AVMA members, staff to study global activities

Veterinary school accreditation, AVMA's international role to be examined
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A proposed task force is expected to examine whether U.S. veterinarians benefit from the AVMA Council on Education's accreditation of foreign veterinary schools.

And AVMA staff will likely be tasked with providing a report to members this year on the role and costs of the Association's involvement in global affairs.

The proposals are the product of debates in the AVMA House of Delegates over the Association's role in international activities and the impact of the COE's accreditation of foreign veterinary schools on the veterinary profession in the United States. On July 15, the House approved recommending that the AVMA Executive Board form the task force and order the report, and previous recommendations from the Executive Board indicate it will proceed with both measures.

Dr. Billy D. Martindale, the delegate from Texas, urged creation of the task force to address his constituents' questions regarding whether they and the profession are served by the accreditation of foreign schools. The VMAs from Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah submitted the resolution.

The COE has accredited 16 schools outside the United States. In March, the council granted accreditation to the National Autonomous University of Mexico School of Veterinary Medicine, which is in Mexico City, and Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, which is in St. Kitts in the West Indies.

The resolution included a statement from the sponsors that warned that the recent accreditation of these two additional foreign schools and site visit requests from others raised concerns about veterinary graduates coming to the U.S. without being tested to demonstrate equivalence.

Dr. Cox
Texas alternate delegate Dr. Mark D. Cox told fellow delegates that a resolution in favor of creating a task force to study the impact of accreditation of foreign veterinary colleges was driven by concerns from members, and he urged delegates to vote in favor of the measure. (Photos by R. Scott Nolen)

Dr. Mark D. Cox, alternate delegate for Texas, said in a follow-up interview that the resolution is not intended to call for examination of the accreditation of Canadian veterinary schools, which have been involved in the accreditation process since the COE was formed.

By its vote, the House of Delegates recommends that the Executive Board approve spending about $25,000 on two meetings and four teleconferences for a 10-member task force.

Joseph M. Esch, who represents the Student AVMA, said his organization's members had conflicting opinions on the measure. SAVMA has members in schools outside the U.S. as well as members who are concerned about accreditation. However, the members he spoke with indicated the impact of graduates from foreign veterinary schools was not their top concern.

"Foreign accreditation is not as big of an issue to them as increasing class size and the results on the quality of education that veterinary students get as class sizes increase," Esch said.

Brig. Gen. Timothy K. Adams, AVMA delegate for the Uniformed Services, contended that the issue should be addressed through communication with members rather than establishment of a new task force. He said the accreditation process is essential for global engagement, whereas creation of such a task force could send mixed signals and create doubt, animosity, and suspicion about the AVMA's commitment to global engagement.

A similar resolution was defeated in a House of Delegates session prior to the 2010 AVMA Annual Convention in Atlanta. The Texas VMA had proposed the resolution, and Dr. Martindale said at the time that the Texas delegation thought most AVMA members did not know why the AVMA accredits foreign veterinary schools, how schools become accredited, or how accreditation benefits them.

Dr. Chadima
Maine Delegate Dr. Susan B. Chadima argued against creating a task force to study the impact of accreditation of foreign veterinary schools. She expressed confidence that the AVMA Council on Education provides an effective accreditation program and indicated some delegates were confusing accreditation with licensure in the debate over the resolution.

The proposal was defeated following contentious debate about the intent of the resolution, which some delegates indicated seemed to be discriminatory or protectionist.

Staff leaders within the AVMA are also expected to draft, by Dec. 15, a report for the HOD and AVMA members detailing the AVMA's roles and expenses for international activities. The delegates approved having AVMA staff draft such a report rather than adding those duties to the task force on accreditation.

The Arizona and California VMAs had raised concerns about the amount of AVMA resources spent on international activities and questioned whether AVMA members prefer that the Association concentrate efforts on national affairs.

Dr. George W. Bishop, the delegate from California, advocated for adding the duties to those of the task force on accreditation, which he said could answer members' questions about the cost of and future plans for international involvement. He asked that the review be provided by members outside AVMA staff.

Dr. Daniel E. LaFontaine, who represents the American Association of Food Hygiene Veterinarians, said the suggestion had merit, but he thought such information could be collected in a concise and less costly manner through a staff report. He expressed faith that staff members could provide a measured, balanced, and accurate report.

Global perspective

Prior to the votes by the full House, a committee of delegates debated the merits of the two measures. In the debate over the proposed task force on accreditation of foreign veterinary schools, proponents indicated the proposal was intended to provide quality control for veterinarians practicing in the U.S. and examine how accreditation of foreign schools affects AVMA members.

However, Dr. Tjeerd Jorna, president of the World Veterinary Association, said following the committee meeting that the proposal on accreditation of foreign veterinary schools seemed to be related to protection against competition. He also indicated that such debates occur throughout the world.

Dr. Jorna noted that he is a graduate of the Government University of Utrecht in The Netherlands, which was first accredited by the AVMA COE in 1973. More than 200 Dutch veterinarians are practicing in the U.S., he said.

"Nobody is complaining about Dutch veterinarians going to the States," Dr. Jorna said.

Dr. Jorna said the debate involves decisions about licensing veterinarians from Mexican schools and whether they will compete with graduates from U.S. and Canadian schools. He said that, in Europe, veterinary diplomas are harmonized and only language differences prevent veterinarians from practicing in other countries.

He also indicated that veterinarians in the United States and Europe have responsibilities for leadership in global veterinary affairs, particularly in training veterinarians in many Asian, African, and Latin American countries. Such actions also benefit the U.S. and Europe by providing safer imported food.

Several veterinary association dignitaries also expressed in speeches to the House of Delegates that global collaboration is needed by the veterinary profession.

Dr. Christoph Buhot, president of the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe, said veterinarians on both sides of the Atlantic are addressing similar concerns such as food safety, antimicrobial resistance, and areas with insufficient numbers of veterinarians. He said shared values in the profession should be shown to the public and politicians. He expressed appreciation for the exchange of experiences and ideas with the AVMA and encouraged collaboration as a profession with one voice.

Dr. Jolle Kirpensteijn, president of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association, talked about the importance of veterinarians' global participation in human and animal health, particularly in connection with setting nutritionals standards and combating obesity and malnutrition worldwide. He said making change in the world requires leadership.

“And if you want to lead, you have to participate,” Dr. Kirpensteijn said.


Formation of Foreign Accreditations Task Force

RESOLVED, that the AVMA House of Delegates recommends to the AVMA Executive Board that they form a task force to perform a peer review of the accreditation of foreign veterinary schools, addressing the impact of the AVMA Council on Education procedure and the consequences of this program on the (1) veterinary profession in the U.S. and (2) the quality of standards for the veterinary profession in the U.S. Furthermore, the HOD recommends to the EB that the task force membership be selected from the general membership of the AVMA representing the various employment types/categories/geographic regions. The HOD requests that the results of the review be reported to the HOD within one year after formation of the task force.