California Foreign Vet Bill Fails

To the relief of many practitioners and to the dismay of others, a California bill did not pass in August that would have drastically changed veterinary medicine in the state. California Assembly Bill 2842 would have allowed graduates of any veterinary school in the world to bypass clinical proficiency tests of the Education Commission on Foreign Veterinary Graduates (ECFVG) and sit for the California veterinary medicine licensing exam. The bill was passed in the Assembly, but never left the Senate's Business and Professions committee.

To some, the bill represented the licensure of insufficiently educated veterinarians, who in turn might be granted reciprocity to practice in other states. To foreign veterinary graduates, the bill offered to remove one of the hurdles over which they are forced to jump before being licensed to practice in the state. (See opposing viewpoints on the bill "Heads Up! Loose Horse!" and "Change is Needed" in the July 2000 issue of The Horse.)

But the story isn't finished. Although AB2842 failed passage, it could be submitted again next year for review. The bill was sponsored by Banfield Pet Hospitals (formerly VetSmart), which is based in Portland, Oregon. Banfield holds that California and all of the states are experiencing a shortage of practitioners for clinics, and current interstate and international reciprocity practices make the situation more severe. This shortage is particularly evident in their quest to find veterinarians to work in the hospital's 250-plus in-store vet clinics nationwide.

In a positioning statement on AB2842, Banfield said, "We believe that it is imperative that our profession starts to address this problem. A single school of veterinary medicine in this large populous state, even a great school, cannot meet the new demand." It continued, "New opportunities for California residents to receive a veterinary education must be sought, and barriers of entry of qualified and experienced veterinarians licensed in other states need to be removed. Costly and time-consuming barriers that make it difficult for graduates of foreign veterinary educational programs to become licensed should also be removed."

Not every member of the veterinary community agreed. "The AVMA is in favor of a process to benchmark the level of competence for all veterinary graduates before they are allowed to become licensed by the state boards," said Bruce W. Little, DVM, Executive Vice President of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). "This bill was an attempt to create another method by which Mexican and some South American vets can come in and take the boards without benchmarking the quality of their education."

Banfield feels there was some misunderstanding on the bill. "AB2842 does nothing to diminish the quality of veterinary care in California," the positioning statement said. "It simply seeks to eliminate the unnecessary time barriers and financial burdens that would face California students who seek to study abroad at a veterinary school that has not been accredited by a National agency using equivalent criteria and standards."

Loran Hickton is Banfield's Senior Director of Professional and Community relations. "If you have high-quality (practitioners), and the ultimate overall and single concern is quality care," he said, "and if these graduates can meet the appropriate requirements and they care about and want to protect their patients, should we not make the (licensing) process less complicated?"

The AVMA has approved three foreign universities through which graduates can come to the states and bypass ECFVG exams. The AVMA feels that these universities meet the essentials for accreditation and approval, and more schools will be going that route. There are ways for foreign graduates to come into the United States and practice, Little explained, and AB2842 would have expedited this process only for certain countries.

"The practice of veterinary medicine is based on the scientific education that one gets," said Little, "and there's a big difference between training clinicians for doing clinical procedures and educating people in the science of veterinary medicine."

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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