AVMA: Debate erupts over accreditation of foreign veterinary schools

AVMA: Debate erupts over accreditation of foreign veterinary schools

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Jul 16, 2011

St. Louis — AVMA delegates are calling for a new task force to evaluate the role of the association’s Council on Education (COE) in accrediting foreign veterinary schools.

After a heated debate, U.S. delegates representing state and allied veterinary groups narrowly passed a resolution to form a new task force to peer review the accreditation of foreign veterinary schools. Officials estimate the cost of implementation will be $25,000.

The resolution, explains Texas delegate Dr. Mark Cox, is a member-driven initiative to gain some oversight over the process of accrediting foreign veterinary schools.

“We want to know there is good quality control,” Cox says. “We want to know the Council of Education follows policies and procedures.”

The motivation behind the resolution, however, touches on even deeper issues. Some members believe that COE’s role in accrediting foreign veterinary schools will open the United States to an influx of foreign veterinarians at a time when domestic veterinary schools are also increasing enrollment. Other veterinarians expressed the belief that the U.S. accreditation process ultimately improves the level of veterinary care practiced around the world. To date, COE has accredited 16 foreign veterinary colleges.

Dr. Katherine Knutson, a Minnesota delegate, says, “We are not saying it out loud, but some believe there are too many veterinarians.” Knutson, however, says veterinary students both from the United States and foreign veterinary schools still need to take the licensing exam and pass it. Interestingly enough, the passing rate for U.S.-based veterinary students taking the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination was about 96 percent, while only 61 percent of foreign veterinary students passed the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates (ECFVG) or Program for the Assessment of Veterinary Education Equivalence (PAVE) exams.

Dr. William E. DeWitt, an Alabama delegate, asks, “Is this small push going to bring veterinarians in? Is it going to bring down the level of compensation in the United States?”

While the resolution did not specifically address the issue of increasing competition, it does open up the possibility of oversight on a process that has remained fiercely independent of association politics.

The resolution calls for the creation of a task force to examine eight crucial questions:

1. What is the logistical burden in time and expense required by the AVMA and COE in accrediting foreign schools, now and for the next 10 years?

2. How will the continued accreditation of foreign schools impact the U.S. veterinary profession?

3. What is the impact on U.S. standards resulting from the increasing accreditation of foreign schools?

4. What is the potential adverse effect on standards in the United States by waiving the certification test (ECFVG or Pave) for graduates of foreign schools?

5. What concerns are anticipated from international pressure on the COE to have their schools accredited?

6. How does the accreditation of foreign schools serve the needs and interests of the U.S. public?

7. How does the accreditation of foreign schools serve the needs and interest of AVMA membership?

Dr. David Granstrom, director of AVMA’s Education and Research Division, explains that COE already undergoes a rigorous review process from an independent accrediting agency. In addition, COE reviews proprietary data from colleges, so there is a need for confidentiality on many matters relating to the accreditation process. “Accreditation is not an easy business, nor is it easy to understand,” Granstrom says.

California delegate Richard J. Sullivan adds, “I would suggest this is about transparency. And it’s about democracy. We have lots of other task forces within the association, and this issue is just as important to our members.”

One delegate who spoke in favor of the resolution added, “I’m not worried about a foreign veterinary students coming over here to take my job. I’m ready to retire anyway.”

In other news: AVMA delegates also approved a resolution to create a task force to evaluate the governance structure of the association. Delegates, however, defeated another resolution calling for a task force to analyze the workings of the House of Delegates.