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AVMA task force: Foreign accreditation a boon to veterinary profession


Report emphasizes strict impartiality of veterinary school evaluation process; workforce issues can't weigh in.

An American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) task force has found that while the accreditation of foreign veterinary schools is beneficial to the veterinary profession as a whole, some parts of the process need additional clarity.

The task force was formed in 2011 as the result of a House of Delegates discussion calling for a peer review of the process used by the AVMA Council on Education and the impact of its foreign accreditation decisions. Here are some of the task force's findings:

> The Council on Education is under rigid requirements to remain impartial in its decisions. The council itself is recognized as a legitimate accrediting agency by a number of independent organizations, and in order to maintain its good standing, it must strictly avoid any conflict of interest—or even the appearance of such a conflict. The only factor the council may be influenced by is the quality of a program under consideration—whether the school can produce veterinarians that are competent as entry-level practitioners on a level comparable to U.S. graduates.

This standard obviously means the council may not be influenced by financial, political or legal pressures when evaluating a program, and the task force affirms that the council is not succumbing to such pressures. It also means the council functions independently of the AVMA, behind an "information barrier," which can obscure the process and invite suspicion but is necessary for credibility.

It also means that economic factors in the profession—such as a potential surplus of veterinarians in the workforce—may not influence the foreign accreditation process either.

"Workforce and economic issues, specifically the impact of accreditation or failure of accreditation on the veterinary professional workforce and the resulting economic impact of increasing or decreasing numbers of veterinarians entering the profession, cannot influence the accreditation evaluation process," the report states. "Factoring workforce and economic issues into the accreditation decision would quickly erode the high credibility of [Council on Education] accreditation."

> AVMA accreditation is recognized as the highest standard of veterinary medicine in the world. The task force sent a survey to international veterinary schools that had received or were seeking AVMA accreditation. "The primary reason foreign veterinary schools seek accreditation ... is to obtain recognition that their educational program has attained the highest veterinary medical education standards worldwide," the report states.

AVMA-accredited foreign veterinary schools

Not only does this place the U.S. veterinary profession in a leadership position on a global stage, the task force concludes, it also helps create a network of institutions that can be called upon to coordinate a response to any threat that may cross international borders, protecting both people and animals.

The report concludes that foreign veterinary school accreditation benefits both U.S. and foreign practitioners, but the task force did request clarification of some accreditation standards—for example, the requirement that a foreign veterinary school be part of a larger research institution and exactly what standards that larger institution must meet.

The report in its entirety is available on the AVMA's website, avma.org. The AVMA executive board will discuss the report during its June meeting, as well as consider any response provided by the Council on Education.

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