Journal Of Veterinary Medical Education

Volume 21, Number 2
Fall, 1994


Discussion Leader: Bennie I. Osburn, DVM, PhD
Rapporteur: Blair Meldrum, DVM, PhD


The assigned topic for group consideration was "Regionalization of training and research programs." Initial discussions centered on the issues, strategies and solutions to the 3 items given our work group in the program outline:

  • Need for strategic planning
  • Inability of each college to offer all specialties or discipline based degrees
  • Problems of institutional control or identity in this approach

It soon became apparent that the word "regionalization" may not reflect a correct connotation. After considering several alternatives, the group achieved consensus on a more global title for our topic, namely, "Interinstitutional Postgraduate Training and Research Programs."


Identification of the various issues involved with this topic provoked much discussion. Following consideration of all possible issues, a summarized list was developed as a framework for promoting further discussion and analysis during the workshop. The six issues are:

  • The need is primarily emerging opportunities
  • Institutional control and identify of participating constituents
  • Standards--quality of program and ability to meet accreditation guidelines
  • Impact of local political issues and environment on program
  • Content of program and the participants
  • Resources needed to initiate and assure continuity of programs

The Strategies and Solutions

The Needs--Emerging Opportunity Areas that Address Societal Issues: These issue areas represent the greatest societal needs, the best opportunities for funding and the areas that, in most of our academic institutions, lack a critical mass necessary to initiate significant programs at this time. These are:

  • Food safety
  • Environment--wildlife, ecology, biodiversity, toxicology
  • New and emerging diseases of animals, zoonoses
  • Companion animals and their effects on society
  • Animal behavior and welfare
  • Public health
  • Human health--vaccinology, models of human disease
  • Aquatic medicine

Cutting across all of the above opportunity areas are the following issues which need to be incorporated in the programs: outcomes assessment; epidemiology/data collection/analysis; risk assessment; and systems approaches to the problems/issues.

Institutional Control and Identification of Participating Units

It is critical for the success and smooth operation of these programs that definitive guidelines and operational policies be established early. This can be accomplished by:

  • Clear definition of responsibilities in Memorandum's of Understanding (MOU's) by accountable people.
  • Establishment of oversight Committee with true partnership that is committed to facilitating the administrative aspects of the Programs.
  • Establishment of operations and coordinating group/committee at the lowest level possible to assure the success of the day-to-day operations.

Establishing Standards for the Program

Success of any program depends upon the establishment of quality program plans.

  • Need a statement of the idealized product, i.e., what are the characteristics of the trained product from the program.
  • Establish a protocol and guidelines for a regular review of the program by outside competent peer review panels.
  • Determine the faculty/mentor expertise and other resources that must be contributed by each participating partner in building new programs.
  • Establish outcomes assessment and ensure feedback and input from students and peers.

Political Environment and Issues

The local and sometimes national political environments have tended to discourage these programs in the past. The advantages and disadvantages of these programs need to be addressed so that local political, commodity, and administrative leaders understand the benefits and limitations of these programs.

  • Increase base of political support by explaining the advantages of multi-institutional programs which involve academic, federal and industry collaborations. This can be accomplished, for example, by:
  • a) Develop variety of video/telecommunications links with other institutions for information exchange.
    b) Demonstrate that cooperation permits rapid exchange of information and technology.
    c) Allow institution to participate in and deliver programs in otherwise unattainable areas.
  • Agree on tuition--abolish tuition payments between institutions and initiate complete reciprocity.
  • Develop agreements and use them. Changing political and administrative forces expect this to occur.
  • Expensive programs, if shared, should result in economic benefits to students, consumers and policy bodies.

Content of Programs

The content and viability of programs is dependent on the need and enthusiasm of the students, faculty and consumers. Major issues to consider when developing these programs include:

  • Leadership of programs
  • Defined product of the program(s) including graduate degrees, residency, and certificate programs
  • Participation of research consortiums which would facilitate incorporation of information and technology into the programs
  • Programs tailored to specific species, disciplines, issues as needed


Resources are needed to assure the success of the programs. These resources include:

  • Intellectual input in the form of faculty, mentors and key stakeholders.
  • Establish worth of program for consumer whether it is producer, students or society.
  • Before resources can be assimilated, strategies need to be defined for marketing purposes. This includes who, how and what will be marketed.
  • Potential sources for start-up funds and longer term funding areas are as follows:
  • Colleges of veterinary medicine could assess each participant "x" percent of budget or specified dollars to initiate the program.
  • Approach foundations for planning grants and fellowship support.
  • USDA Higher Education Challenge grants may provide planning funds.
  • Commodity groups are becoming more cognizant of societal issues and may offer to train future experts in these areas.
  • The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) may entertain new opportunities for societal issues.
  • Pharmaceutical/biologics/food processors, and other nontraditional stakeholders may help fund fellowship/training programs.
  • Investigate international trade agreements for potential training opportunities.


It is the recommendation of this work group to the 13th Symposium on Veterinary Medical Education that academic veterinary medicine increase interinstitutional efforts to address societal problems that include increased opportunities for graduate training programs.

Strategic Plan

Where do we go from here? It became evident during the course of discussion that the development of a strategic plan was essential to implementation of interinstitutional graduate training and research programs. Definition and clarification of who, what and how must be accomplished along with a clear sense of why. What is the need for such a program and what is going to be done without some inducement that will cause some groups to get together on inter-institutional programs? What areas or programs are worth considering in this light?

This work group recommends that these issues and a strategic plan be coordinated by AAVMC in conjunction with some foundation(s) to initiate these new opportunities in Interinstitutional Postgraduate Training and Research Programs. A strategic plan may include the following:

  • Consider compelling forces and areas that are critically in need of change.
  • Create the rationale necessary to communicate these to our customers.
  • Incorporate stakeholders in planning process (establish priorities based on fund sources and problem needs).
  • Make critical business decisions.
  • a) Interinstitutional
    b) Consider other critical mechanisms
  • Identify the issues and needed expertise; make assignments based on what each participant could contribute. Decide who would make the decisions; the interested parties come to the table with their offerings, and those that don't have significant offerings would have to be informed what they need to do to participate (viz., the grant review "pink sheet" model).
  • Determine the real motivation students have to do graduate work, (either residency, MS, PhD or postdoctoral). It is essential to consider the intellectual curiosity of the individual student and the importance of having a critical mass of students, faculty and material resources to accomplish the task.