Students listen to a lecture at the National Autonomous University
of Mexico School of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Husbandry.
The UNAM SVM in Mexico City and Ross University School of
Veterinary Medicine in St. Kitts, West Indies, are the latest foreign
veterinary schools to earn AVMA accreditation.
The AVMA House of Delegates will consider a resolution to establish a task force to review the impact of AVMA Council on Education accreditation of foreign veterinary schools on the U.S. veterinary profession.
The HOD also will consider a resolution to establish a task force to review the extent of AVMA involvement in global affairs, including accreditation of foreign schools.
The resolutions will come before the HOD during its regular annual session in July. The HOD also will vote on a resolution to approve a policy on "Guidelines for Classifying Veterinary Facilities."
Accreditation of foreign schools
Last July, during its 2010 regular annual session, the HOD defeated a resolution that would have established a task force to conduct a benefit-risk analysis of the accreditation of foreign veterinary schools by the AVMA Council on Education.
The Texas VMA proposed that resolution, and the Texas VMA has also proposed the new resolution calling again for a review of AVMA accreditation of foreign schools. This time, half a dozen state VMAs are co-sponsoring the resolution.
The COE has accredited 16 foreign schools, including five in Canada. The statement about the resolution notes that 11 of these schools have received accreditation since 1998, including two in 2011.
The schools earning accreditation earlier this year were the National Autonomous University of Mexico School of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Husbandry in Mexico City and Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in St. Kitts, West Indies, both of which began seeking accreditation many years ago. About 98 percent of Ross veterinary students are U.S. or Canadian citizens who return home to practice.
Graduates of AVMA-accredited foreign veterinary schools who seek licensure in the United States do not complete a certificate of educational equivalence through the AVMA Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates or the American Association of Veterinary State Boards' Program for the Assessment of Veterinary Education Equivalence.
According to the statement about the resolution, "the recent accreditation of two foreign schools and other foreign schools requesting accreditation site visits raise the concerns regarding an influx of foreign veterinary graduates who are no longer required to follow required routes to licensure through the ECVFG or PAVE."
Dr. Billy D. Martindale, Texas delegate, said last year's version of the resolution did not spell out concerns about the impact of foreign veterinary graduates seeking jobs as veterinarians in the United States.
"We were accused of being protectionist, and that was probably somewhat correct," Dr. Martindale said. He believes that the AVMA's mission includes protecting the economic viability of the profession.
Dr. Martindale has specific concerns that the recent accreditation of UNAM in Mexico City will allow more UNAM graduates to compete for U.S. jobs against graduates from U.S. veterinary schools, the latter of whom have much more student debt.
Historically, about 130 graduates of Mexican veterinary schools have completed ECVFG certification since the program began in the early 1970s.
Another factor in this year's resolution is U.S. professional standards, Dr. Martindale said. The statement about the resolution lists questions for the proposed task force to answer, including questions about U.S. professional standards. One question in particular asks the task force to evaluate the potential adverse effects on U.S. standards of waiving the certification requirement for foreign veterinary graduates, who do not complete ECFVG or PAVE certification if they graduate from an AVMA-accredited school.
Dr. James J. Brace, COE chair, noted that the purpose of ECFVG and PAVE is to evaluate whether graduates of foreign schools without AVMA accreditation have the same skills and knowledge as graduates of AVMA-accredited schools.
Dr. Gregg J. Cutler, alternate delegate for the American Association of Avian Pathologists, was among the delegates who spoke against last year's version of the resolution. After seeing this year's resolution, he again expressed a desire to welcome everyone to the world economy.
"Competition shouldn't matter, where veterinarians come from—as long as they are capable and qualified," Dr. Cutler said.
He added that foreign veterinarians who graduate from an AVMA-accredited school or complete the ECVFG or PAVE program still need to meet state licensing requirements to practice in the United States.
Dr. Brace said the mission of the COE is to ensure educational quality, not to influence the job market.
"Our primary focus is quality veterinary medical education in the United States and Canada," Dr. Brace continued. "But if an international or foreign school is interested in meeting the standards that the COE sets for veterinary medical education to improve their programs, to me that is a great thing, because it improves veterinary medicine worldwide."
Per COE policies and procedures, the AVMA shares expenses for accreditation with veterinary schools in the United States and Canada, but veterinary schools in other countries must pay all the expenses of the process.
The proposed resolution from the Texas VMA takes the form of a recommendation to the Executive Board to create a task force that would review the impact of AVMA accreditation of foreign schools on the "(1) economic viability of the veterinary profession in the U.S., (2) veterinary workforce in the U.S., and (3) quality of standards for the veterinary profession in the U.S."
The recommendation would be for the board to select members of the task force from the general membership of the AVMA representing a variety of employment types and geographic regions.
Involvement in global affairs
The California VMA, with the Arizona VMA as a co-sponsor, proposed the resolution calling for a review of AVMA involvement in global affairs.
The proposed resolution takes the form of a recommendation to the board to create a task force that would "analyze the current policy on the AVMA's involvement in global affairs and make recommendations to what depth and expense the AVMA should be globalized." The analysis would include a review of AVMA accreditation of foreign schools.
The statement about the resolution cites a JAVMA News article on "Coordinating International Affairs" (see JAVMA, Sept. 1, 2010, page 483). The article was an interview with Dr. Beth Sabin, an assistant director in the AVMA Education and Research Division who also has taken on the role of AVMA staff coordinator of international affairs. The interview provided examples of the AVMA's international activities, including assistance in coordinating efforts to rebuild the animal health infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan and participation in multinational veterinary meetings.
"This raises concerns regarding the amount of dues revenue expensed for international activities and whether the membership prefers that these funds are concentrated on national affairs," according to the statement about the resolution.
Dr. George W. Bishop, California delegate, said the resolution is more about questions than answers. Should the AVMA leave global affairs to international associations and government agencies?
"Certainly isolationism is not what the AVMA should be about, but to what extent should the Association be globalized?" Dr. Bishop asked. "There are limits to AVMA resources. If those resources are spread out to do everything, can anything be accomplished?
"Also, should the AVMA concentrate on domestic issues such as student debt, the stagnant economy, the workforce issues, advocacy, scope of practice, and other issues?"
Dr. Bishop sees reasons for AVMA involvement in global affairs, such as issues of diseases and food safety, but he thinks that AVMA leaders need to consult the membership about the scope of international activities.
The statement about the resolution proposes that an AVMA task force should assess the merits of globalization and answer the following questions:
- Should dues revenue be expensed for international activities?
- What percentage of staff time and AVMA resources (room, travel, etc.) is currently spent on international affairs?
- Does the membership prefer that the AVMA concentrate on national efforts versus international efforts?
Classification of veterinary facilities
The HOD also will vote on a policy on "Guidelines for Classifying Veterinary Facilities."
The AVMA Council on Veterinary Service proposed the policy to the board in April. The board forwarded the proposal to the HOD as a resolution, with a recommendation for approval. The new policy would replace an existing policy on "Guidelines for Naming Veterinary Facilities."
The proposed policy starts as follows: "Whereas the public assumes that there is a fundamental consistency within the medical professions in the levels of care provided by facilities having certain descriptive terms in their names, the veterinary profession should strive to comply with generally accepted perceptions as to the level of care provided by facilities when using these descriptive terms. The name of a veterinary facility should represent the type of practice conducted."
The proposed policy offers descriptions for the following facility types: veterinary teaching hospital, hospital, clinic, outpatient clinic, office, mobile practice, emergency facility, on-call emergency services, specialty facilities, referral facilities, and center.
The AVMA posts many agenda items for House of Delegates sessions, including resolutions and proposed amendments to the AVMA Bylaws, at www.avma.org/about_avma under "Governance." AVMA members who want to weigh in with their delegates about proposals may find contact information by clicking on "Your AVMA Leaders."