The veterinary profession has limited training and career opportunities to develop the leadership and response skills necessary to support animal health and safety needs during emergency response. Not to mention, there are no national training standards for veterinary disasters and first responders.
“Nobody is trained in (veterinary) emergency planning or response at the local level as a main task,” according to information from the AVMA Committee on Disaster and Emergency Matters. “The next thing we have is the county EM (Emergency Management) coordinators, and most of them are not animal savvy. We have to rely on volunteers and reach out to others, ”including emergency managers, advisors and animal control officers.
As a result, veterinarians can find it difficult to get started when volunteering on a local or regional disaster response team. To fill this gap and build on the legacy of AVMA’s disaster relief efforts, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation’s Board of Directors, at its November 2020 meeting, voted to provide a $ 80,000 AVMA Certificate Program to Veterinary First Responders.
Members of the CDEI will first identify core competencies that reflect the fundamentals that every veterinarian should know. This work is expected to be completed in the spring of this year. Thereafter, organizations, including the AVMA and the veterinary colleges, can develop new courses or modify existing ones and submit them to the CDEI for assessment of whether they fulfill one or more of the core competencies required for the completion of the certificate according to the background material submitted by the committee to the AVMF .
First courses could be available at AVMA Axon as early as autumn 2021, and the program could be fully functional by spring 2022. Once veterinarians or veterinary students have completed courses covering all of the core competencies, they will be issued the Basic Veterinary Responder certificate.
A horse in a paddock during a California wildfire
Fill in the void
Dr. Warren J. Hess, an associate director of AVMA’s Animal and Public Health Division who also serves as AVMA’s Disaster Coordinator, will oversee the program. He admitted that a number of veterinary colleges offer programs that teach students about disaster relief, including programs at North Carolina State University, Texas A&M University, and the University of California-Davis, which last on the wildfires at the The west coast and the tropics have responded to storms and hurricanes in the southeast.
He said the certificate program provides additional recognition for those currently offering training, often veterinary faculty members, who receive limited academic benefit from disaster relief courses.
“It will also mean that AVMA will not have to provide all of the training, but that veterinary schools and others can help,” said Dr. Hess. “I’m pretty excited about it. I think it will really help as the country is more focused on local responses than national team responses. “
Dr. Gail Golab, AVMA’s Chief Veterinary Officer added, “This also provides a way for state and local authorities to assess the vets to be assisted and to ensure that they have the required basic education and training and that they can work well within the response network . “
Previously, AVMA and the US Department of Health worked together in a public-private partnership that served civil protection needs from 1993 to 2007. The AVMA Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams acted as federal employees in response to disasters such as September 11th and Hurricane Katrina.
The AVMA VMAT program then became disaster relief for states after the federal government established its own veterinary response teams. After states became more self-sufficient, the demand for AVMA VMAT services declined, which led to AVMA phasing out the VMAT program in 2016.
Dr. David E. Granstrom, AVMF associate director, said the new certification program is a direct result of the decades of time and effort that AVMA and AVMF volunteers and employees have put into developing and delivering resources for disaster relief.
“There’s a real loophole here,” said Dr. Granstrom. “Public health and human health are playing their part and this is an opportunity for veterinarians to realize their potential and better serve what we as veterinarians need to do in disaster relief scenarios.”