ST. LOUIS — Veterinary schools need to graduate veterinarians with real-world skills necessary to immediately contribute to practices or other areas of employment.
That is, perhaps, the over-arching theme that came from months of work on building a roadmap for the future of veterinary education.
Three themes are highlighted in the recommendations of the final North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium (NAVMEC) report, approved July 17 by the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges' (AAVMC) Board of Directors.
They are: ensuring that veterinarians are educated in certain core competencies and have knowledge in more than one area of veterinary medicine; that veterinary colleges work together to develop and deliver a curriculum that is flexible enough to meet the changing needs of society; and that there is a way to make sure the testing and accreditation process identifies a veterinarian's understanding of the core competencies.
The report, titled "Roadmap for Veterinary Medical Education in the 21st Century: Responsive, Collaborative, Flexible," was compiled over months of meetings that included input and review by all channels of the veterinary profession. It focuses on what needs to be done to provide veterinary medical school graduates with the core knowledge, skills and competencies they must have to satisfy "society's evolving needs."
The five main goals outlined in the report are to:
Core competencies are described in the report as:
"We recognize that there are many ways to educate students to become veterinarians and that each college is unique and serves a unique constituency," says Dr. Willie M. Reed, immediate past president of the AAVMC Board of Directors and dean of the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine. "But this effort will go a long way toward ensuring that academic veterinary medicine continues to evolve and adapt in order to remain relevant. With NAVMEC, academic veterinary medicine continues to be one step ahead of change."
Dr. Marguerite Pappaioanou, executive director of AAVMC, says the organization is "delighted" with the report. The final report was heavily edited from its initial draft, taking into account more than 350 comments during the review process, she says.
"The interest, the commitment, everybody's contributions were just great," she says. "There's no question, to me, the biggest recommendation is (about the) core competencies that every veterinarian should know, no matter where they're going to go in the profession. The idea here is that every veterinarian should know something about more than one species. It really allows for the flexibility that's promised in the report title."
Professional competencies, such as business sense and communication skills, are addressed, too. The report recommends identifying a testing mechanism to make sure veterinarians possess these skills.
"We know that more work will be needed to really make sure competencies are written in a way they can be assessed," she says, adding human medicine now tests for communication skills in its examination process. "There are ways to do that, so we can learn from other professions how to test for some of these newer competencies."
As far as putting the final report into action, Pappaioanou says there is still much work to be done, and, while many veterinary colleges are already implementing some of these recommendations, there is room for more collaboration.
"Colleges cannot do it all individually, and there needs to be more sharing," she says. "Nothing will happen overnight."
Copies of the final report will be posted on AAVMC's website and distributed throughout the profession once final corrections are made, Pappaioanou says. In the fall, NAVMEC participants will be contacted again to participate in a workshop to evaluate the recommendations and to start developing a plan of action. Pappaioanou says the group will devise a way to start collecting baseline information about where the profession is today so that future progress can be measured.