Two foreign veterinary colleges gain AVMA accreditation

Two landmark decisions came out of the AVMA Council on Education meeting March 6-8 at AVMA headquarters in Schaumburg, Ill.

The council granted the National Autonomous University of Mexico School of Veterinary Medicine, Mexico City, and Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in St. Kitts, West Indies, full accreditation status for seven years.

The two schools are the first to be recognized in their respective regions by the council.

The COE grants accreditation status to foreign schools and colleges of veterinary medicine on the basis of compliance with the 11 standards of accreditation. The accreditation of Ross and UNAM brings the total to 16 foreign veterinary schools and colleges that are accredited by the COE, including five in Canada. The 28 U.S. veterinary schools and colleges are also COE-accredited.

Accreditation by the COE represents the highest standard of achievement for veterinary medical education in the United States. All institutions seeking accreditation by the council submit to a voluntary, nongovernmental review to determine whether they meet accepted standards of quality.

Foreign colleges are required to undergo a preliminary or consultative site visit to determine their preparedness for a comprehensive site visit and are required to correct all deficiencies identified by the consultative site team before requesting a comprehensive site visit. That visit is the final step before the council makes an accreditation decision.

Ross veterinary school began seeking accreditation when it submitted a self-study report to the COE in July 2006, and the council conducted a consultative site visit Sept. 17-21, 2006.

According to Ross' website, the COE noted that the school needed to build a large animal isolation facility and expand its research program, among other things.

In February 2009, Ross submitted a progress report to the COE detailing upgrades to its facilities and programmatic improvements. However, at its March 2009 meeting, the council denied the school's request to conduct a comprehensive site visit. Another self-study was submitted to the council July 2010, and this time the COE, after reviewing the self-study in September that year, agreed to conduct a comprehensive accreditation site visit, which took place Jan. 16-20.

Students at Ross complete their basic science curriculum during seven 15-week semesters at the St. Kitts campus. Each student then completes a final year of clinical rotations at one of 22 COE-accredited veterinary schools in the United States.

Ross' current enrollment is approximately 1,000 students. A new class is admitted each semester, three times a year: September, January, and May.

Nearly all students at Ross University are American or Canadian citizens and return to North America to become licensed and pursue careers. Since its founding in 1982, the school has graduated more than 2,500 veterinarians.

"Achieving AVMA accreditation further affirms our commitment to excellence in veterinary education," said Dr. David J. DeYoung, dean of the Ross veterinary school. "We are pleased with the decision of the accrediting board and look forward to working with other AVMA-accredited schools and our affiliate clinical partners in the United States to advance the future of veterinary education."

UNAM began pursuing COE accreditation around the same time as Ross.

In spring 2006, the COE made a consultative site visit to Mexico City, and afterward, laid out recommendations for improvements that UNAM would need 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 was made in November 2009.

At its spring meeting Feb. 28-March 2, 2010, the council made an adverse accreditation decision regarding UNAM, which the veterinary school appealed.

Meanwhile, federal regulatory changes by the Department of Education, which went into effect July 1, caused the council to revise its Accreditation Policies and Procedures manual in eight areas. This included changes to the portion of the manual related to the due process afforded to institutions being evaluated for accreditation and the structure of the appeals process.

Before, when the COE made an adverse accreditation decision, it would send information to the institution about identified deficiencies at the same time it notified the institution of the decision.

Now, the council provides the institution with an opportunity to submit a written response regarding any deficiencies identified by the site team. This response is considered by the council before it takes any action.

In accordance with the changes made to comply with DOE guidelines, the council was required to vacate its earlier decision so that UNAM could respond in writing to each deficiency noted in the evaluation report prior to an accreditation decision. The council considered UNAM's response during its fall meeting Sept. 19-21, 2010, and decided to visit Mexico for a focus visit the first week of February 2011. Focus visits are for the sole purpose of allowing COE members to examine any areas where they found deficiencies in their previous evaluation. Using that information, the council voted to grant the school full accreditation.

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