Veterinary educators issue a call to action


Everyone with a stake in veterinary medicine is being asked to develop a 40-year education plan.

WASHINGTON — Everyone with a stake in veterinary medicine is being asked to develop a plan for veterinary education spanning the next 40 years.

The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) is organizing a series of four meetings — one planning and three working — making sure the recommendations of the Foresight Report don't languish in obscurity.

The Foresight Report is a long-range planning study for academic veterinary medicine to ensure veterinary colleges are educating and graduating students who will meet the future needs of society.

Letters of invitation were sent to stakeholders in September asking for participation in the planning meeting for the North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium (NAVMEC.)

Subjects covered in Foresight Report

"Veterinary medicine education has to be attuned to the needs of society," says Dr. Michael Chaddock, deputy director of AAVMC. "We feel veterinary medicine education needs to be looked at by all stakeholders involved — new veterinarians, industry, government, research, corporations."

An initial goal is to examine what the education model should look like in the future and how licensure and accreditation fits into it.

Chaddock points out that past, present and future veterinarians are trained to be versatile, but the majority are in clinical practice working with small animals. While that fulfills a societal need, there are other needs as well, including public health, biomedical research, food-animal health and agro-security.

"More than 80 percent of agents that are biological threats are zoonotic diseases," says Dr. Marguerite Pappaioanou, executive director of AAVMC. "We need to be at the table in all of these different areas, and the Foresight Report really brought that home. Sept. 11, West Nile virus, SARS, monkeypox started reminding everybody that as a profession we need veterinarians who are well prepared to move into the future."

One question the consortium will examine is whether veterinary colleges can provide the same education tomorrow that they provide today or whether there will be centers of emphasis.

The Council of Education will be integral to that discussion, as well as to discussions on accreditation and limited licensure.

Ultimately, the goal is to get everyone involved.

"We know there is a shortage of veterinarians in the country. Whether that shortage is made up by increasing the number of veterinarians in the schools, increasing infrastructure or bringing in more veterinarians from foreign countries, it's all out there open for discussion," Chaddock says.

Total cost of the NAVMEC will be between $350,000 and $600,000.

The planning meeting may be held this fall, but that was uncertain at press time.

The next three meetings will take place over the following nine to 10 months with the final report completed within a year.

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