Groups mull independent equivalency program

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St. Louis-This month, six members from two top veterinary organizations convened here to discuss leaving the educational equivalency standards of foreign graduates to an autonomous group.

St. Louis-This month, six members from two top veterinary organizations convened here to discuss leaving the educational equivalency standards of foreign graduates to an autonomous group.

Dr. Bruce Little

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) each provide qualifying programs for licensure. Neither deems the other qualified.

But as the meeting's outcome was unknown at presstime, officials in states such as Texas say they want an end to the groups' three-year squabble. AVMA, which has offered the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates (ECFVG) since 1959, rivals the AAVSB's newly formed Program for the Assessment of Veterinary Education Equivalence (PAVE).

AAVSB officials call the ECFVG, the only nationally accepted means for gauging equivalence, archaic, claiming AVMA's role as a membership organization a conflict of interest. AVMA officials say PAVE is an easier test, allowing offshore graduates to circumvent their rigid system. In the middle are state veterinary officials, confused about which program to promote.

"I've never understood why AVMA, a national trade association, was certifying foreign graduates," says Ron Allen, the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners' executive director. "But to have both AVMA and AAVSB doing this separately is inefficient. Presumably, one potentially would have lower standards than the other. That's the fear."

On board with PAVE

Texas joins California, North Dakota, Louisiana and New York as the only states recognizing PAVE as well as the ECFVG, and roughly 30 students took the new program's qualifier for the first time last year. Four other states are working to allow for the program, AAVSB leaders say.

"Texas is one of the states that gets a lot of grads from foreign schools, so we need a system that's responsive and is fair to all concerned," Allen says. "That doesn't mean choosing between two exams. We must make a decision here soon."

Dr. Ralph Richardson

Feasibility in question

As is proposed, PAVE and ECFVG would merge into a single licensing program controlled by a freestanding entity, with neither group at the wheel. While AAVSB officials remain optimistic the idea can work, AVMA Executive Vice President Dr. Bruce Little has doubts, especially where funding is concerned.

"We don't even know if it can sustain itself," he says. "And if so, how can it best be structured in a manner that's educationally sound, legally defensible and economically feasible?"

It'll have to be subsidized by someone, most likely students, who already pay $6,000 to take the ECFVG, Allen says. That price doesn't begin to cover costs, as AVMA forks out roughly $100,000 a year to cover remaining expenses, Little adds.

Even so, AAVSB member Dr. Ralph Richardson, who attended the St. Louis meeting, remains positive.

"I'm very optimistic something will be worked out," says Richardson, also Kansas State University's veterinary college dean. "I worked with the ECFVG for 10 years, so I'm not new to this. Getting the AVMA and AAVSB working together on this presents a challenge, but I'm certain it can be done."

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