks of life, and we received very important input from all of them. It was of major value because we were able to gain a better understanding of what they felt was needed in their various disciplines. Now we need to take some of those critical competencies they saw as being important for the profession to address ... and determine how we can create future graduates who will be successful."
Looking into the crystal ball
So, what recommendations will the board make?
That remains unclear; however, Dr. Marguerite Pappaioanou, AAVMC executive director, said the board learned a lesson from the Foresight Report. The long-range planning study for academic veterinary medicine released in 2007 had no fewer than 45 recommendations. The board is aiming for a smaller number this time to maximize their recommendations' impact.
And board members have made it clear that the core competencies will be at the heart of many of them.
"I think all of the veterinary colleges do an excellent job in providing a good medical knowledge base. What we heard from our stakeholders is that there are competencies which will make members of the profession, in the future, leaders in their communities and allow them to address issues like animal welfare and food safety and environmental health," Dr. Osburn said.
For example, the board is considering a request to the AVMA Council on Education to give higher visibility to the core competencies in the existing accreditation standards by rephrasing some of the current language.
"I think the accreditation process, as it is outlined, has a great deal of flexibility built in so changes can be orchestrated at each of the colleges and still be consistent with the accreditation standards as they exist," said Dr. Janver D. Krehbiel, a NAVMEC board member and an AVMA Executive Board member.
Additionally, Dr. Pappaioanou said, testing and licensure agencies could be asked to modify the tests to somehow evaluate a graduating student's proficiency in the core competencies.
Just as NAVMEC board members have focused on the outcomes participants would like to see, they also have been attuned to what not to include in their recommendations.
Dr. Krehbiel noted in meeting discussions there appeared to be little enthusiasm for limited licensure or a less-than-four-year veterinary program.
"If we are to move to a shorter period of education, we probably will look at the preveterinary requirements. This might be more appropriate, because it could be standardized across all U.S. veterinary colleges and allow us to focus on more specificity in our course work, and maybe reduce the time frame in preprofessional education," Dr. Krehbiel said.
He said NAVMEC is not attempting to propose a core curriculum for all colleges to adopt, but instead, the consortium aims to provide recommendations that allow colleges the flexibility to incorporate their own ideas into a broad framework.
Hit the ground running
NAVMEC, it seems, couldn't have happened at a better time. As Dr. Pappaioanou explained, this initiative is happening when movements are already under way to change veterinary education.
A number of veterinary schools and colleges have been undertaking major reforms in their courses, curriculums, and education models for the past few years. They've started to incorporate nonclinical skills instruction into the curriculum, increase the students' clinical experience, and explore new teaching delivery methods. NAVMEC has inspired them to incorporate even more innovation.
"What we've heard from the second meeting, in particular, was that many of the faculty who attended NAVMEC went back and are already using what they learned in terms of best practices shared in this open environment ... to move their programs ahead," Dr. Pappaioanou said.
It's not just the U.S. schools, either. Some Caribbean school representatives at NAVMEC heard about the distance education offerings and have since engaged their mainland counterparts to work together on certain courses, she said.
NAVMEC's role is to help accelerate these changes by finding platforms for colleges to try or continue these new ideas and methods, Dr. Pappaioanou said, and to facilitate sharing best practices—work that will continue for some time.
"Certainly the board has discussed whether it would be helpful to look at progress made by colleges, using a system-wide assessment every three years or so. We could bring people together and talk about whether there are important societal changes that should be addressed or how well the colleges and graduates are meeting societal needs," she said.
What happens next
The draft recommendations are hitting the road, so to speak. Co-sponsor and stakeholder groups that will have a chance to add their input in the coming months include the American Association of Veterinary State Boards, the AVMA Executive Board, the North American and Western veterinary conferences, and species and other key groups.
"We want to share this (draft report) with more of our colleagues in the profession and make them aware of what transpired and get feedback and incorporate that information into the final report," Dr. Krehbiel said.
The finalized version is expected to be completed in time for consideration and final approval by the AAVMC board of directors at the association's annual meeting March 10-14, 2011, in Alexandria, Va.
"Members of the NAVMEC board have agreed to continue to be engaged with the project until around the first of April next year," Dr. Osburn said. "The 2011 AAVMC meeting provides an opportunity for all veterinary colleges to come together for some final discussions on what the NAVMEC recommendations should be, and then it's up to the AAVMC board to move forward with some continuing implementation plans."
NAVMEC began with a budget of $520,554 to cover planning, logistics, and assorted other expenses. Thus far, $418,098, or 80 percent, has been spent. The total amount donated by the NAVMEC co-sponsors, including $60,000 from the AAVMC, comes to $535,675.
Money still needs to be allocated for the distribution and presentation of the draft report to NAVMEC co-sponsors and stakeholders as well as development of the final report and activities to promote it.
In addition, the AAVMC is preparing a budget and additional fundraising possibilities for several implementation initiatives that will be developed as the report is reviewed and then acted on by the AAVMC board.
Dr. Pappaioanou said the AAVMC understands that, in terms of where the focus will likely be on making changes, it will largely rest with the colleges and the AAVMC, "but we'll have to see the final product and what kinds of resources we'll need to make sure this will work at our member institutions."
Yet, no one should expect NAVMEC to be the final word on veterinary education reform, she said, because society continues to change and evolve. So too, then, she hopes the profession will do the same.