AVMA board and COE take additional steps to strengthen firewall

At its meeting in March, the Council on Education (COE) took several actions that impact AVMA-COE interactions. At their April meeting, the AVMA Board of Directors also took several actions that impact the relationship.

In fall 2014, the COE selected a subcommittee of members to review the existing Board of Directors liaison as well as the policy regarding AVMA board members attending site visits. At the March COE meeting, the subcommittee recommended to the COE that AVMA Board members no longer be included on site visits; the COE approved this recommendation and policies and procedures document will be revised to reflect this change. Because this is a COE policy, no Board of Directors vote is required to enact it; however, the COE sent a memorandum to the Board to inform them of this policy change. The Board is fully supportive of this change.

The subcommittee also recommended, and the COE agreed, that the Board of Directors non-voting liaison to the COE should be discontinued. Because the board liaison position was established by AVMA Board of Directors policy action, the COE forwarded a recommendation to the AVMA Board of Directors requesting discontinuation of the liaison. At its board meeting on April 9-11, the AVMA Board of Directors approved the recommendation.

The Board of Directors also approved a recommendation, submitted by the AVMA Office of Executive Vice President, to approve funding to cover fees for outside legal counsel to provide legal advice to the COE.

In addition, the Board discussed the membership of the COE Selection Committee that selects AVMA members who serve on the Council. A recommendation was put forth by a board member, based on that discussion, that revised the committee composition to remove the two BOD and one HOD members and replace the positions with three at-large positions. In addition, the approved recommendation also states that no members of the COE selection committee can simultaneously serve in the HOD or BOD. The revised committee entity description will be posted on the AVMA website.

We’ve listened. AVMA leadership and COE understand that members are concerned about the strength of the firewall between the COE and AVMA Board of Directors. Both groups felt these actions were necessary to reassure members that although the COE is under the umbrella of the AVMA, its actions and decisions are not influenced by AVMA leadership. The COE has preserved and advanced the integrity of veterinary medical education for nearly 80 years, and our profession’s faith in and support of that service is critical to the continued advancement of the veterinary profession. The COE and AVMA leadership appreciate members’ input on accreditation, and are confident that this feedback can strengthen the process.

If you’d like to receive more information and updates from the COE, please sign up for the COE Standard email newsletter (available to AVMA members only). The AVMA will also be sharing COE Standard content and accreditation updates on the AVMA@Work blog. We will keep you informed of accreditation issues and the progress and status of the COE’s recognition through these channels.

8 thoughts on “AVMA board and COE take additional steps to strengthen firewall

  1. Delighted to learn that the AVMA is responding to those who feel that their profession is not served by an AVMA whose COE is not truly independant of AVMA influence. The most meaningful, and forthright, statements have been made in several commentaries by Dr. Robert Marshak. Why not follow his remedies put forth, i.e., dissociate the COE from the AVMA. Notwithstanding, it’s a pleasure to see that some progress in this matter has been made. I think.
    Leland Carmichael, DVM, Phd, Dhc, Prof. Emeritus
    College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University.

  2. So if AVMA board members were on site visits as observers who paid for their travel expenses? IF AVMA paid I think this is an unacceptable use of AVMAM member dollars.So AVMA please answer this question for me.Who paid for the travel expenses for AVMA board members who travelled with COE members on site visits to schools.I am particularily interested in visits to foreign schools.It would be quite a scandal if we were to find out that AVMA member dues were used for overseas trips for AVMA board members to foreign schools seeking accreditation.

    • Great question, but good luck getting an answer to that one, Carl. I am sure if one were to open the books, so to speak, that the true cost for accreditation on the membership would be far greater than what we have been led to believe.

  3. Kudos to the board of directors (BOD) for listening to their constituents. This is a great beginning; and I emphasize beginning. I believe there remain opportunity to strengthen the function of the COE and genuinely develop autonomy and independence.
    1. My interpretation of the amended proposed composition of the COE selection committee is great, however it appears the BOD will continue to select who will serve on the COE selection committee. The LCME members select individuals to serve on the LCME. The NBVME members are selected by the respective stake holder groups (including the AVMA COE and AAVMC). Perhaps these models are more appropriate than retaining the BOD as the appointing entity.
    2. While I served on the COE, I cannot recall if the COE budget was ever shared with the members. I believe the COE budget should be transparent. I suspect that the fees assessed to the colleges of veterinary medicine do not come close to covering the actual costs associated with COE function. I suspect AVMA dues pay the difference. This does not seem appropriate to me; especially for foreign colleges and for-profit colleges. I believe the colleges should cover the entire cost.
    3. With respect to foreign school accreditation, currently the BOD determines if this process will continue. I believe this is inappropriate. Perhaps a better and more representative model would be voting by the stake holder groups within veterinary medicine such as AAHA, AABP, AAEP, AASV, AVMA, AAVMC, etc.
    In closing, I am thankful that there is increasing understanding amongst members of the profession how the accreditation process works. The black box will be opened up, and this can only strengthen and improve our profession. I am thankful the AVMA is listening and acknowledging that all is not well, and there is room for improvement. There are great templates available including the LCME, ADA and NBVME. We don’t have to re-invent the wheel. And I am thankful that so many members of our wonderful profession are passionate about maintaining the highest quality, integrity and credibility.

  4. I agree with my colleagues who have already stated that this is a positive step.

    If I may be so bold as to be completely honest , I would say that there isn’t a single colleague that I know who believes that a “firewall” exists (or has ever existed) between the AVMA and COE. To suggest otherwise is both embarrassing and insulting to the intelligence of your members.

    Why would we not believe this? Perhaps it is the shared address, the shared non profit umbrella, the shared accounts, the shared staff, the shared legal counsel. Perhaps it is because AVMA staff can and do terminate COE members as they see fit. I can think of a few reasons.

    The cynic in me also finds the timing of the AVMA’s listening to conveniently coincide with the scrutiny that the USDE et. al. is placing on the COE . I can say with confidence that if the USDE had given the COE the green light to continue to accredit, there would be no listening sessions nor would there be any changes, regardless of what the membership was concerned about.

    The big question, though, is what do the members want? Does the AVMA membership, whose dues provide the AVMA’s resources, want the AVMA to be in charge of accreditation instead of fully focused on their professional needs?

    To put it another way, considering the severe challenges present in the current state of our profession, are member’s needs better served when the AVMA splits up its mission and resources in order to be in charge of accreditation. Do we not have enough issues at hand to fully utilize all of the AVMA’s time, effort, and resources in order to right the ship that is our profession?

    Perhaps we should ask. Now, I don’t mean one of your silly surveys that asks if we feel it is important for schools to be accredited. I am talking about asking your members what they feel your primary responsibility is. To accredit every school that has a bookstore, or to fully advocate for its members?

  5. I am glad that AVMA is listening to the comments of its members (finally) rather than persisting in its dogged determination to retain control of accreditation.I would like to think this is a real change.At what point is AVMA going to decide that separating from COE is the right thing to do? Why do you have to even worry about a firewall when you have 2 independent entities.That is clearly the simplest solution and in reality the ONLY solution that is going to convince many of your most vocal critics that you have truly listened. The American Dental Association saw all of this coming way back in 2008 and has taken steps to ensure the independence of its accrediting body. As long as AVMA has ANY control over COE there will always be distrust and dissent from those that have either experienced first hand the meddling of AVMA in the COE (Dr KAy and Leininger) and those that have researched the issues regarding accreditation and conflict of interest.It is so tempting to think this is just lipstick on a pig to convince NACIQI that AVMA COE needs to continue.It AVMA is willing to go half way towards independence by removing AVMA staff from the selection process and having independent council why cant if go the whole way towards fixing the problem by making COE truly independent. IF AVMA doesn’t do that the problem is only “half-fixed”. COE needs its own budget, its own staff and it needs to rewrite its own policy and procedures manual that aligns with the USDE regulations. Who will hire the legal counsel? How will he/she be paid? it still seems to be very opaque to me where responsibilities will lie and therefore the potential for influence will still be there. I think it is highly unlikely that these changes will satisfy those that have challenged AVMA COE at the NACIQI hearings.

  6. I agree with Dr. Folger. Good progress and the first evidence that AVMA has even the slightest respect for members’ concerns on these issues.

    Or perhaps it is concern that the current AVMA position would be unjustifiable to an independent review, rather than respect.

    As such, it is critical that careful and additional attention be paid to the selection process and make-up of the COE. To this end, I suggest an open process for determining the make-up of a new selection committee. As Dr. Folger points out, this cannot be business as usual for AVMA and appointment of only those who AVMA leadership pre-determines will act as surrogates for AVMA leadership and beliefs.

    Nothing short of selecting colleagues with a cross-section of views on these issues will make a difference. These must be independent minded and universally trusted individuals, selected by a group that represents varied positions on these issues. Stacking the deck will not move us forward.

    To facilitate real change, each current COE member should offer their resignation to the new selection committee.

    It should be up to the new selection committee to accept or reject each resignation as part of their initial round of selections.

    Thank you.


    Paul D. Pion, DVM, DACVIM
    co-founder, VIN
    Davis, CA

  7. So to summarize:
    1. No more BOD members trailing the site teams: Great move!
    2. No more BOD liaison to the COE- great!
    ***Let’s follow that with NO AVMA staff members present at any COE meetings***
    3. Provide outside legal advice to the COE. Excellent idea, outside legal advice that is solely responsible to the COE. Not the AVMA. Hired by the COE and responsible only to them.
    ***Let’s follow that with a statement that the AVMA legal counsel is prohibited from giving any legal advice to the COE, and the AVMA legal counsel cannot “fire” any more COE members.***
    4. 3 at-large positions to replace the BOD and HOD members; COE members cannot serve on the BOD or HOD: great idea.
    ***But your micromanaged selection process can only allow “friends of the established leadership” to be permitted to be on the COE. That’s a problem that the selection committee and the AAVMC cannot overcome***
    This is a continuing conflict of interest that you cannot avoid. In spite of Matushek’s weird ramble in JAVMA which tried to say it’s not really a conflict of interest (and he completely misses the point- it is UNIVERSALLY perceived as a conflict of interest, so it is) his intellectual argument reminded me of the Pres. Clinton rebuttal: “That depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is.”

    Let’s follow these steps up with:

    1. A separate meeting place- say at the headquarters of different state VMAs or state board facilities. If you want to avoid a conflict of interest, the COE needs their meetings outside of Schaumberg.
    2. The composition of the COE is completely upside own: 75% academics and 25% practitioners. That’s proof of your conflict of interest: the foxes guarding the henhouse is how all of us perceive that. There should be 2-3 academics, not 12. What happened to the female composition- 25% of the COE, when it should be more like 50-55% female. And the most obscene underrepresentation? A single female practitioner in a profession where 50% of the profession are female practitioners. Really?
    3. Can the AVMA and COE once and for all abandon the arrogant, condescending theory that the AVMA standards are the GOLD STANDARD? As a consequence of the “dumbing down” of the standards, and the quick emergence of the two year trade school educational approach, it’s doubtful anyone in the world thinks we are the gold standard. Except for those schools looking for US student loan dollars. I am pretty sure the US schools are going to need those student loan dollars as the competition heats up and the applicant: seat ratio finally drops below 1:1.

    Thank you for the AVMA@Work Blog. You are correct that there are thousands of us, from ever corner of our profession, that no longer trust the AVMA in this matter. We are not a “campaign”, we have become a movement. The sneering, mocking derision many of us have endured because of our opposition over the last few years is a debt that must be repaid. There is a lot of anger and distrust out here in the trenches, and we want to either make things right or leave the AVMA. In 1960, 75% of the physicians in America belonged to the AMA. In 2012, excluding students and residents, that percentage stood at 15%. Because of the widespread availability of nationally available professional/business liability insurance products(from 8 other nationwide insurance companies), many at better rates and better coverage, the AVMA can no longer depend on veterinarians automatically becoming AVMA members just to get the insurance.

    The changes you are proposing are a move in the right direction, but the recent remark published in the COE Standard implies that the COE will continue to accredit schools even if the USDE does not extend recognition implying that the AVMA really doesn’t care whether or not they come into compliance.