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progress on efforts to: 1) identify what core competency (knowledge, skills and experience/education or KSEs) are needed for a well-trained aquatic veterinary workforce; 2) evaluate and validate that these KSEs meet the needs of this workforce in delivering services to aquaculture and ornamental aquatic animal producers and owners; and, 3) determine what educational opportunities exist in veterinary school curricular, and how well they address the needs of these industries.
While efforts by several entities address aquatic veterinary education needs, that of the World Aquatic Veterinary Medical Association (WAVMA) stands out. Developed in 2010 the Aquatic Veterinary Certification (CertAqV) Program identifies the core (Day-1) knowledge, skills and experience (KSEs) needed. It also recognizes those veterinarians with sufficient KSE (obtained through a variety of educational opportunities) as competent
to practice aquatic veterinary medicine. Specifically,
this program identifies nine core subject-matter areas (Modules) that are directly relevant to providing aquatic veterinary services to aquaculture and/or ornamental (pet) producers and animal owners. They primarily focus on finfish, molluscan and crustacean medicine, although the principles are easily applicable to any aquatic taxa, including mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.
These Modules include both preclinical and clinical topics that an aquatic veterinarian needs to be familiar with, including:
Preclinical:
1. Anatomy and physiology of aquatic species/taxa;
2. Environmental factors affecting aquatic animal health;
3. Structure and function of aquaculture and ornamental (pet) industries
Clinical:
4. Pathobiology and epidemiology of important aquatic animal diseases;
5. Clinical and laboratory diagnostics used for diagnosing aquatic animal diseases;
6. Availability and appropriate use of therapeutic and biologic agents in aquatic veterinary medicine;
7. Public health, zoonotic diseases and seafood safety issues important in aquatic veterinary medicine;
8. International and national legislation, regulations and policies affecting aquatic veterinary medicine; and
9. Principles of welfare and humane treatment of aquatic animals.
Importantly, in developing the CertAqV Program it
was recognized that if creative, adaptive thinking is an integral part of a veterinary curriculum, that 80-90% of the general medical principles learned during veterinary
school can easily be applied to aquatic veterinary medicine.
1A veterinary workforce includes veterinarians and para- veterinarians (veterinary technicians or nurses, fisheries biologists, and other research scientists who provide important and vital laboratory and other supportive services) who collectively provide the services needed
to ensure the health and welfare, and implement optimal measures for the prevention, control and eradication of animal diseases. In most countries, these individuals need to be licensed or registered (DeHaven & Scarfe, 2012).
While some aquatic veterinary organizations and veterinary schools are examining which of these nine Modules are covered in their educational programs or curriculum, whether these meet the needs of aquatic veterinarians in private practice has not yet been validated.
Customarily veterinarians have relied on extracurricular continuing education and professional development (CEPD) programs after graduation or post-graduate degrees, to refine or improve their knowledge, skills and experience (KSEs) to practice in any chosen field. While aquatic CEPD programs are abundant (e.g. Hartman, et al., 2006), little attention has been given to discover how veterinary school curricular address aquatic veterinary medicine.
An early, small study suggested that a number of European universities (not all were at veterinary schools) offer aquatic animal health courses suitable
for veterinarians (Weber et al., 2009). Two follow-up surveys, one of European veterinary schools (De Briyne, 2014, personal communication & unpublished data), and another (Scarfe, 2014, personal communication
& unpublished data) that focused on N. American
and asked questions related to the WAVMA CertAqV Program subject matter, revealed some interesting additional preliminary information: around 60% of veterinary schools in both regions included some aspects of aquatic veterinary medicine into at least one course; 50-60% of these courses were required of all students; most courses were given every year; some of these courses had been taught for >20 years; and, the majority of courses emphasized finfish (vs. other aquatic species).
While no veterinary school covered all Day-1 subjects identified by WAVMA as important to practice aquatic veterinary medicine, these studies and other information suggested that a large number of veterinarians (perhaps 5-10,000) in North America, Western Europe and perhaps Australia/New Zealand, may have sufficient KSEs to support an adequate aquatic veterinary workforce, whereas other regions need improvement. Building on this information we are in the process of evaluating and validating the KSEs needed to practice aquatic veterinary
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