Accreditation status remains uncertain for Arizona

New target date for opening is fall 2017
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The University of Arizona Marley Foundation Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Program announced May 31 that it would postpone its plans to open its doors until fall 2017. The move comes as the AVMA Council on Education, the accreditor of veterinary colleges, reviews the report from a COE site team that visited Arizona. The university’s proposed School of Veterinary Medicine cannot admit students without a letter of reasonable assurance of accreditation.

This is the second time the program has delayed its anticipated timeline since its creation in 2012. At that time, the institution anticipated opening in fall 2015. The first setbacks came when the Arizona state legislature twice denied funding for the program after requests by the university’s board of regents in 2012 and 2013. Regardless, UA started the process to seek COE accreditation when the School of Veterinary Medicine conducted a feasibility study in 2013 and asked that year for a consultative site visit from the COE; the visit took place Jan. 13-15, 2014. Arizona then filed a letter of application with the COE in 2014, seeking a letter of reasonable assurance of accreditation. Also that year, the Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation stepped in with a $9 million gift to get the program off the ground, creating the Marley Foundation Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Program. In 2015, with the COE’s schedule for site visits already at capacity, the veterinary school delayed its projected opening until fall 2016.

Dr. Peder Cuneo, the University of Arizona’s extension veterinarian, works with students at the Campus Agricultural Center. On the basis of UA preveterinary enrollment, the new UA Marley Foundation Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Program anticipates 500 students will be qualified to enter the pre-professional, first-year curriculum. It plans to select up to 100 of those students for the remaining three years. (Images courtesy of UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences)

A council site team traveled to Tucson, Arizona, for a comprehensive site visit Jan. 24-28 of this year. That visit is the final step before the council makes an accreditation decision, which could have happened for UA at the March 20-22 COE meeting. However, the council has a policy that decisions arising from site visits that occur less than 90 days prior to the next scheduled COE meeting will usually be deferred to the following meeting. The council next meets Sept. 25-27.

After its spring meeting, the COE released the following statement: “The report of the site team is under review by the Council and in accordance with the Accreditation Policies and Procedures of the AVMA Council on Education, the Council’s decision on a Letter of Reasonable Assurance will be posted on the public section of the AVMA website within 30 days of the final decision,” likely here.

Then the veterinary school announced in the May 31 email that instead of opening the program this fall, it would wait until it has a definitive decision from the COE, with the new target to open the program’s doors in fall 2017. Information on tuition and fees is expected to be available in spring 2017.

“We have proposed a major paradigm shift in how future veterinary medical practitioners will learn and we expect the AVMA Council on Education will be diligent in review, in part because of the innovations we propose,” according to the letter by Dr. Shane C. Burgess, interim dean of the veterinary school.

Reasonable assurance does not confer accreditation but is a first step toward earning provisional accreditation and, ultimately, accreditation. The classification means the developing college has demonstrated that it has a realistic plan for complying with COE standards. A college granted reasonable assurance must offer admission to its first class of students and matriculate them within three years.

The plan for the UA program—a sort of hybrid between the European and Caribbean veterinary college models—is to allow students who have met the prerequisites and have a sufficiently high GPA to directly enter a two-semester pre-professional program at the main campus without needing an undergraduate degree.

The University of Arizona Marley Foundation Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Program is composed of both the pre-professional year and the professional School of Veterinary Medicine. This rendering depicts the anticipated renovated exterior of the veterinary school building at UA’s Oro Valley campus.

From there, students would apply for acceptance into the three-year, year-round School of Veterinary Medicine. Those who are not selected on their first application for the DVM professional program could pursue an undergraduate degree at UA or reapply the following year. Students who have an undergraduate degree and at least a 3.0 GPA could earn a master’s in animal and biomedical industries and also could reapply.

On the basis of UA preveterinary enrollment, the university anticipates 500 students will be qualified to enter the pre-professional, first-year curriculum. It plans to select up to 100 of those students for the remaining three-year veterinary curriculum.

Six of the nine semesters of the veterinary school would be taken at the university’s Oro Valley campus, about 6 miles north of Tucson. Following the six-semester preclinical program, students would spend 48 weeks of distributive clinical rotations at satellite facilities, private practices, and related industries around the state.

The Arizona state legislature recently approved, in its fiscal year 2017 budget, $8 million for renovations at the Oro Valley facility. Work is anticipated to begin in July and to be finished in time for the first veterinary students to occupy it in 2018. The site also will support UA’s one-health efforts.

In the May 31 letter about the veterinary school’s postponement, Dr. Burgess wrote, “Thanks to funding from the state of Arizona, we can use the time and the funding to create a spectacular One Health facility for the education of next-generation veterinarians and the research and prevention of human and animal diseases.”

Related JAVMA content:

Arizona veterinary program secures funding (Oct. 15, 2014)

Arizona veterinary program being reconceptualized (June 15, 2014)