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WesternU receives full accreditation; decision made on UNAM

The newest veterinary college in the United States was approved for full accreditation March 2 during the AVMA Council on Education spring meeting in Schaumburg, Ill.

The COE voted to advance the Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine in Pomona, Calif., from limited to full accreditation.

Dr. Phillip D. Nelson, dean of the WesternU veterinary college, said he was “ecstatic” about the decision.

“It validates our attempt to develop a quality program that is equivalent to the standards of veterinary medical education that we in the United States are used to,” Dr. Nelson said.

The veterinary college is currently the only one in the United States to operate with a distributive teaching model that focuses on problem-based learning in small groups.

According to the college's Web site, first- and second-year veterinary students gain clinical experience at on-campus wellness centers and other area facilities. Third- and fourth-year students complete off-campus rotations, largely at local private practices, rather than at a teaching hospital.

WesternU's veterinary college opened in 2003. It operated under provisional accreditation from its inception to 2008, when the COE voted to move it to limited accreditation.

Veterinary colleges on limited accreditation must correct one or more specific deficiencies within two years, unless the COE allows an extension.

Dr. Nelson noted that the college has dramatically improved its research capabilities since 2008 and also acquired more faculty.

The council's recent vote confirms the veterinary college is in full or substantial compliance with all COE standards.

In other council action, COE members made an accreditation decision regarding the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia in Mexico City. Accreditation reports are confidential, although colleges can choose to share information from evaluations. Colleges are allowed 30 days to appeal an adverse decision before the accreditation status becomes public.

In spring 2006, the COE made a consultative site visit to Mexico City, and afterward, laid out recommendations for UNAM to implement to work toward accreditation. The school sent a video more than a year later for the COE to view, showcasing the completion of curriculum and facilities upgrades designed to meet conditions cited by COE officials in the 2006 consultative site visit.

Additional interim reports provided by UNAM and reviewed by the COE resulted in the council granting a request from the school for a comprehensive site visit, which occurred in November 2009.

Stakeholders weigh in on competencies needed by veterinary grads

The plan being developed by the North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium is being called a road map for the future of veterinary medicine in the United States.

Specifically, the consortium wants to reshape veterinary education into a flexible system that will graduate veterinarians who can satisfy the rapidly changing needs of society, whether that involves extending the longevity of pets through the use of cutting-edge biotechnology or alleviating world hunger by maximizing production of animal protein.

It's a bold undertaking, one that NAVMEC Chair Bennie I. Osburn characterized this way: “This is probably the largest and most comprehensive effort ever undertaken on the part of academic veterinary medicine.” Dr. Osburn, dean of the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, spoke Feb. 11 in Las Vegas at the first of three national meetings the consortium is hosting this year for stakeholders of the veterinary education system.

Stakeholders recognize the need for substantial changes within veterinary academia, thanks in part to the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges' Foresight Report. Published in 2007, the report was the impetus for the AAVMC to establish NAVMEC as a mechanism to institute those changes.

The NAVMEC board of directors is composed of three members each representing veterinary education, accreditation, and testing and licensure. Represented on the board are the AAVMC, AVMA, American Association of Veterinary State Boards, and National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.

The NAVMEC project manager, Dr. Mary Beth Leininger, believes that success will require a sustained, profession-wide effort. “Talking with participants at the meeting, there's clear agreement that NAVMEC must go beyond curriculum and education issues. Meaningful change will come only when we work with those involved in the accreditation process and testing and licensure,” said Dr. Leininger, a former AVMA president.

More than a hundred representatives from across every sector of veterinary medicine participated in the three-day meeting, which focused on future societal needs and competencies that veterinary institutions should develop in their graduates.

Time was allotted for stimulus presentations aimed at provoking thought among attendees. How population and demographic changes might affect veterinary medicine was explored along with examples of educational models for instilling specific skill sets in veterinary graduates.

After the presentations, attendees broke into small discussion groups to generate ideas that were later presented to the entire gathering for further examination. They identified a wide range of generic skills desired in newly minted veterinarians, from curiosity to an understanding of basic epidemiology. The lists of species-specific competencies were equally extensive.

Ideas generated during this first meeting will be synthesized and, once approved by the NAVMEC board, presented for further evaluation prior to the next NAVMEC meeting, scheduled for Kansas City in late April. For more information, go to www.navmec.org.

State budget cuts continue with no end in sight

Another year of large state budget gaps has further weakened organizations and institutions reliant on government funding, perhaps permanently. It comes as no surprise, then, that funding shortages have affected most U.S. veterinary schools and colleges.

Dr. Marguerite Pappaioanou, executive director of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, said the association estimates that $45 million to $50 million in public support has been pulled from the nation's 28 veterinary schools during the past two years.

Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, for example, has put an indefinite halt on its veterinary technology program because of financial constraints. The four-year program is one of only a few veterinary technology programs housed within a veterinary college. (Purdue University's program began not long after Michigan State's in the late '70s, and Mississippi State's program just started accepting students this academic year but has not yet applied for accreditation.)

The moratorium at MSU will be in effect this fall through spring 2013. This means that no new students will be admitted into the program during this time. The moratorium allows the school four to six months to evaluate its options. The college is expected to make a final decision on whether it will permanently discontinue the program by this August.

Dean Christopher M. Brown said the moratorium decision was entirely based on current budget challenges. The overall budget shortfall in the college's general fund could be up to 20 percent, which represents about a $4 million shortfall in state appropriations.

Dr. Brown said the college is considering a variety of other measures, one of which is eliminating some jobs in the college's budget, potentially faculty or support positions. Faculty appointments may also be scaled back from an annual year (12 months) to an academic year (nine months).

Michigan State isn't the only veterinary college that has been forced by limited state funds to cut back its offerings. For the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, the reduction in state funds, combined with a declining market for veterinary services at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, has resulted in a drop of $3 million in revenue for the past academic year and an additional $3 million funding gap for the current academic year.

Administrators have already had to eliminate 130 staff positions (more than 50 from the teaching hospital alone), close the Fresno branch of the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System, place 12 faculty recruitments on hold, reduce programs, and impose temporary pay cuts and work furloughs on all faculty and staff.

The school apparently will need to continue looking at more alternatives to how it does business, as it has recently been alerted that the next round of state funding reductions will be at least $2.6 million beginning in July.

The situation doesn't look much better out East, where it was announced in early February that state appropriations for the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine would be slashed 30 percent, from nearly $43 million to $30.5 million. The school receives about 35 percent of its funding from the state.

In the past year, the school's budget has dropped from about $96 million to $86 million, and 150 positions have been lost through layoffs and attrition, including veterinary hospital technician positions.

The most recent cuts will mean elimination of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and reduced financial aid. The school has historically provided $1,000 in scholarship money to each in-state second- and third-year student. This incentive will be eliminated next year, said Maureen Harrigan, Penn Vet's chief financial officer.

Also in jeopardy is the James M. Moran Jr. Critical Care Center, which is still under construction at the New Bolton Center campus in Kennett Square. The 18,540-square-foot facility will be the largest clinical addition to the hospital; however, there are doubts as to whether there is enough money to open the center as scheduled this summer.

Rottweiler study links ovaries with exceptional longevity

New research on the biology of aging in dogs suggests a link between shortened life expectancy and ovary removal.

The study, published in the December 2009 issue of the journal Aging Cell, found that Rottweilers that were spayed after they were six years old were 4.6 times as likely to reach 13 years of age as were Rottweilers that were spayed at a younger age.

The finding is important because the average life expectancy of Rottweiler dogs is 9.4 years, observed research team leader Dr. David J. Waters. “Our results support the notion that how long females keep their ovaries influences how long they live,” he said.

Dr. Waters is the executive director of the Gerald P. Murphy Cancer Foundation at the Purdue Research Park in West Lafayette, Ind. The foundation is home to the Center for Exceptional Longevity Studies, which tracks the oldest living pet dogs in the country.

Although the findings may challenge long-held notions about pet neutering, Dr. Waters believes veterinarians shouldn't dismiss the research outright but, instead, see it as an exciting development in pet longevity research.

“It was once considered a fact the earth was flat, and then somebody's data said otherwise. That's what scientific discoveries do—they reshape the intellectual terrain,” said Dr. Waters, who is also associate director of Purdue University's Center on Aging and the Life Course and a professor in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences.

Dr. Waters' team spent a decade collecting and analyzing medical histories, longevity, and causes of death for 119 Rottweilers in the United States and Canada that survived to 13 years of age. These dogs were compared with a group of 186 Rottweilers with more typical longevity.

Researchers found that female Rottweilers have a distinct survival advantage over males—a trend also documented in humans. That advantage appears to be determined by whether the female dog is sexually intact, however.

How ovaries affect longevity in Rottweilers is not understood, but Dr. Waters' research points to a new set of research questions, recalibrating the conversation about removing ovaries.

Does Dr. Waters recommend that dog owners delay their pets' ovario-hysterectomy? Not at all. In fact, he cautioned against over generalizing the study findings, saying much more research is needed.

“We studied purebred dogs living with responsible owners. You could say our results aren't pertinent to stray dogs or mongrel dogs. I don't believe every Rottweiler or every woman will benefit from keeping ovaries. That's an all-or-none stipulation, and that's not how biology works,” he said, adding that tomorrow's challenge will be to identify which individuals benefit from retaining or removing ovaries.

Helminth test developed

Researchers have developed a lectin staining test they say will more quickly, easily, and cheaply detect barber pole worms in sheep than other tests will.

Investigators from the University of Georgia and Oregon State University developed the test for Haemonchus contortus, which is based on a peanut agglutinin that binds to H contortus eggs and makes them visible under ultraviolet light, a University of Georgia press release states. An article about the research was, in early February, pending publication in an upcoming edition of the journal Veterinary Parasitology. An abstract of the researchers' findings was published online Dec. 21 at www.sciencedirect.com.

The test is performed on feces and is available through the two universities. Information is available at http://oregonstate.edu/vetmed/diagnostic or by calling the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Oregon State University at (541) 752-5501 or by contacting Bob Storey in the Department of Infectious Diseases at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, (706) 542-0195 or famacha@uga.edu.

Iowa State dean to step down in 2011

Dr. John U. Thomson won't be going very far next year when he changes jobs.

The dean of the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine will step down from his position Jan. 1, 2011. From there he intends to serve on the Iowa State faculty, focusing on outcomes-based medicine and best production animal practices.

Dr. Thomson has been dean at ISU since August 2004.

Under his leadership, the college regained full accreditation by the AVMA Council on Education, launched a cooperative program with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for veterinary education, and completed the $48 million Dr. W. Eugene and Linda Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center. Dr. Thomson has also facilitated acquiring the funding and planning for a $45.1 million expansion and renovation of the small animal hospital, which is expected to be finished in 2012.

Elizabeth Hoffman, Iowa State executive vice president and provost, said a national search for Dr. Thomson's replacement was to begin in March.

A 1967 graduate of ISU, Dr. Thomson was in mixed animal private practice in Iowa for 20 years and served in administrative positions for more than 20 years at South Dakota State University, Mississippi State University, and Iowa State. Prior to coming to Iowa State, he was dean at the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine from 1999–2004. A clinical epidemiologist, Dr. Thomson was named Veterinarian of the Year in Iowa, South Dakota, and Mississippi.

Ohioans could vote on animal housing law in November

A group of organizations is trying to add to Ohio's November ballot an initiative that could ban some animal housing, slaughter, and euthanasia practices.

The petition filed Jan. 27 by members of Ohioans for Humane Farms would ban within six years some confinement livestock housing, the slaughter of any nonambulatory cattle, and the euthanasia of cattle or pigs by strangulation.

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, said his organization would support the initiative.

The groups need more than 400,000 signatures for the initiative to reach the ballot, and Ohioans for Humane Farms hoped to collect 600,000.

In November 2009, Ohio residents voted for a constitutional amendment that established the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, a 13-member panel with the power to regulate animal welfare practices.

The initiative if approved would force the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board to, within six years, require that veal calves, pregnant sows, and egg-laying hens have room to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs, and turn around freely for most of any day. But it contains exemptions for cases involving research, veterinary care, transportation, exhibitions, and slaughter; pregnant sows are additionally exempt during the seven days prior to an expected birth.

The board would also have to require that all on-farm euthanasia of cattle or pigs be performed by methods deemed acceptable by the AVMA, to prohibit euthanasia of cattle or pigs by strangulation, and to prohibit the transportation, sale, or receipt of cattle intended for use as food but unable to walk.

The AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia do not include strangulation among acceptable methods.

AVMA asks members to help identify critical issues facing profession

The AVMA is inviting members to help shape the Association's strategic plan by identifying the most critical issues facing the veterinary profession.

The AVMA has initiated the Future Critical Issues Scan as part of ongoing efforts to update and refine its strategic plan. Association leaders hope the scan will produce feedback from all segments of the profession—private practice, government, industry, academia, research, and uniformed services.

The AVMA Executive Board approved the current strategic plan in April 2008. Association leaders and staff who developed the plan took into account feedback from members who offered several hundred comments via the AVMA Web site. The forum for members to “tell us what you think” relevant to strategic planning has remained available in the meantime but has not been very visible.

For the next round of strategic planning and for ongoing input, the AVMA invites members to visit the Web site to describe what they believe are the three most critical issues facing the profession in the next five years. The Executive Board will consider these comments during strategic discussions at future board meetings.

Information about AVMA strategic planning and a link to the Future Critical Issues Scan are available at www.avma.org/about_avma/governance/strategicplanning.

Education council schedules site visits

The AVMA Council on Education has scheduled site visits to six schools and colleges of veterinary medicine for the remainder of 2010.

Comprehensive site visits are planned for the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, April 18–21; University of Saskatchewan Western College of Veterinary Medicine, Oct. 3–7; Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Oct. 24–28; Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Nov. 7–11; and Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dec. 5–9.

A consultative site visit is scheduled for the University of Queensland School of Veterinary Sciences, Aug. 28–Sept. 2.

The council welcomes written comments on these plans or the programs to be evaluated. Comments should be addressed to Dr. David E. Granstrom, Director, Education and Research Division, AVMA, 1931 N. Meacham Road, Suite 100, Schaumburg, IL 60173-4360. Comments must be signed by the person submitting them to be considered.

OIE developing minimum veterinary education standards

Dr. Marguerite Pappaioanou thinks strengthening veterinary education across all countries could improve food safety and security and help keep animal diseases from moving across borders.

Dr. Pappaioanou, executive director of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, was among about 400 participants at an October 2009 conference of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) that examined veterinary education and model standards. Meeting in Paris, the international group drafted 28 recommendations for developing veterinary education worldwide and helping developing nations meet minimum standards.

An ad hoc group of veterinary authorities, including AVMA CEO W. Ron DeHaven, will discuss four of those proposals during a meeting June 29–July 1 in Paris. The group will consider how to establish basic standards, provide food safety and guard against diseases, improve public perception of veterinary services, and support continuing education.

Dr. DeHaven, who was one of the presenters at the October meeting, said the AVMA supports establishing a minimum standard for veterinary education, as no international restrictions currently exist to prevent anyone from opening a veterinary college and calling the graduates veterinarians.

Dr. Pappaioanou praised the OIE for taking needed actions, given the risks posed by foreign animal disease through food trade. But she said it's not yet clear what impact the final education recommendations, standards, or models would have.

Dr. DeHaven said the AVMA wants to avoid confusion between a minimum standard and the AVMA's gold standard for veterinary accreditation.

Some cross-border acceptance of veterinary degrees could be implemented regionally in areas that have comparable veterinary health systems and societal needs, Dr. DeHaven said. But the AVMA is working to avoid global recognition of a diploma.

Dr. John Clifford, OIE delegate from the United States and the deputy administrator for the Veterinary Services program in the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, thinks the OIE recommendations will positively affect U.S. veterinarians and their veterinary education and give accredited veterinarians better tools to meet U.S. disease prevention, preparedness, and response challenges. The proposals are aligned with USDA efforts to strengthen the National Veterinary Accreditation Program, which is being restructured to create two categories of accreditation, add continuing education requirements, and require renewals, he said.

The recommendations regarding regional integration of veterinary services and regional licensure would have indirect implications for the U.S. through the potential impact on trading partners' infrastructure, Dr. Clifford said.

Dr. Pappaioanou said some countries developing their poultry and livestock industries would benefit from international standards that would build their capability to improve the health of animals for domestic use and export. And Dr. DeHaven said the OIE efforts could help some countries develop self-sustaining infrastructure that would be conducive to trade in agricultural products.

World Veterinary Day to center on ‘One World, One Health’

World Veterinary Day 2010, April 24, will raise awareness of the links between animal and public health through the theme “One World, One Health: more cooperation between veterinarians and physicians.”

The World Veterinary Association established World Veterinary Day in 2000 as an annual celebration of the veterinary profession, falling on the last Saturday of April. The WVA partnered with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) two years ago to create the World Veterinary Day Award for the most successful celebration by a national veterinary association working alone or in cooperation with other veterinary groups.

In 2009, the Nepal Veterinary Association won the $1,000 award for best promoting the theme “Veterinarians and livestock farmers, a winning partnership.”

Many other organizations around the globe also marked World Veterinary Day last year. The AVMA publicized the occasion in the United States, noting concerns about a shortage of U.S. practitioners working in food supply veterinary medicine.

The 2010 World Veterinary Day Award will recognize the national veterinary association that best promotes the “One World, One Health” theme by involving stakeholders in World Veterinary Day. The deadline for national associations to apply for the award is May 1.

Information about World Veterinary Day and the World Veterinary Day Award is available at www.worldvet.org.

NAVTA announces new surgical technician specialty

The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America has announced a new specialty, the Academy of Veterinary Surgical Technicians.

It is the eighth specialty recognized by the association.

The Committee on Veterinary Technician Specialties is a subcommittee of NAVTA that provides guidelines to veterinary technician organizations to facilitate the formation of specialty organizations. The CVTS announced its recognition of the academy Jan. 28.

The AVST will create a standardized route through which technicians may qualify for a national examination to become a “veterinary technician specialist,” or VTS, in surgery.

The impetus for the new specialty came about from a 2009 survey of veterinary professionals who indicated the need for technicians with advanced knowledge in many areas related to surgery.

Veterinary technicians interested in learning the criteria involved in pursuing VTS certification in surgery should contact Reuss-Lamky at frzbdogmom@aol.com or Teri Raffel at raffelteri@gmail.com.

For more information about NAVTA and the veterinary technician specialties, visit its Web site at www.navta.net.

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