This year marks the 50th anniversary of the American Board of Veterinary Toxicology, the first professional organization to certify toxicology experts.
Since the AVMA granted provisional status to the fledgling specialty in 1967, the ABVT has certified more than a hundred diplomates, most of whom still work in academia and for veterinary diagnostic laboratories, poison control centers, government agencies, industry, and private consulting firms.
For a half-century, ABVT diplomates have educated the public, private practice veterinarians, and veterinary students about toxicological hazards to pets, livestock, wildlife, and the environment. Fifty years is a major milestone that reflects the extraordinary energy and vision of the founders of ABVT, according to Dr. Val Beasley, a professor of veterinary, wildlife, and ecological toxicology at Pennsylvania State University, and an ABVT diplomate since 1982.
"By then," Dr. Beasley said, "the organizers and those who followed had already established ABVT’s reliable pathway to ensure breadth and depth of expertise among veterinarians whose careers were going to focus on diagnosing, offsetting, and preventing important toxic impacts of a constantly changing sea of chemicals that come to us in our air, water, and food as well as in home, farm, ranch, and wilder environments."
Drs. Wayne Binns, James Dollahite, and Rudolph Radeleff were charter diplomates of the ABVT when the organization was awarded provisional status in 1967. They prepared the first certification examination, administered that same year to six candidates, five of whom passed. One of those—Dr. William Buck—went on to found the first dedicated animal poison control center in 1978 at the University of Illinois-Champaign. The AVMA granted full recognition as a veterinary specialty to the ABVT in 1970.
The ABVT’s objectives are to advance education and scientific progress in veterinary toxicology and to encourage continued educational training and research among those engaged in the organization. The organization ensures through its certification examination that competent veterinary toxicologists are available for veterinary teaching institutions, veterinary diagnostic laboratories, industry, government, the military, research, private practice, public health, and the environmental sciences.
Field veterinarians, physicians, regulatory agencies, animal scientists, lawyers, laypersons, and other professional organizations recognize the expertise of ABVT diplomates and routinely consult with them on a broad range of toxicological problems.
Dr. Beasley said veterinary toxicologists not only have a deep understanding of animal health but also are knowledgeable in a broad range of fields, everything from biochemistry, nutrition, and physiology to analytic toxicology, pharmacokinetics and toxicokinetics, pathophysiology, forensic toxicology, and risk assessment.
"Not only are our backgrounds uniquely broad, but also, they are practical," Dr. Beasley continued. "We are the ones who dig into the circumstances, probability, and confirmation of exposure, and integrate residues of toxic substances in source materials with residues, clinical manifestations, and lesions in animals.
"We also help manage animal patients, including those that are exposed and already poisoned, those that have a lethal dose in their GI tracts but haven’t absorbed a significant amount, and those that are yet to be exposed. We help establish diagnoses, we offer recommendations on case management as well as prevention of poisoning, and we undertake basic to applied research."
Veterinary toxicologists, Dr. Beasley added, are needed on research teams that integrate toxicology and pharmacology with the tools of genomics, proteomics, lipidomics, metabolomics, the microbiome, epigenetics, and translational and individualized medicine.
Learn more about the ABVT and its history.