AVMA specialty board to become autonomous

Reforms will make ABVS recognition process more transparent
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ABVS logoFor decades, the AVMA Board of Directors has decided whether a proposed veterinary specialty organization warranted formal AVMA recognition and whether existing veterinary specialty programs met the requirements for continued recognition. Within the next three years, that authority will rest solely with the AVMA American Board of Veterinary Specialties.

That autonomy is one of many reforms outlined in a plan approved by the Board of Directors when it met Nov. 17-19, 2016, that the ABVS developed to align itself with best practices related to accreditation and certification.

“The restructuring, undertaken by veterinary specialists, will expand the recognition process to include non–board-certified veterinarians and public members as well as separate the recognition process from the potential biases of the current voting membership structure,” explained Dr. Robert Murtaugh, ABVS chair and a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care.

The ABVS currently consists of one voting representative from each of the 22 AVMA-recognized veterinary specialty organizations, with additional nonvoting liaisons from both the AVMA Council on Education and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges.

The restructuring, undertaken by veterinary specialists, will expand the recognition process to include non–board-certified veterinarians and public members as well as separate the recognition process from the potential biases of the current voting membership structure.

Dr. Robert Murtaugh, chair, American Board of Veterinary Specialties

Under the new scheme, which is expected to be fully implemented in 2019, the ABVS will be reconfigured as an entity of 12 voting members. Four members will be elected from among the recognized veterinary specialty organizations by the new AVMA Veterinary Specialty Organizations Committee, with the remainder representing stakeholders affected by veterinary specialization. These include four noncertified AVMA members chosen by the AVMA Board, one of whom will be an AVMA Board member; an AAVMC representative; a representative of the American Association of Veterinary State Boards; an expert in credentialing and certification activities; and a public member.

“This proactive revision of structure and process for the ABVS spontaneously undertaken by AVMA ABVS–certified specialists reflects a self-recognition that specialized veterinary services have effects beyond specialists themselves,” Dr. Murtaugh said.

“For example,” he continued, “it is a given that referring veterinarians want to be assured that specialists they are working with have been board-certified by specialty organizations and processes that have followed the standards established and upheld by the AVMA ABVS. This is just one of the reasons why it was felt to be important to include nonboarded colleague veterinarians as members on the going-forward version of the ABVS.”

Since its creation by the AVMA House of Delegates in 1959 at the request of the Council on Education, the ABVS—originally the Advisory Board on Veterinary Specialties until 1992, when the current name was adopted—has operated in an advisory capacity, first to the HOD, then to the AVMA Board, which was the arbiter on ABVS recommendations. Once the new plan is fully implemented, the ABVS will make those determinations itself.

The voting membership of the new AVMA Veterinary Specialty Organizations Committee will consist of one representative appointed by each AVMA-recognized veterinary specialty organization. In addition to electing board-certified members to the ABVS, the committee will assist organizations interested in receiving AVMA recognition and advise the Board of Directors on matters related to specialized veterinary medicine.

The reforms can be traced to 2014, when the AVMA Governance Performance Review Committee raised concerns about the composition and function of the ABVS. For instance, the GPRC suggested the ABVS consider separating the certification functions from its other charges and establish a separate group to oversee the certification/recertification process for each specialty. The committee also encouraged the ABVS to examine potential conflicts of interest in its process and procedure. The ABVS created, at the request of the AVMA Board of Directors, a task force to look at the issues.

The task force studied a number of other organizations performing similar recognition or accreditation functions before discussing its findings at the ABVS meeting in February 2016 and presenting the concept of reconfiguring the ABVS to remedy concerns related to the process for recognition of veterinary specialty organizations. At the same time, the task force noted the importance of all specialty organizations remaining engaged in both the ABVS process as well as with the AVMA and other facets related to the specialist segment of its membership.

The concept of a reconfigured ABVS and the formation of a Veterinary Specialty Organizations Committee was presented to, and approved by, the AVMA board during its spring 2016 meeting.

“These changes are transformative for the process of recognition of veterinary specialties,” observed Dr. Ed Murphey, AVMA staff consultant to the ABVS. “They make the process more transparent, give a voice to others affected by recognition of veterinary specialties, and create some interaction between the specialist and nonspecialist facets of the AVMA membership.”