AVMA COE halts plan for new veterinary school in Arizona

August 18, 2016
Brendan Howard, Business Channel Director

Brendan Howard oversees veterinary business, practice management and life-balance content for dvm360.com, dvm360 magazine, Firstline and Vetted, and plans the Practice Management track at all three Fetch dvm360 conferences.Brendan has proudly served under the Veterinary Economics and dvm360 banners for more than 10 years. Before that, he worked as a journalist, writer and editor at Entrepreneur magazine and a top filmed entertainment magazine in Southern California. Brendan received a Masters in English Literature from University of California, Riverside, in 1999.

DEK Accrediting body tells University of Arizona it needs to see more details; interim dean says the information is already there, school will appeal decision.

An architect's rendering of the facility for the proposed veterinary school at the University of Arizona. (Image courtesy of University of Arizona.)

The University of Arizona is appealing a decision by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Council on Education (COE) to deny a "letter of reasonable assurance" giving the go-ahead to a second veterinary college in Arizona.

The new veterinary program had been scheduled to open as early as this month.

Shane Burgess, BVSc, PhD, interim dean of the prospective School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Arizona (Photo courtesy University of Arizona)Shane Burgess, BVSc, PhD, the interim dean for the prospective school, says the evidence that the COE asked for already exists in the school's self study, the COE site team's preliminary report and the school's response to that report.

"I don't want to second-guess what the COE members' thought processes were or affect the integrity of the appeal process," Burress says. "The AVMA sets standards, we fully understand the need for those, and we believe we've demonstrated that we met the standards and to a level of reasonable assurance."

Burgess and the university staff are seeking to create a less-expensive, year-round program to graduate veterinarians on an accelerated schedule. The program would put to use new and existing faculty and give students practical learning opportunities in an envisioned Oro Valley Veterinary Clinical Skills Training Facility as well as as practice opportunities in nearby areas.

"We believe a leading public-research, land-grant university needs to step up and lead on the issue of [graduates' debt-to-income crisis]," Burgess says. "In our view, academia bears much of the responsibility to fix this issue." However, in an AVMA letter Burgess provided to dvm360, the COE outlines several reasons it believes the school's current plan falls short:

> Financial details. The letter says the COE needs more details about "all sources of income" and major sources of funds for the school, including specifics on revenue from clinical practice partnerships as well as the exact size of awards from the state of Arizona.

> Access to sick animals. The university "appears to provide exposure to adequate numbers of healthy animals" for students' clinical experience, according to the letter, but "fails to provide the details for the number and species of diseased animals," especially in specialty practices.

> Full access to medical records. The COE wants more information on how veterinary students will have access to the prospective school's new medical records system while working in private practices.

> Number of faculty. The letter asks for more evidence that faculty will have "the appropriate time to develop and deliver the new curriculum, and concurrently fulfill requirements for scholarly activity."

> Opportunities for specialty practice. For students pursuing fourth-year specialty work, the school plans to contract with off-campus specialty practices, according to the letter, but "how students will participate ... is not defined."

> Time for faculty research. Veterinary colleges are required to "establish a substantial, high-quality research program," according to the letter, and the current plan leaves unclear precisely how students and faculty will participate in the University of Arizona's existing research program. "The plan fails to describe how [veterinary school] faculty will demonstrate continuing scholarly productivity when the majority of research will be performed in other colleges" at the university.

The University of Arizona has until mid-September to submit documentation supporting its appeal. The new school in Tucson, Arizona, would be the state's first public veterinary school but its second total, joining private Midwestern University in Glendale, Arizona, 130 miles away from the University of Arizona.

The AVMA did not respond to a request for comment for this story.