Diversity, inclusion added to accreditation standards

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Many veterinary colleges have long been promoting diversity and inclusion, but now the AVMA Council on Education has codified these practices, approving revisions to six of its 11 Standards of Accreditation during its spring meeting, March 25-28.

The desire to have the concepts of diversity and inclusion better integrated into accreditation standards is nothing new. In fact, it was a prominent point of discussion during the North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium. This series of three national meetings in 2010 brought together hundreds of stakeholders to discuss core competencies needed by graduates, and to review and explore progress in developing new educational models for delivery of the veterinary curriculum.

One of the core competencies for graduating veterinarians that came from NAVMEC was diversity and multicultural awareness, specifically: "Veterinarians demonstrate an understanding of the manner in which culture and belief systems impact delivery of veterinary medical care while recognizing and appropriately addressing biases in themselves, in others, and in the process of veterinary medical care delivery."

An example of the revisions is Standard 11 (Outcomes Assessment), which now says that institutions must be able to observe, assess, and document that students demonstrate "ethical and professional conduct; communication skills including those that demonstrate an understanding and sensitivity to how clients' diversity and individual circumstance can impact health care."

In Standard 9 (Curriculum), newly adopted wording states that veterinary schools must provide opportunities throughout the curriculum for students to gain and integrate an understanding of the important influences of diversity and inclusion in veterinary medicine. This includes the impact of implicit biases related to an individual's personal circumstances on the delivery of veterinary services.

Veterinary colleges also are now required to cultivate a diverse faculty through their hiring policies and retention practices, consistent with applicable law. These institutions must also demonstrate ongoing efforts to achieve parity in advancement opportunities and compensation, according to changes to Standard 8 (Faculty). Student recruitment and admission practices, too, must be nondiscriminatory, as per changes to Standard 7 (Admissions).

Further, a veterinary college must be able to show a commitment to diversity that extends to the overall academic environment. This is interpreted as the college being an institution "that does not discriminate and seeks to enhance diversity, consistent with applicable law. Diversity may include, but is not limited to, race, religion, ethnicity, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, cultural and socioeconomic background, national origin, and disability."

The COE had received a number of public comments on the proposed changes; most were in support of the revisions. On the basis of the public comments, the council also revised—and ultimately approved—language that clarified the COE's intent and was less prescriptive, according to the council's newsletter.

"The intent of the council is not to require colleges to meet specific numeric goals; rather, to have appropriate policies, processes, and practices in place that, in keeping with the mission of the college, are designed to promote the recruitment and retention of a diverse academic community and to promote, from qualified applicants, the recruitment and admittance of a diverse student body, consistent with applicable law. In addition, the council believes that, within the framework of the law that each college must function, diversity may be utilized as part of a holistic admission process," the COE wrote in the newsletter.

In addition to language incorporating diversity and inclusion in the standards, the council also modified the following language:

  • Standard 1 (Organization), to clarify the expectation of the role of the CEO for a veterinary college, and to state that regardless of where the clinical educational experience is provided, the person or persons responsible for the professional, ethical, and academic affairs of that experience must be veterinarian(s).
  • Standard 7 (Admissions), to clarify that methods should be in place to assess the admissions process to ensure the process is fair and consistent.
  • Clarified the importance of professional development in learning theory and instructional practices.
  • Standard 11 (Outcomes Assess­ment), to define communication skills more broadly and not limit communication skills to client communications.

The revised COE standards are posted on the AVMA website.

Related JAVMA content:

AAVMC continues to move the needle on diversity (May 1,2015)

Certificate programs promote diversity in veterinary medicine (Nov. 1, 2014)

Dialogue about diversity reveals tensions (May 1, 2013)

We're all in this together (May 15, 2011)

Speakers share strategies to increase diversity (Oct. 1, 2010)