Structure leads to progress in China

Chinese Veterinary Medical Association sets sights on quality education, economics
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Although still in its infancy, the Chinese Veterinary Medical Association has in its first 18 months already made progress for the profession in China.

The establishment of organized veterinary medicine at a national level in China is helping the country's veterinarians better work toward their goals of improving the quality of veterinary education, raising their economic status, and recasting their image in the eyes of society.

The ChVMA also organized the First Annual Chinese Veterinary Conference last October.

Dr. Kornegay
AVMA President Larry M. Kornegay delivers his presentation on "Quality Assurance of Veterinary Medicine in the United States" at the main summit of the First Annual Chinese Veterinary Conference.

The conference began on Chinese Veterinary Day, Oct. 28—the ChVMA's first anniversary. The exhibit hall opening ceremony was a festive occasion marked by 30-foot inflated red arches, giant lanterns, and blasts of confetti. According to the ChVMA, 2,000 veterinarians attended the conference.

Kicking off the main event, attendees sang their new veterinary national anthem karaoke style in Mandarin to the spinning of a disco ball. Penned by the ChVMA chairman, Dr. Jia Youlin, the anthem centered on "one world, one health."

One of the noteworthy events during the main summit was a forum comparing the national veterinary licensing systems in China and North America, presented by Zhang Hong, deputy chief of the Veterinary Bureau of China's Ministry of Agriculture, and Dr. Larry M. Kornegay, AVMA president, who later said, "Every indication is that they're very serious about improving educational standards, hence, some accreditation program for the schools and colleges.

"My understanding is that veterinarians evidently are considered second-class professionals by some in China," Dr. Kornegay said. "Through the Chinese VMA, the profession is improving its image to draw more of the brightest and best students to veterinary medicine in China."

The ChVMA plans to actively participate in the work of veterinary licensing, college accreditation, and continuing education. Last year, for the first time, the Veterinary Bureau of the Ministry of Agriculture organized the National Veterinary Licensing Examination and new graduates were tested. The ChVMA was involved by providing website sign-up service for the candidates.

"The AVMA has been right at the helm with Dr. Kornegay's presentation—he gave an outstanding presentation to the ChVMA," said Dr. Ralph C. Richardson, dean of the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

The dean and his college had a major presence at the main summit and the concurrent International Veterinary Collaboration for China Symposium. Presented for the general veterinary audience, it was sponsored by the International Veterinary Collaboration for China, a group of educators and clinicians from KSU and other U.S. and U.K. veterinary institutions. Pfizer Animal Health provided financial support to create the group and support the symposium, and underwrote Dr. Kornegay's travel.

In a separate symposium sponsored by KSU's U.S.-China Center for Animal Health, Dr. Richardson addressed state licensure, continuing education, and standards of an accredited veterinary college, showing the DVD produced by the AVMA Council on Education and presenting copies to the veterinary college deans in attendance.

A new openness?

"A couple of Chinese dignitaries had presentations that discussed—pretty openly—some of the concerns that they still had regarding government influence on the profession of veterinary medicine in their country, which was a little surprising. I was told a new openness regarding speech is something that they haven't enjoyed for very long, and that this was a demonstration of that," Dr. Kornegay said.

In 2009, China's vice minister of agriculture had announced that the management system for government veterinarians was being reformed by separating law enforcement from service. Surveilling and fighting serious disease threats will be the responsibility of a team of official veterinarians whose work is administered by the government. Providing technical and clinical services will be the responsibility of a team of licensed veterinarians whose work is administered by the ChVMA. As of this March, the ChVMA said the government authority was leading the restructuring work and has not yet involved the association.

The ChVMA and its members

In 2010, the ChVMA grew by 300 individual and 120 corporate members. Initially, 1,940 individuals and 370 corporate members had joined by December 2009.

Serving with Chairman Jia, Dr. Zhang Zhongqiu continues as executive vice chairman and secretary-general. The ChVMA has 14 vice presidents and two vice secretaries general.

Chinese veterinarians
Many of the 2,000 veterinarians who attended the ChVMA veterinary conference were leaders of veterinary medicine in their communities. Here, they are assembled for the main summit.

In terms of organization and governance, Dr. Kornegay noted that the ChVMA incorporated some of the structure that the AVMA has. This patterning resulted from consultations during the association's formational phase—a mutually beneficial collaboration that continues.

Chinese veterinarians embrace foreign colleagues. "The thing that's overwhelming is that everyone wants to be photographed with you—everyone has a cell phone and often another still camera, and a lot of them had a video camera. It's an electronic maze," Dr. Kornegay said. "Everyone wants your business card—they bow and exchange cards in a formal, stylized way."

U.S.-China Center for Animal Health

Dean Richardson explained that Kansas State's creation of the U.S.-China Center for Animal Health sprang from its interest in emerging and infectious diseases and its involvement in the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor. These factors had increased KSU's awareness of how problems in one region can impact other parts of the world. Several years ago, some KSU faculty were invited to China to help with high-mortality-rate incidents involving porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome and mixed-virus diseases.

The center has a tripartite mission of veterinary education, continuing education, and economic development.

Dr. Youlin
Chinese VMA Chairman Jia Youlin

The first mission is to promote greater harmony between Western veterinary education and traditional Chinese veterinary education. Dean Richardson said that China has developed a "high-end" workforce of internationally educated graduates who are engaged in academic, government, and private animal health research, but it needs veterinarians who are able to apply the research.

"Chinese veterinarians obtaining a Western veterinary degree from an accredited college and going back would be a great catalyst in implementing research findings, not just from China but literally all over the world, into the livestock sector," he said.

The U.S.-China center is in the early stage of creating a program to bring a dozen Chinese pre-veterinary students to KSU. After finishing their requirements, each would be enrolled in one of several colleges accredited by the AVMA COE, with the intent of them returning to China five or six years later. KSU has obtained partial scholarships from the Chinese government; the goal is to finance full nonresident-tuition scholarships at those colleges taking on the training mission.

The second mission is to encourage Chinese veterinarians to embrace ongoing quality improvement through continuing education, which Dr. Richardson currently characterizes as rudimentary. "That's where the ChVMA has really stepped up, and, in a short period of time, has proposed some very exciting, bold steps that will give their graduate veterinarians an opportunity to continue to learn," he said, adding that the ChVMA is considering mandatory CE such as that required for state licensure in the U.S.

The center's economic development initiative aims to facilitate business opportunities for small and midsize animal health companies in Kansas interested in a Chinese market, and vice-versa. At the ChVMA conference, the U.S.-China center and Kansas Department of Commerce sponsored a trade show for Kansas companies to exhibit and interact with the Chinese.

Affluence and urbanization

Unlike their U.S. counterparts, Dr. Kornegay said, most Chinese veterinarians are not companion animal practitioners but work in food safety, research, government, and agriculture. He said, "That is slowly changing, particularly in the Beijing area. With its increasing middle and upper classes, many more households have pets and are seeking veterinary care for them in the large metropolitan areas. The Tibetan Mastiff is supposedly the most popular dog breed in China now. I heard that they were going for upward of $6,000 U.S."

Often, when the one child in many Chinese families has grown, the void is filled with a dog, Dr. Richardson said. According to the Chinese VMA, there are over 100 million dogs and cats in China, with dogs thought to exceed cats.

"Clearly there are large masses that are still living in poverty, but I was impressed with the affluent minority population that is seeking companion animal care at the very highest level," Dr. Richardson said.

He said the veterinary teaching hospital at Chinese Agricultural University in Beijing offers ultrasonography and digital radiography, coupled with acupuncture and herbal medicine. "The university will probably have a new teaching hospital within the next year that will rival anything that we could imagine in the United States," he said. "Their research laboratories already outstrip most university research opportunities from a facilities standpoint."

Chinese pet owners typically stay with their animal during treatment, an "engaged model" Dr. Richardson says isn't always seen in the U.S. Some pet owners travel days to bring their pets to Beijing for veterinary care.

A 2008 population trends report by the McKinsey Global Institute projects that by 2025, China will experience the biggest urbanization in world history. Projections are for its population to grow by 350 million people, with a billion Chinese living in cities and 221 cities in China having populations over a million.

Tremendous demand exists within China for higher-quality protein sources, Dr. Kornegay said. "They're looking at improving production in their dairies, the amount of milk that they're getting per cow. They're looking at litter survival rates for the pigs per sow, and at competing competitively on the international market in animal agriculture."

His overall impressions of the general population: a very industrious people who are inquisitive and anxious to learn. Everyone is in constant motion in a vehicle or on foot, looking goal oriented, he said.

"Many of our colleagues around the world are anxious to be on the ground floor—influentially or financially—as China moves forward," Dr. Kornegay said. "There's every reason for the AVMA to be there and observe and try to be a part of what's happening with veterinary medicine in China. I'm convinced that what we've done as far as collaborative efforts the last two or three years is going to reap dividends for all of us in the future."