Second veterinary education reform meeting debates merits of sustainable models

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Second veterinary education reform meeting debates merits of sustainable models

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May 11, 2010
Kansas City, Mo. -- "Educational speed-dating." That's how one participant described the first of three days of discussion on the veterinary college of the present and the future at a meeting of the North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium (NAVMEC).

More than 160 representatives from veterinary colleges, associations and licensing organizations gathered April 29 to absorb information about current and imagined veterinary education programs. Friday and Saturday the participants dove into smaller discussion groups to discuss possible changes to nine types of "veterinary educational models" (VEMs) described by NAVMEC executive director Mary Beth Leininger, DVM.

The chief models from nine different schools included:
• Tracked curriculum (Purdue University), focusing on chosen career paths • Non-tracked curriculum (Michigan State University)
• The so-called Caribbean model (Ross University), designed at the start with end competencies in mind
• European (Glasgow University)
• Two distributive models (Calgary University and Western University), using local hospitals and shelters as adjunct classrooms
• Two-campus model (Iowa State University and University of Nebraska), with some students beginning at one school and ending at another
• Traditional model with a teaching hospital (University of Illinois).

Participants also heard presentations on "out-of-the-box" ideas for change, as well as updates on education in human medicine and dentistry.

The day wrapped up with two innovative models for change, one from a student and the other from a dean. Graduating veterinary student Virginia Kiefer of the University of Tennessee and Oregon State University veterinary-school dean Cyril Clarke, DVM, both imagined models emphasizing shorter pre-veterinary-school time with cost-effective distance learning, and more client and clinical experience in school. "We’re tired of studying from text to test," Kiefer says. Both speakers called for more practical training in the areas students hoped to focus on in practice.

Their most unorthodox proposal was an imagined module of uniform early learning in the first two years, followed by modules focused on specialty medicine in the latter years of study and open to veterinary students and veterinarians.

After Kiefer and Clarke finished their presentations, Peter Eyre, BVMS, PhD, former dean and a professor at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, echoed audience members’ hopes for change and realization of uphill battles to come: "It'd be easier to do this if you were starting a college from scratch."

Ideas developed in the breakout groups will be shared in the near future, Leininger adds. A third meeting July 14 to 16 will focus on how accreditation, licensure and testing organizations need to embrace change for any educational reforms to be successful.