Accreditation Visit Will Bring
Insight, Action, and Improvement
by Dr. Ted Valli
Were getting ready for important visitors here. From April 17 to 21, a team from the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education (COE) will conduct an accreditation review of the College to ensure that we meet the 11 essentials of accreditation set by AVMA as well as our own stated goals. Far from being an exercise, we welcome this opportunity to gain objective insights about the strengths and weaknesses of our College.
There are only 27 veterinary colleges in the United States at which a veterinary medical degree can be earned. Each is evaluated regularly by the AVMA and must maintain high standards of excellence to keep its accreditation.
A site visit is conducted every seven years, and in the interim the College submits annual progress reports to the COE. In preparation for the visit, we are preparing an exhaustive self-report that encompasses each of the 11 essential areas. The outcomes assessment survey completed by recent graduates and their employers last year was one part of our self-evaluation efforts; some of those findings are reported in our Survey Results article, also published in this issue.
Site visit team members cannot have any affiliation with the college they are evaluating. The committee coming here includes veterinary faculty from Iowa State and Colorado State, veterinarians from private and public practice in Mississippi and Georgia, representatives from the Illinois State VMA and the Canadian VMA, a non-veterinary faculty member from the University of Minnesota, and an AVMA veterinarian serving as staff consultant.
The objective of accreditation through the COE is to "assure that each graduate of an accredited college of veterinary medicine will be firmly based in the fundamental principles, scientific knowledge, and physical and mental skills of veterinary medicine. Graduates should be able to apply these fundamentals to solving veterinary medical problems for different species and types of domestic animals."
In addition, each graduate should leave the college with "a basis for a variety of career activities, including clinical patient care, research, and other non-clinical options relevant to animal and human health" as well as a basis for a lifetime of learning and professional development.
The accreditation team that visited in 1991 found that the College met the essential in all areas. Their recommendations included such things as to consider incorporating exposure to clinical cases into the early years of the curriculum; to make efforts to hire faculty from outside the University of Illinois; to provide better office and study space for graduate students and residents; and to develop combined DVM/masters and DVM/PhD programs. We have sought to address each of these areas.
Their strongest recommendations related to our research facilities. "The space for infectious disease research is completely inadequate," stated the teams report. "The highest order of importance must be given to providing adequate large animal research facilities, especially those required for research in infectious diseases. These must include the construction of a Level 2 biocontainment building ..."
Our response was to raze the Veterinary Medicine Research Building immediately and to press forward, in collaboration with other units on campus involved in biotechnology, in seeking a biocontainment facility in which to conduct infectious disease and transgenic research. As an interim measure two prefabricated buildings were erected at the Veterinary Research Farm to permit work on agents with low level danger of spread. The College is now proposing to renovate areas within the Veterinary Medicine Basic Sciences Building to address the need for research laboratory space.
The accreditation process is a valued and necessary part of our continual efforts toward improvement. It is fitting that this visit falls during the celebration of the Colleges 50th year, when we are examining our history and our achievements and making plans to use our heart, vision, and voice to improve human and animal health throughout the future.
P.S. Let me add my personal encouragement to each of you to participate in the many 50th anniversary activities planned for April 10. Mark your calendars now and look for an invitation and details in the mail soon!