House votes down restructuring of college accreditor

Resolutions called for further increasing separation between AVMA and AVMA Council on Education
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The AVMA House of Delegates voted down three resolutions calling for a restructuring or re-examination of the AVMA Council on Education and a resolution calling for a one-year moratorium on COE accreditation of veterinary colleges.

The House deliberated on the resolutions during its regular annual session, July 9-10 in Boston. The resolutions revolved around increasing the separation between the COE and the AVMA to address concerns about AVMA influence on accreditation. The discussion also touched on veterinarians’ worries about the increasing number of graduates and criticisms of new educational models.

The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University is one of the veterinary schools accredited by the AVMA Council on Education.

Open discussion

Ahead of the meeting, the Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kentucky, and Nevada VMAs submitted a resolution to establish an independent accrediting agency under the umbrella of the AVMA.

“We like the COE,” said Dr. Richard Sullivan, California delegate, in open discussion before the regular annual session. “We like the idea of having practitioners on the COE; we feel that’s very important. And we like the changes that the COE and the AVMA have made this spring to improve the firewall between the COE and Board of Directors.”

In recent years, a number of steps have been taken to strengthen the firewall between the COE and AVMA leadership. Dr. Sullivan said developing an independent COE under the AVMA umbrella, similar to the way that the American Veterinary Medical Foundation remains under the AVMA umbrella, would be a lateral move, “getting the issue resolved once and for all so that we can move on.”

The New York State Veterinary Medical Society submitted a resolution to establish an accrediting agency entirely separate from the AVMA and submitted the resolution for a one-year moratorium on accreditation.

“There is definitely a major problem here,” said Dr. Walter McCarthy, New York delegate, citing hundreds of letters that veterinarians sent to the Department of Education criticizing various aspects of the COE as the COE seeks renewal of USDE recognition. He continued, “There is a significant number of people out there who agree with us.”

Reference committee

It was standing room only at the House reference committee that reviewed the resolutions regarding the COE.

Dr. Sandy Willis, alternate delegate for Washington state, spoke about serving on one of the teams that goes on site visits as part of the accreditation process. She said, “It’s a very rigorous program that’s really focused on the quality education of the student.”

Dr. Dana Zimmel, delegate for the American Association of Veterinary Clinicians, said there is a misperception that the COE also can act as a gatekeeper for the veterinary workforce.

COE logoSome in attendance argued that the COE being inside the AVMA results in real or perceived conflicts of interest.

Dr. Sharon Hurley, Minnesota alternate delegate, said separating the COE would be like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. She said, “I think that we can make changes within the structure that we’ve got.”

The reference committee submitted a resolution to establish a task force to explore the following options: maintaining the current structure of the COE, improving the structure of the COE, creating an independent accrediting agency under the umbrella of the AVMA, and creating an accrediting agency entirely separate from the AVMA.

House floor

“What is the purpose behind this?” asked Dr. Mark Helfat, District II representative on the Board, on the House floor. He believes that the resolutions arose largely in response to new educational models such as the distributive model in which students receive clinical instruction at off-site facilities.

“I understand the discomfort and agitation which change may bring,” he said. “I also know that the COE is healthy, vibrant, and time-proven.”

Delegates discussed veterinarians’ various criticisms of the COE, including concerns about AVMA influence. Dr. Carla Carleton, delegate for the Society for Theriogenology, argued that the full separation of the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners from the AVMA was a success.

Other delegates said many of the concerns are not actually with the COE but with the growth of the workforce. Dr. Jason Johnson, alternate delegate for the Society for Theriogenology, said he has found AVMA accreditation to be the gold standard in his experiences teaching in multiple countries.

At end, 71 percent of delegates voted against forming a task force, and 76 percent voted against establishing an independent accrediting agency under the umbrella of the AVMA. Ninety-one percent voted against establishing an accrediting agency entirely separate from the AVMA, and 95 percent voted against a one-year moratorium on accreditation.

Related JAVMA content:

Delegates to deliberate on independent accreditation of colleges (July 1, 2015)

AVMA Board manages agenda of diverse topics (June 1, 2015)

Accrediting body reinforces firewall with AVMA (June 1, 2015)

Learning to listen: In bid for re-recognition by USDE, AVMA education council called to reach out to practitioners (March 15, 2015)

Major changes the COE has made in the past few years (March 15, 2015)

Past council decisions a continued source of debate (March 15, 2015)

AVMA hears calls to end accreditation role (March 15, 2015)