The Council on Education (COE) held its fourth listening session on Monday, July 13, from 3-5 p.m. at the AVMA Annual Convention in Boston. The transcripts from previous sessions at NAVC, WVC and SAVMA are available. This session was recorded, like the previous sessions, and a transcript will be made available.
Three representatives of the COE were present: Dr. Ronald Gill, Dr. John Scamahorn, and Dr. Garry Adams. Two Board of Directors (BOD) members were present: Dr. Clark Fobian and Dr. Mark Helfat. The session was facilitated by Mr. Daniel Stone.
The session began with updates from the COE and the BOD regarding the concerns and statements expressed at previous listening sessions and in various other communication channels. An update was provided regarding the seven most common categories that received comments. The COE members provided information and responses regarding three categories: criticism of the distributive model of veterinary medical education; criticism of outcomes assessment; and criticism of the research standard. The BOD members provided responses to four categories: concerns about the firewall between AVMA and COE, and the structure of the COE; criticism of foreign accreditation; workforce concerns; and concerns about rising tuition.
- Distributive model: Members of the COE emphasized that sustainability is key. All accredited schools meet the same standards, but they are not required to use the same educational model to meet those standards. The process for evaluating distributive model schools and core offsite clinics is available in the COE Policies & Procedures. There is no evidence to support statements that distributive model-educated students are any less prepared or competent than those graduated from traditional-model schools. As part of its ongoing quality assurance process the COE has established a committee to review the requirements for the distributive model to assure continued reliability and validity of the requirements. The committee will bring any proposed changes to the full COE for review and deliberation.
- Outcomes assessment (Standard 11): Members of the COE stated that Standard 11 has recently been reviewed and proposed changes are open for comments until July 23. The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) requires the use of North American Veterinary Licensing Exam (NAVLE), and there is a statistically-based rubric for evaluating the scores for colleges with small numbers. If no students at a school take the NAVLE (as with some foreign schools), the clinical competency requirements are assessed as direct observation. Outcomes assessment also involves employment rates, attrition rates, surveys (of students, graduates, and employers), and interviews with faculty, staff, students, and alumni, and 3- and 5-year employment rates. The NAVLE pass rate of accredited schools exceeds 90%, which is in line with other professions’ licensing exams.
- Research standard (Standard 10): Comments received on the Research Standard were broad based with comments encouraging the COE to strengthen Standard 10 to comments indicating that there is too much emphasis on research. Standard 10 recently underwent extensive revision, and is open for comments until July 23. The integration of research has been required, but the revision increases the integration and focus on the scientific method.
- Firewall and structure: The BOD members emphasized changes that have been made in the past 8 years to increase the firewall between the AVMA and COE and address perceived conflicts. In 2007, the BOD eliminated the policy requiring BOD approval of the Policies & Procedures manual. In 2011, they eliminated the policy requiring BOD approval of any changes to the Standards of Accreditation. The COE Selection Committee was formed and replaced the HOD in the selection of the COE members and in April 2015 the BOD modified the entity description to replace the BOD and HOD members on the committee with at-large positions. In 2013 the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) agreed to hire a staff member to support the COE and share duties with the AVMA staff support. In April 2015, the BOD removed the BOD liaison to the COE, approved funding for separate legal counsel, and was informed by the COE that BOD members can no longer attend site visits as an observer.
- Foreign accreditation: The BOD members explained that foreign accreditation is in line with the AVMA mission, and COE accreditation remains the global gold standard of educational standards. The 20/20 Vision Commission report reinforced the need for global efforts. The House of Delegates defeated a resolution proposing a ban on foreign accreditation in 2014 by a large majority, and recently defeated 4 resolutions regarding changes to the COE and accreditation. The students support current efforts, and accreditation has a high rate of approval. COE accreditation is a respected voice in the international education arena, and also gives AVMA and U.S. veterinary medicine a seat at the table when other important global issues, such as animal health and welfare, are being discussed.
- Workforce: The BOD members explained that the purpose of accreditation is to assure educational quality, and accrediting agencies are not allowed to use accreditation as a “weapon” to manipulate the workforce independent or not.
- Tuition: The BOD members agreed that tuitions are very high, but emphasized that accreditation is not a means of controlling tuition. The AVMA’s Governmental Relations Division (GRD) is actively advocating for legislation and regulation to reduce debt and loan interest rates, such as the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) and its Enhancement Act (VMLRPEA); the Economics division has been collecting data and developing resources; and the Early Career Development Committee (ECDC) has prepared financial resources for members.
Following this update, the floor was opened up to comments. The comments made criticized AVMA for accrediting distributive model programs which the commenters consider substandard; being driven by ego and financial gain; and for having too many academicians on the COE and too few women; that there should be a body (but not the BOD) within the AVMA umbrella that has oversight of the COE and any changes in the standards of accreditation; and that the resolutions regarding accreditation were not given due consideration in the House of Delegates (HOD) meeting. One commenter threatened that if the AVMA does not create an independent accrediting body, the current BOD members “will preside over the largest exodus” of members in history. Another commenter emphasized the need for more research integration into the educational curriculum.
One commenter disagreed with how the USDE standards were being interpreted and applied. A question was asked about anti-competitive activity, whether or not the COE’s actions put the AVMA at risk of litigation, and how any litigation would be handled if it occurred; the BOD and Dr. DeHaven (CEO) responded that the AVMA has insurance to address the majority of the costs if that occurred. This member also stated that she felt the reason that AVMA and COE were facing such passionate criticism is because the AVMA is the veterinary profession’s only power base, and these members feel they are not being heard. Another attendee stated that the COE should increase fees and the frequency of site visits to recoup more costs, and the choice to remain accredited would be determined by each school.
Allegations were made that the Committee on International Veterinary Activities (CIVA) and the International Accreditors’ Working Group (IAWG) were performing accreditation actions, including site visits. A member of CIVA clarified that neither group is providing accrediting activities, and emphasized that COE accreditation is a highly respected process on a global scale and serves as a benchmark for others to achieve. She stated that the IAWG members share best practices and general information, but they do not share confidential accreditation information and do not perform accreditation duties. A current COE site visitor and past member of the COE reinforced these statements.
AVMA members can sign up to receive COE- and accreditation-related news and updates via email through the COE Standard. Updates and news are also shared here on the AVMA@Work blog.