Council on Education seeks input on Standards of Accreditation

The American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education is seeking input through a survey on the validity and reliability of the 11 Standards of Accreditation.  The council uses the standards to assess the educational quality provided by veterinary medical colleges and their ability to produce entry level veterinarians. Accredited colleges must comply with each standard to maintain accredited status. In order to assure that the Standards of Accreditation remain relevant to the needs of students in colleges/schools of veterinary medicine and to veterinary practitioners, the validity and reliability of the standards is assessed periodically. Information gathered by the survey will be reviewed by the Council on Education. Thank you for taking the time to help improve the accreditation process.

10 thoughts on “Council on Education seeks input on Standards of Accreditation

  1. The 11 standards of accreditation are in place for a reason to ensure that the institutions educating future veterinarians are focused on creating scientists and veterinary professionals. The idea that students can be educated in a distributive model and/or a for profit model is ludicrous. How can a student receive proper instruction at a for profit “teaching hospital” when that facilities primary means for existence is making a profit? Profit is by no means a bad thing, unless you are trying to educate students at the same time. The idea that you can have a veterinary school without a teaching hospital, internships/residencies/PhD programs, rigorous academic research, and allow credit at literally hundreds of sites, makes no sense to me.

    Furthermore, regarding foreign veterinary school accreditation, the graduates of most foreign institutions are not required to take the NAVLE and the institutions are not required to maintain the prescribed pass rate. How can it be that the only objective measurement available is not applied to hundreds of graduates of accredited schools?

    The Standards of Accreditation and the Policy and Procedures Manual is available free on the AVMA website. Any foreign institution that wants to meet the AVMA’s “Gold Standard of Accreditation” can do so. Might it be that these institutions are really after American Students with their student loan dollars? Of course that is the case.

    The COE needs to be separated from the AVMA. It needs to choose its own members, have its own staff and budget, and most importantly its own legal council. Once free of AVMA staff and executive board oversight, the COE can do what it was intended to do, accredit institutions of veterinary medicine whose primary goal is to create professional practitioners and scientists.

    • To add to Dr. Bregman’s remark:

      The Standards of Accreditation and the Policy and Procedures Manual is available free on the AVMA website. Any foreign institution that wants to meet the AVMA’s “Gold Standard of Accreditation” can do so. Might it be that these institutions are really after American Students with their student loan dollars? Of course that is the case.

      I think it’s embarrassing how easily the ego of the AVMA is stroked in order to get US federal student loan dollars and fill up foreign vet schools available class seats, but in just 2-3 years the applicant/available seat ratio is going to fall below 1:1 for the first time in AVMA history, so the US schools are going to have to compete harder to fill their own classes.
      This will inevitably lead to a “survival of the fittest” situation, and the 2 year trade schools will easily out-compete the genuine brick and mortar state schools for several reasons:
      1. The 2 year trade schools have escaped the most expensive parts of the educational process
      2. Many have the financial backing of corporations which can more easily weather fluctuations in the economic climate
      3. The 2 year trade schools are invariably run by much more competent financial experts or would immediately be replaced by someone that is competent to render a profit to the corporation.
      I had a marketing expert look at the survey, and the way it is constructed it is not going to accomplish the task that it was designed for to defend the AVMA at the next NACIQUI hearing.

  2. As someone who spent 40 years teaching clinical medicine in a college associated VMTH setting, the trend toward acceptance of programs with a distributive model is particularly worrisome. Section 7-3 of the Standards of Accreditation states that a qualified institution must have a “on-campus veterinary teaching hospital (s) or have formal affiliation with one or more off-campus veterinary hospital used for teaching”. While some schools may say that this gives them an out even though they do not have a on-campus hospital, what off-campus hospital has teaching as its primary mission? And how many of those off-campus hospitals have active residency programs that add an extra level of pedagogic energy to the enterprise? Can the professional staff of the of-campus facilities, whose primary mission is to keep the business afloat, meet the requirement of Section 7.8 which reads: ” Participation in scholarly activities is an important criterion in evaluating the faculty and the college. The college shall give evidence that it utilizes a well-defined and comprehensive program for the evaluation of professional growth, development, and scholarly activities of the faculty”? This, after all, is what moves our profession forward. In the document entitled, “Accreditation Policies and Procedures of the AVMA-Council on Education” dated March 2014, Section 8.2 lists the guidelines for implementation of a distributive veterinary education model, but the only requirement listed for staff implementing that program is in 8.2h which states, ” Veterinarians must be licensed and technicians should be certified, licensed, or registered as appropriate to that jurisdiction.” Not a word about scholarly activity, yet in a distributive system who are the clinical faculty other than those veterinarians staffing those hospitals? Certainly, some private practitioners are involved in research and other scholarly activities, but this is clearly the exception rather than the rule. There is no question that rotation through a private hospital operation can be an extremely valuable learning experience for a veterinary student, but I seriously question whether such experience alone can, on a consistent basis, truly constitute the clinical training exposure that the profession and society expect of a recent graduate. Who is really profiting from a distributive model program? Can such an arrangement in all honesty meet the outcomes listed in Section 7.11? As others have stated, passing the NAVLE is not an adequate measure.

    For the COE to be completely independent from the AVMA and AAVMC is the only sensible solution for all concerned in order to put to rest any questions about conflict of interest. This also should protect these Associations from any legal action that might result from future COE decisions once all the comments and concerns expressed in this current exercise are taken into consideration.

    • I also see that many of the problems with our standards being outdated are the result of academic veterinary medicine failing to update the quality and objective of a veterinary education. It is pure stupidity to think that everything needed to be taught to produce an entry level veterinarian can be taught in 4 years. The PEW Report in 1988 really identified how the schools were more interested in maintaining the status quo rather than in innovating the professional education. At that time specialization during the 4 year curriculum was identified as a necessity in order to deal with the explosion of knowledge as well as ensuring the level competency that is expected of a medical professional. In a JVME article from the 1980s, one school(Mississippi State) identified over 216,000 learning objectives in its DVM program which would require learning an objective every 6 minutes 24/7 for 3 years. We need a completely new, rigorous, focused curriculum based on desired outcomes in the arenas of practice where veterinarians are licensed to practice and not on the whims of academic veterinarians who have never left the ivory towered academy . We do need scientists to work on new knowledge but I doubt the effectiveness of trying to produce experts competent in both clinical acumen/skill as well as the deep thought and contemplation needed to produce the new knowledge. Specialization and the division of the fields of knowledge are just basic facts the veterinary academy cannot change as much as it think it can based on a arrogant self image of the “superior” knowledge embodied in the DVM education.

  3. I think I am not alone in having concerns about standards which allow distributive teaching. Proponents of distributive teaching have historical amnesia: Prior to the Flexner Report in 1910, medical instruction in this country was haphazard with poor quality control. The Flexner report established CME standards to mandate two years of clinical work in a teaching hospital as a cornerstone of medical education. Flexner used the Hopkins model to ensure that the teaching hospital was affiliated with the school, had a rigorous research program, and that the Hopkins method of attendings, house staff, and students participating in bedside and pathologic rounds was established. After the Flexner report, more than 100 medical schools closed—many with shabby reputations. As a private practitioner who supervises veterinary externs on occasion, I can tell you that there is no way that a full teaching hospital experience can be accomplished in most private practices. There are good teaching models done in conjunction with shelter hospitals in affiliation with veterinary colleges but there again, there are college faculty and some house staff. If we are using only performance on written licensing tests to assess distributive vs. non-distributive learning models, we are truly missing true outcome measures since “bookwork” is all that is tested while procedures, patient care, client interactions, prognostication, performance in emergent medical conditions etc is not adequately captured in a computerized licensing exam.

    It feels like the AVMA COE is neither invested in the quality of education nor the economic and scientific future of our profession.

  4. The standards establish minimal competence by the college, not minimal levels of excellence. Thus a college could have a mission (standard 1) of producing minimally competent graduate veterinarians. Do we really want to aim that low?
    The charges of the COE originate in the AVMA HOD. Charge number 2 establishes that the COE must aim to meet the needs of society. But it does not clarify what society. I would have presumed US society, but that evidently is not true. Thus when the COE accredits a foreign college, if the college meets their societal needs, that would satisfy the charge (I presume). But this is the American COE; thus in my opinion, the charge should be interpreted to mean the college, via their curriculum and formal training, aims toward creating graduates that meet the needs of US society.
    The more closely aligned the societal needs of veterinary medicine between two nations (or more), the more likely the objectives of the programs to be aligned. But when societal needs and societal norms are significantly different, the outcomes of the graduates will be different. As graduation from an AVMA accredited college is the predominant pathway to attain US licensure, it only seems logical to provide assurance that graduates of foreign accredited schools are Day One Practice ready to meet the needs of US society. To not orient accreditation in that direction, in my opinion, is irresponsible.
    Lastly, I am concerned with the rising costs of a veterinary education, and the ever escalating student debt, that the stakes have become extremely high for graduates (standard 6 students). It appears, once students graduate, their well being is no longer of concern. I also fret that as accreditation is the pathway toward access to government sponsored loans, for-profit schools in particular, have a guaranteed revenue stream, with absolutely no responsibility toward repayment to society of these loans. This is like an ATM machine. Guaranteed payment of obscene fees, virtually no positive contribution to enhancement of veterinary medicine or medical science, and no obligation to assure these loans are repaid in-full, including interest.

    • The accreditation standards are written from an administrative and legal perspective. They are written to protect the institution rather than veteirnary students. The standards are all inclusive, yet loosely written and subject to interpretation. I believe that this is the result of the ever increasing corporate structure of academic institutions. No responsibility is taken for the current state of veterinary medicine, where there is little to no return on investment for most of us. Further, the public perception of veterinarians has dramatically changed for the worse. I can honestly say that I hear negative comments regarding veterinarians at least once every two weeks. We are percieved as charging too much money and not being able to cure the animal. The amount of student debt, the cost and expectation of technology as standard of care, the cost of pharmaceuticals, and the constant financial demands of the profession (licensing, CE, insurances, Association dues, etc.) make it extremely difficult for medern veterinarians to practice medicine. Finding employment is difficult also. I have found that there is little protection for veterinarians, as far as employers being required to provide benefits for employees. I have worked on a salary more than once that did not include CE, licensing, or any other benefits, sometimes not even health insurance. I have seen that I am not alone in this situation. The debt load veterinarians of my generation face combined with an overload of veterinarians put us in the unfortunate position of being desperate for employment. There is no negotiating power, as if we don’t take the job someone else will. This desperate situation also leads veterinarians to practice unethically, which does not help the image of our profession. Another point I have noticed is that after making a heavy investment in their education, American veterinarians are competing with foreign veterinarians for employment. This is often because foreign veterinarians do not have the debt that American students face, and therefore can accept employment at lower salaries. Veterinary medicine is certainly in a sad state. It is also a profession with a questionable ability of its members to work together. The very nature of the admissions process selects individuals with a competitive nature with a drive to succeed. This personality type does not always lend itself to do what is best for the patient. It seems that the only ones fit for survival these days are the corporate veterinary businesses. This is concerning, as it does not necessarily equate to best patient care, nor to career satisfaction.

  5. Accredited colleges must comply with each standard to maintain accredited status.

    It appears that the USDE does not believe this to be true. I would say a more accurate statement would be that it is desirable for each school to comply with each standard, but there are several instances where that is not the case.

    • Standards are guidelines and minimal levels of excellence. Schools must have room to adapt their programs to the standards. these are not cookie cutter standards, rather they are minimal standards necessary to produce an entry level veterinarian.

      • But if you are saying that all of these STANDARDS are non negotiable, that they must be met for accreditation to be conferred, and in fact it is common knowledge that not all schools meet all standards; what does that say about the process?

        We should call them guidelines instead. Let us call them voluntary guidelines, that would be more accurate.