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  News from the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association                                                    Winter 2011

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American Board of Veterinary Specialties Considers Two New Members

Veterinary specialists registered by the AVMA’s American Board of Veterinary Specialties (ABVS) member organizations numbered 9826 in 2009, according to market research data compiled by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). This represents slightly more than 10% of the number of American veterinarians, 87,998, counted for the same year. Since 1951 the AVMA has been overseeing the designation of specialty organizations and colleges within veterinary medicine, offering formal recognition to those groups that act to promote advanced competency in well-defined areas of study or practice that will provide the public with exceptional veterinary service. The ABVS is comprised of one voting representative from each of the AVMA-recognized veterinary specialty organizations, plus non-voting liaisons from the Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges and the AVMA Council on Education.

Currently there are 21 AVMA-recognized veterinary specialty organizations comprising 40 distinct specialties. The ABVS is reviewing the petitions of two groups seeking their recognition: The American College of Animal Welfare (ACAW) and the Specialty of Parasitology within the American College of Veterinary Microbiologists (ACVM). The ABVS will consider the relevance and importance of these groups to the enhancement of veterinary medicine, as well as the integrity and suitability of the training and certification procedures for the group. They will solicit opinions from the general membership of the AVMA and from allied specialties, colleges and experts, amongst others, in a formal evaluation process that may take years for completion.

The home page of the American College of Animal Welfare lists this mission statement:

The mission of the American College of Animal Welfare, ACAW, is to advance animal welfare through education, certification, and scientific investigation. Once recognized by AVMA, Diplomates of the American College of Animal Welfare will include veterinarians with specialized training and experience to carry out the ACAW mission.

The ACAW defines animal welfare as the state of the animal. Assessment of welfare includes consideration of the animal’s health, behavior, and biological function.

The AVMA does place high importance on the topic of animal welfare and agrees that protecting an animal’s welfare means providing for its physical and mental needs, but they do also acknowledge that there will be many perspectives on animal welfare influenced by individual values and experience. The AVMA website states:

The AVMA, as a medical authority for the health and welfare of animals, offers the following eight integrated principles for developing and evaluating animal welfare policies, resolutions, and actions.

  • The responsible use of animals for human purposes, such as companionship, food, fiber, recreation, work, education, exhibition, and research conducted for the benefit of both humans and animals, is consistent with the Veterinarian’s Oath.

  • Decisions regarding animal care, use, and welfare shall be made by balancing scientific knowledge and professional judgment with consideration of ethical and societal values.

  • Animals must be provided water, food, proper handling, health care, and an environment appropriate to their care and use, with thoughtful consideration for their species-typical biology and behavior.

  • Animals should be cared for in ways that minimize fear, pain, stress, and suffering.

  • Procedures related to animal housing, management, care, and use should be continuously evaluated, and when indicated, refined or replaced.

  • Conservation and management of animal populations should be humane, socially responsible, and scientifically prudent.

  • Animals shall be treated with respect and dignity throughout their lives and, when necessary, provided a humane death.

  • The veterinary profession shall continually strive to improve animal health and welfare through scientific research, education, collaboration, advocacy, and the development of legislation and regulations.

The members of the American College of Veterinary Microbiologists requesting the parasitology specialty designation state their objectives:

The objectives of a RVS (recognized veterinary specialty) in veterinary parasitology are to further scientific progress in teaching and research in veterinary parasitology; establish standards of training, experience, and examination for qualification as a specialist in veterinary parasitology; further the recognition of such qualified specialists by suitable certification; and encourage and promote the establishment of standards for the performance of clinical and laboratory procedures in veterinary parasitology. Awareness of the importance of parasitology in veterinary medicine has led to recent and rapid growth in this field, particularly in terms of demand for veterinary continuing educational opportunities and request for diagnostic services; there is also keen interest in veterinary parasitology among both professional students and practicing veterinarians. Accordingly, we hope that this move will serve to recruit more outstanding veterinarians into the field of veterinary parasitology by offering them an AVMA-endorsed route to board certification and specialization in the field. Advancement of parasitology as a discipline and the quality of veterinary medical care in our nation is expected to result.

They emphasize the importance of parasites to public and animal health and to livestock productivity and profitability. Their petition references the 28% market share of antiparasitics in worldwide sales of animal health products to underscore the financial impact of parasites. It is suggested that that much of the information about parasite diagnosis, management and control is provided to practitioners and producers by manufacturers and diagnostic laboratories, information that is neither objective nor impartial. Parasitology specialists can offer evidence-based recommendations without bias as a significant benefit to the profession.

For additional information about the credentialing process or the proposed introduction of these specialties please refer to the AVMA’s website for the ABVS:

Also watch for postings in the Journal of the AVMA for your opportunity to comment on the value to veterinary medicine of these specialty groups.

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Important Links from this article

American Board of Veterinary Specialties

American College of Animal Welfare

American College of Veterinary Microbiologists

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