Message from the Dean

Accreditation Visit: A Time for Reflection

[a summer day reflected in Basic Sciences Building entryway]

This message will appear in the February/March 2020 issue of the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association Bulletin.

Our self-study tells a positive story

At the start of a new year many people take stock of their lives and resolve to make adjustments that will help them achieve their goals.

Organizationally, the college uses strategic planning to regularly carry out a similar function. And for the purposes of ensuring that our educational program remains robustly on track, our accrediting body, the AVMA Council on Education (COE), conducts comprehensive reviews every seven years.

In anticipation of our COE site visit at the end of March, the college has prepared an exhaustive self-study document—nearly 100 pages including appendices—covering 11 rubrics from faculty and facilities to students, curriculum, clinical resources, and outcomes assessment.

Like a New Year’s self-evaluation, the self-study document required by the COE provides a chance for reflection. It captures current metrics and trends over time. I’m proud to report that our self-study tells a very positive story. We’ve accomplished an incredible amount over the past seven years, and we have a vision for what the future holds for our college.

Here are some of the advances made since our 2013 accreditation visit, as well as plans for ongoing improvements:

  • Faculty: Despite high demand for clinical specialists, since 2013 we have successfully recruited two boarded neurologists, two boarded cardiologists, and two boarded dentists. We now have three sports-medicine certified surgeons. Vibrant radiation oncology and shelter medicine programs have been established. Our current faculty hiring plan includes new clinical and research-focused positions that will improve our student-to-faculty ratio and enrich the student experience.
  • Facilities: The college has completed, or is the process of completing, more than $27.3M in capital improvement projects since 2013. This total includes major renovations to teaching spaces, the acquisition of a 3T MRI and linear accelerator, expansion and renovation of hospital facilities, the acquisition of a satellite equine practice, and more. Later this year the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory will replace its incinerator.
  • Students: Your Illinois DVM program has gained a strong standing among national applicants seeking admission. The percentage of non-residents accepting initial offers of acceptance rose from a 10-year average of 26% to the past four years’ average of 56%. When we ask candidates on Interview Day why they applied to Illinois, their No. 1 response for the past eight years has been our innovative competency-based curriculum. I’m also pleased to note that our student body diversity has increased markedly over the past five years. In the class of 2023, one in five students identifies as part of an under-represented group and 28% are first-generation college students.
  • Curriculum: While no major core curricular revisions are planned at this time, core courses are in a constant state of revision. Led by our new educationalist faculty member, the college is creating a comprehensive curriculum map that indexes learning goals for each hour of lecture and for each clinical rotation. The map allows faculty to see when and where content is being taught.
  • Clinical Resources: The number of animal patients available for teaching at our hospital in Urbana has increased by 15% over the past five years. We’ve seen strong growth in the canine, feline, and equine caseload and have excellent diversity of species, including pet birds, pet mammals, and wildlife. The number of animals hospitalized and the number of hospitalized days have increased 95% and 49%, respectively, over the past five years.
  • Outcomes Assessment: One measure of student success is their employment rate. According to data in the AVMA Senior Survey, reported employment rates for Illinois students at/just before graduation has been consistently higher than the national average, with a five-year mean rate of 97% for Illinois students vs. 93% nationally.

After their site visit this spring, the AVMA COE team will provide some preliminary feedback to the college, and a full report from the COE should follow by the end of the year. We will use that information to help guide our 2020-2025 strategic plan.

Our alumni and the Illinois professional veterinary community are vital partners in the education of our students. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or input regarding our program. We are committed to a continual process of reflection and improvement.