The Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases (IIAD), a Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Center of Excellence and a World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Collaborating Centre in biological threat reduction, will assist in an analysis of existing para-professional curricula for a project entitled, Veterinary Para-professional Standards Development. The project, which will provide recommendations for international guidelines, minimum competencies and curricula at the para-professional level, will be performed in collaboration with OIE with funding support from the U.S. Department of Defense Cooperative Biological Engagement Program, through the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.
The project will be geared towards developing standardized minimum competencies and curricular requirements for two sub-sets of veterinary para-professionals (i.e., laboratory, animal health/public health technicians). The recommended guidelines will provide a framework to OIE Member Countries in developing nations with limited Veterinary Services or difficulty retaining staff, developing nations with a Veterinary Services infrastructure in place, and developed nations. Training is provided to these personnel at varying levels; however, there are currently not any formal international guidelines or recommendations in place for evaluating veterinary para-professional competencies.
“The contribution of the para-professionals in maintaining animal health and welfare is of high importance in many countries where the number of veterinarians is limited,” said Monique Eloit, DVM, OIE Director General. “The need of harmonizing and improving their capacities, while working under the responsibility and supervision of veterinarians, was one of the main conclusions of the 4th OIE Global Conference on Veterinary Education in June 2016.”
The Institute will play a major role in the analysis of existing para-professional curricula and training programs available globally. This analysis will lay the groundwork for the development of the recommendations by the OIE ad hoc Committee on Veterinary Para-professionals. The Institute’s analysis of existing curricula consists of a three-part task. First, IIAD will conduct an analysis related to the OIE Performance of Veterinary Standards (PVS) evaluation status through an in-country questionnaire of OIE Member Countries over the roles, responsibilities and education/training of para-professionals at both regional and global levels. Through this analysis, IIAD will select 129 OIE Member Countries across all five OIE Regional Commissions and develop a baseline directory of veterinary para-professional competencies for each sub-set. Second, the Institute will conduct a global analysis of current veterinary para-professional training programs and curricula. Third, IIAD will provide a questionnaire template for OIE to utilize during in-country and electronic consultations to address competencies and skills for each sub-set.
After the task, IIAD will submit a report to the OIE’s Ad Hoc Group on Veterinary para-professionals – a group comprised of experts with internationally recognized expertise in the specific topic from 12 OIE Member Countries – to serve as a basis for the discussion and development of project outputs. The group also has two sub-working groups that include additional Member Country participation to help develop the recommended guidelines for competencies and curricular requirements of veterinary para-professionals. As the program is created, the Institute will also be lending its expertise and experience to other areas as needed.
“This will be the first global-scale educational project between the OIE and IIAD since the Institute was designated an OIE collaborating centre,” said Heather Simmons, DVM, MSVPH, IIAD Education and Outreach Theme and member of the OIE Ad Hoc Group on Veterinary Para-professionals. “The project has been designed with multiple stakeholders to develop a flexible capacity building model that can be utilized as a template for minimum recommendations related to standardized para-professional certification for OIE Member Countries.”
Through developing recommendations for competencies and curricula, this project will support the OIE’s efforts to standardize OIE Member Countries’ capacity to detect, diagnose and report endemic or epidemic livestock diseases. In turn, this will strengthen veterinary infrastructure by creating a sustainable, trained workforce with the expertise needed to address ecological, livestock, and public health issues.
“The opportunity to be involved in a project of this magnitude – one that will actively accelerate our progress towards global health security – is tremendous for the Institute and those we serve,” said Melissa Berquist, Ph.D., IIAD director. “Standardized competencies across OIE Member Countries will help improve Veterinary Services infrastructure and local institutions to prevent and reduce the likelihood of animal disease outbreaks and accelerate progress toward a safe world from infectious disease threats.”
The competency-based program will also be flexible for use in both developing and developed nations and is structured to allow for additional proposed programs to be included as additional workforce gaps are identified. In developing nations without Veterinary Services, additional core competencies and curriculum topics will be developed in relation to basic animal health management as this is the first line of defense for disease prevention measures seen by the general public.
Headquartered in College Station, Texas, IIAD was founded in 2004 as a DHS Science and Technology Center of Excellence. The Institute focuses on research, education and outreach to prevent, detect, mitigate and recover from transboundary, emerging and/or zoonotic diseases, which may be introduced intentionally or through natural processes. In 2014, IIAD was recognized by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) as a collaborating centre in the specialty of biological threat reduction. IIAD is the only centre of this kind in OIE’s America’s region and the only OIE collaborating centre within the Texas A&M University System. For more information, visit iiad.tamu.edu.