Las Vegas — Little was answered, but many questions were raised at the first of three national meetings on the future of veterinary education.
The questions, organizers say, help identify areas that need the most attention and are another step toward mapping out the goals of veterinary education for the future.
"What was most impressive to me was the passion and commitment of meeting attendees," says Mary Beth Leininger, DVM, and leader of the North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium (NAVMEC). "There is a determination that the consortium needs to be a change agent for better education. Our future depends on it."
NAVMEC was launched in 2009 by the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) and is a combined effort by leaders in veterinary education, licensure and accreditation to map out a plan for the future.
More veterinary schools than ever are experiencing funding gaps from a lack of state funds, donor support, grants and scholarships. Those gaps make it difficult to continue with current programming, let alone find new, more effective ways to educate the next generation of veterinarians.
Taking a look at where economic forecasts are nationally and globally are big concerns, as well as what impact those forecasts will have on the future of the veterinary workforce, explains Bennie Osburn, dean of the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and a member of NAVMEC.
Some of the questions raised by NAVMEC members included: How will the economy impact the companion-animal and food-animal segments. What impact will the rise and fall of portions of the middle class have on these sectors? How is technology changing practice? How is technology influencing communication among practitioners and clients?
"Look back 20 years to see where we were then and where we are now," he says. "We can't necessarily say where we'll be 20 years from now, but you can begin to start thinking."
These and other questions were asked during the three-day meeting that attracted more than 100 attendees from the veterinary profession and its related industries.
"There was a lot of helpful input from the audience and they appointed out some important concerns," Osburn says.
"Unfortunately, ... with the states in the financial difficulties they are now in, veterinary colleges are really suffering for state support," Osburn says. "This presents us with a means for beginning to plan how we can face these continued reductions for higher education. And, more importantly to us, how are we going to continue to put on our programs?"
The big challenge for veterinary colleges at this moment is that veterinary colleges are maxed out trying to train veterinarians for their states alone. And with only 28 colleges for 50 states, Osburn says, the federal government is going to have to be a player if the veterinary colleges are to produce the workforce required for public practice.
The questions raised at the first national meeting in Las Vegas will help prepare NAVMEC for its next meeting, April 29-May 1 in Kansas City. That meeting will focus on how information is delivered to veterinary students and identify the best educational models.
Issues surrounding accreditation and licensure will highlight the last national meeting on July 14-16 in Las Vegas.
To learn more about NAVMEC, visit www.navmec.org.