With the current emphasis on doing outcome assessment of educational programs, it is perhaps appropriate to do such an assessment of the 13th Symposium on Veterinary Medical Education. We were presumptuous enough to state that we would "design a template for the 21st century." How well did we meet our own stated goals? My view is that the participants in this Symposium can be proud of the effort and the outcome of this meeting.
The participants worked hard and gave a very significant effort. This is evident from the reports of the 6 workshops which precede this concluding statement. Dr. Billy Hooper has given his view of where we were, what we did, and what we concluded during this meeting and I shall not repeat his most eloquent remarks. Instead, my purpose is to emphasize those items which we did not truly reach closure on: the hard decisions that will be most critical in our future success in post-DVM educational and training programs.
Mentoring of both graduate students and junior faculty was a major focus of much of the meeting and many good suggestions have been made. The nagging question which remains, however, is what will we do, individually and collectively, to correct those problems which we all know exist in our current programs? Are we prepared to prevent some faculty members from advising graduate students or residents because they have poor interpersonal skills, abuse trainees as individuals, and do not give them the respect they deserve? Will we develop remedial programs to improve the skills of such individuals so that we improve the educational or training setting for all of our colleagues? The answer is one to which we must all contribute.
Many good ideas were put forward about recruiting strategies and how to obtain more funding, both for graduate stipends and for research projects themselves. However, none of those ideas will be of any value unless each veterinary college, each department, each administrator and each faculty person makes the decision to actually submit more proposals; require all veterinarians in training programs to submit stipend funding requests to the appropriate funding agencies; and take advantage of the many funding opportunities for training programs within both USDA and NIH. The USDA Multicultural Scholars program offers an excellent opportunity to gain support for a more diverse student body in the professional program. Will we take advantage of that opportunity?
Challenges to existing systems were issued by some of the panelists that were not specifically addressed by the workshops. Dr. August suggested that the present residency matching program works satisfactorily except that it provides no opportunity for the trainee to match her or his career desires with a specific program that would best suit that objective. Can this be accommodated in the present system? Dr. Coffman raised the issues of having faculty better prepared in educational methodologies and the possible option of giving practitioners a larger role in our teaching programs. Which colleges will step forward with some innovative ideas on these topics? Dr. Prieur suggested that we do a good job of preparing a graduate student to do research but a very poor job of preparing that same individual to be a successful faculty member. My own experience suggests that my international students usually were much more inquisitive about how one developed and managed a research and teaching program than the domestic students. Should we become more proactive about this issue?
Dr. Hooper made an excellent point when he told the participants to ask themselves this question: "If I am not the most knowledgeable and concerned person in my institution--then who is?." I would add my challenge to that of Dr. Hooper's. This Symposium will have a benefit to our students, colleges, and institutions only to the extent that we are prepared to make the effort to effect change in the way we are doing things. Much effort has been expended to reach this point, but it pales in comparison to the effort that will be needed if we are to make the improvements which we have agreed are needed in our post-DVM programs. I wish you much success in this endeavor.
William C. Wagner, Chair