The Northeast Veterinary Liaison Committee was formed in 2003 to address issues relevant to the veterinary community and to improve relations between veterinarians in New England and the region's only veterinary school, the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. The committee's membership consisted of a diverse group of individuals, including small and large animal veterinarians, general practitioners, board-certified specialists, academicians, and administrators, all of whom volunteered their time. Representatives from the 6 New England states were included on the committee.
One of the many undertakings of the committee was to develop a document that would describe the expectations and responsibilities of the parties involved when a veterinarian in general practice refers a patient to a veterinary specialist. The genesis of this particular effort was the acknowledgment that there is a need for greater communication, professional respect, and collegiality in veterinary medicine. Committee members believe that professionalism and collegiality are important components of veterinary education, that schools and colleges of veterinary medicine should continually emphasize these concepts to their students, and that veterinarians should continually support these concepts throughout their careers.
With the proliferation of tertiary care referral and emergency hospitals and the increasing access to board-certified specialists, it is clear that more and more animals will be cared for by multiple veterinarians, often at more than one veterinary hospital. Although these advancements in veterinary care are beneficial for pet owners and the veterinary profession as a whole, they create challenges for veterinarians, who need to function as a team in caring for patients.
Ultimately, it is the committee's hope that this document will serve as an initial guideline for general practitioners and board-certified specialists so that communication is enhanced, public trust in the profession is maintained, and the best medical care possible is provided to our patients. We anticipate and hope that discussion and debate ensues from this publication and that it serves as a foundation for further clarification and characterization of the evolving relationship between general practitioners and specialists.