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ACVS Strategic Planning 2013: A Targeted Approach

A group of 16 ACVS Diplomates and staff members recently met in a moderated session to review past strategic plans for the College and to generate an updated plan for the near future.  As the College grows to nearly 1,700 Diplomates, so, too, has the number and diversity of members’ expectations – a notable change over the past couple of years.  Meanwhile, first and foremost, the College is a certifying organization with increasing challenges to upholding the standards of excellence in veterinary surgery in a rapidly changing training environment.  With limited financial, volunteer and staff resources, an updated plan was necessary to focus the College on what it can do best. 

The hallmarks of the 2013 ACVS Strategic Plan are:

  1. Improve the quality and consistency of the residency programs.

This objective is our highest priority.  The variability of residency programs, from declining caseloads, to oversight, mentorship and the ability to meet the high standards of the ACVS is a concern.  The Residency Training Working Group has been hard at the task of addressing how we train residents and will soon make recommendations as to how we best move into the next 10 to 20 years to ensure the highest level of training of future ACVS board certified veterinary surgeons.

  1. Implement the restructuring of the examination.

The new examination structure of a two-phase process, with a preliminary examination mid-program followed by a final certifying examination, will be implemented with residents beginning in 2014.  The primary purpose for this change is to reinforce the need for ongoing education and intellectual growth through reading and research throughout residency training.  The group of members that have worked on this project have put tremendous thought and effort into not just formulating a change, but making the process and purpose of the examination better. 

  1. Establish and implement a structure/system to support maintenance of certification.

As you likely know, the AVMA though the ABVS (American Board of Veterinary Specialties) has mandated that Diplomates of all ABVS recognized specialty colleges who receive Diplomate status in 2016, and after, will have a time-limited diploma, which will require re-certification to maintain Diplomate status.  ACVS has developed a maintenance of certification system based on accumulating points for various professional activities.  Final details of data management remain in development.  This process will be very demanding of ACVS staff time and resources and a fee for maintenance of certification should be expected. 

  1. Enhance the value and relevance of the ACVS to its members.

The College is changing rapidly, not only in demographics but also in definitions and expectations of our member colleagues.  The ACVS leadership and staff affirm its commitment to having a meaningful presence in our members’ everyday professional lives, while maintaining our traditional high certifying standards.  Commitments to remaining relevant include:

  • Our redesigned website is a much more useful resource for members and animal owners seeking the best of veterinary surgery. 
  • We have initiated cooperative discussions with the ACVIM to combine forces and resources to put a stronger face forward for specialty veterinary medicine. 
  • ACVS is participating in the new national Veterinary Specialists Outreach & Awareness Project (SOAP) initiative, which includes helping to market specialty training.
  • We are working through the ABVS of the AVMA to block potential threats to our specialty of veterinary surgery.  Several groups have tried to short cut credentials and imitate our Diplomate status as surgeons.  We remain vigilant that ACVS will remain the only AVMA recognized specialty college in veterinary surgery. 
  1. Strengthen the Symposium’s position as the premier source of veterinary surgical CE and exploit additional CE opportunities.

ACVS is committed to continued enhancement of Diplomate-level education, as well as exploring ways to make the Symposium more desirable for members.  As professionals we rely on the Symposium for much of our continuing education and training.  Likewise, the ACVS relies on revenues from the Symposium for much of the College’s operations. 

  1. Develop a financial model with a self-sustaining credentialing program.

A substantial portion of the ACVS budget is directed at supplementing and absorbing costs (approximately 50%) associated with credentialing residents and conducting the examination process.  Developing a model such that the costs of credentialing and examination are primarily supported by residents and training programs would allow the ACVS to accomplish much more of what our members are asking of the College.  We recognize the implications of this change and therefore look to careful planning to make this concept workable for all involved.

These objectives of the 2013 ACVS Strategic Plan are reasonable and attainable and support the ultimate purpose of the College: to assure ACVS board certified veterinary surgeons provide the highest quality of surgical care. 

Thank you for your continued support of the ACVS and for all of your hard work for the College and veterinary surgery.  If you have any thoughts or comments, please feel free to contact me at egaughan@vt.edu.

All the best,
Earl M. Gaughan, DVM
Diplomate and Chair, ACVS Board of Regents

August 2013