Blog: What elitism really means for veterinary school accreditation


Decades-old formula presented as the only model for success.

If you want to understand how elitist the viewpoint is of academic critics of the American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA's) Council on Education (COE), read the September 9, 2014, words of former University of Pennsylvania veterinary school dean Robert Marshak, DVM, from an ACVIM list-serve email:

COE has been accrediting veterinary schools that do not meet the COE's published standards. The standards also have been weakened gradually, apparently in order to justify, retrospectively and prospectively, the accreditation of substandard schools. Substandard schools, charging very high tuitions, are producing hundreds of minimally educated entry-level graduates, a situation that bodes ill for the future of our educational system and, subsequently, for our profession and the society we serve.  Further, the substandard schools contribute nothing to our discovery-based medical profession through research, the identification of and cure for new diseases, the development of new procedures, the provision of referral centers and diagnostic services, the development of clinical specialties, nor continuing education.

Marshak's unsubstantiated statements promote a condescending view that only a traditional veterinary school with a decades-old curriculum should be allowed to train future veterinarians in America. Innovation and new teaching models are not welcome in this academic club. And graduates are characterized-make that dismissed-as “minimally educated” from “substandard schools,” representing a threat to “our profession and the society we serve.”

Is it really necessary to attack hard-working DVM graduates in such a harsh manner? Is there a specific example presented of a licensed DVM from one of these “substandard” schools practicing in such an incompetent fashion? Of course not.

One must search in vain for another profession in the United States that in 2014 seeks to impose such narrow, rigid constraints on its training grounds, as if the practices of circa-1960 or 1970 American universities should serve as the only formula for success. And we are to trust these elitists to shape a new federally sanctioned accrediting agency, funded by sources yet to be identified and empowered to decide which schools may go forward and which must close their doors?

The upcoming December 11 Department of Education hearing is a watershed moment for the veterinary profession and those tens of thousands of youth in America who dream of joining its ranks. Will the gates close or open for these future veterinarians? 

Mark Cushing, JD, is founding partner of the Animal Policy Group, providing government relations and strategic services for various animal health, veterinary and educational interests. He maintains offices in Portland, Ore., and Washington, D.C., and is a frequent speaker at veterinary conferences.

The Veterinary Policy Notes blog on helps veterinarians and other animal health professionals keep abreast of the growing number of issues, political challenges and regulatory initiatives affecting the veterinary profession, animal health industry and animal welfare movement. The views and opinions presented are those of the author.

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