The deciding panel is taking comments until February 28
In veterinary medicine, there are nearly 50 specialties, covering organs and body systems (cardiology, dermatology, ophthalmology), types of animals (avian, feline, beef cattle), and sectors (animal welfare, zoomedecine, emergency and intensive care), to name a few. Should education and teaching also be a specialty?
This issue is before the American Board of Veterinary Specialties, through a proposal to create an organization that would set standards for advanced educational training and certify those who meet the standards. The ABVS is soliciting public input to assess the need for and acceptance of the proposed specialty. The comment period ends on February 28.
The proposal for the creation of an American College of Veterinary Medical Education (ACVME) gives this justification: “The teaching affects every veterinarian, whatever his species, his type of practice or his professional background; yet learning how to do it well is neglected in higher education, especially at all levels of veterinary medical education.
The specialty, according to the proposal, would “advance animal care by creating a pool of expert and specialized teachers who can enhance the knowledge and abilities of every student and veterinarian through effective, high-quality teaching.”
Board certification would enhance good teaching, says Dr. Jane Manfredi, an assistant professor at the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine who specializes in large animal surgery.
“You can be fantastic at surgery without necessarily having the best tools to communicate it to others or to explain it,” ACVME organizing committee member Manfredi said in an interview. “Often we give up on our natural talents or teach the way we have been taught, and that’s not always the fastest and most effective way to teach.”
Manfredi has been interested in teaching best practices since she was a graduate student and resident at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. While on the Michigan State faculty, she is pursuing a postgraduate certificate in veterinary education from the London-based Royal Veterinary College.
“We do online learning and reading, we meet synchronously every three weeks or so,” she said. “But it’s not the one-on-one mentorship you would get from residency training, where you would be observed very regularly in the teaching process.”
This type of support, she believes, is necessary for faculty members who want to “learn more about how we can be most effective in our teaching practices. And it will help this next generation of veterinarians become competent, self-reliant learners.
Some consider the proposal to create a specialized college for veterinary education unfeasible and question its necessity, since resources for training and educational support already exist within universities and entities such as the Academy of Medical Educators.
Dr. Rachael Carpenter, a part-time clinical instructor in anesthesiology at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, believes that veterinary faculty in general could benefit from more instruction on how best to deliver education.
However, she is not convinced that a specialized college is justified.
“I might see this as a suggestion for advancement, adding titles and certifications,” reflected Carpenter, who is also a consultant for the Veterinary Information Network, an online community for the profession and parent of the VIN News Service. “I really don’t think it’s a bad idea for teachers of veterinary medicine to get more training on how to educate veterinary students. I don’t see this as a specialty level. What need is missing that would be filled by this?
“It’s not like people who have already done a residency can’t already take certification programs like the Masters in Veterinary Education through the Royal Veterinary College,” she continued. “Why not start by improving the programs we already have? »
Carpenter noted that residencies are generally a three-year commitment for those without a faculty position and six years for those who do. “It takes twice as long to do the residency and you only get part of your salary,” she said. “You have to take a pay cut to do it.
Dr. Mark Rishniw, a veterinary cardiologist who teaches biostatistics, biomedical article writing and cardiology at Cornell University, submitted a comment to the ABVS opposing the proposed specialty, calling the time commitment potential required for certification of “most glaring and obvious concern”.
“Presumably the only people who would seek this certification are university professors involved in (primarily didactic, non-clinical) teaching,” wrote Rishniw, who is also a research director at VIN. “How would these candidates find the time to pursue another qualification in addition to their regular clinical, teaching, research and service faculty commitments?”
In all other specialties, he said, “a residency is a full-time commitment.”
Another concern raised by Rishniw is that veterinary students are often trained by non-veterinarians such as anatomists, biologists, microbiologists, virologists, parasitologists and physiologists. Professors without veterinary degrees would be excluded of the proposed honors college, creating a two-tier system.
“Creating a certification program that excludes these educators simply because they lack a veterinary degree will lead to a bipartisan hierarchy within the veterinary college,” he wrote. “Given that education is not specific to veterinary medicine or veterinarians, why are these educators excluded from the possibility of becoming diplomats?”
Lead the effort
The proposal to create a veterinary education specialty was conceived in fall 2020 at the Lincoln Memorial University Center for Innovation in Veterinary Education and Technology, according to Dr. Stacy Anderson, dean of the LMU College of Veterinary Medicine.
“We have a huge interest in veterinary education at LMU,” Anderson said in an interview.
According to its website, the center is home to researchers “studying new methods of veterinary education, disruptors of traditional didactic lectures, model builders for simulations and clinical skills assessments, and frontline clinical educators.”
What they found, Anderson said, is a subset of vets with a passion for education. “So the creation of a new college for teaching veterinary medicine would give these people a way to get credentials not just in their specialty, but… in teaching veterinary medicine” , she said.
As for questions about how residency training works, Anderson said a residency may not be required at all. Instead, she said, the proposed specialty structure could resemble that of the American College of Veterinary Preventative Medicine, which offers alternatives to completing a residency for board certification.
According to its website, applicants to the ACVPM must have “qualifying experience or training” obtained in one of two ways: completion of a graduate degree or other formal training in preventive medicine, public health or a related science; or be in the final year of a formal college-approved training or residency program.
Decisions on the structure of the ACVME will not be finalized until it has the green light to proceed, Anderson said: “It’s too early in the process.”
Other provocative questions that have yet to be answered relate to other aspects of compensation. For example, in general, specialization improves the earning power of practitioners. Would this be the case for someone certified in veterinary education? Or would faculty salaries ultimately be reduced for those without board certification?
In his comments to the ABVS, Rishniw also wondered how mentors for early ACVME candidates might be identified: “Unless a group of veterinarians are ‘grandfathered’ into the specialty, there is ‘there is no ground anyone would qualify on that has been listed in the proposal,’ he wrote.
Anderson said these questions would be answered as the college evolves. “Nothing really happens until public opinion, and until we know if the American Board of Veterinary Specialties will allow ACVMS to move into the next phase of development,” she said.
“This specialty board is a way to allow some quality control of veterinary medical education, for which there is none,” she added, apart from the accreditation process that certifies veterinary school curricula. “There are no officially recognized best practices by the profession or other specialist colleges.”
Anderson noted that there is already movement by regional groups, including the Southeastern Veterinary Education Consortium and the Western Regional Colleges of Veterinary Medicine Consortium, to identify, share and leverage teaching expertise, thus providing platforms for veterinary education. The formation of a specialized college “would give a national or international dimension to this movement”, she said.
The ABVS, which is a 12-member committee of the American Veterinary Medical Association, currently recognizes 46 specialties and 22 specialty organizations.
If eventually approved, veterinary medicine would be the first healthcare profession to make education a specialty.