MIT provides a superb intellectual environment for the comparative veterinary scientist embarking on a career in biomedical research. MIT is recognized internationally for its excellence in both undergraduate and graduate biomedical science education. Capitalizing on these resources, DCM began training veterinarians in comparative medicine in 1982 and has been a recipient of an NIH training grant for the past 28 years. We recognized the urgent need to provide the biomedical research community properly trained veterinarians, particularly those who can effectively work in research and academia. To date, of 54 postdoctoral fellows trained by DCM, all but five are employed in academic or research and development units. DCM provides postdoctoral training for veterinary scientists for careers in biomedical research. This will be accomplished in part by providing 1) a strong emphasis in the development of research skills needed for veterinary scientists pursuing a research career, 2) a core curriculum of graduate courses in biomedical sciences, and 3) an intellectual and simulating setting for research in the biomedical sciences. Postdoctoral trainees will hold DVM/VMD degrees and some may have additional advanced degrees as well. The program consists of three years of in-depth research training with an option to pursue an advanced degree.
Participants in the training program include professional and technical personnel within the Division of Comparative Medicine and the Department of Biological Engineering. Two other academic units - the Harvard Medical School and Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine are involved. MIT faculty contribute to the core course work; training in research is provided by established investigators at MIT and other designated research laboratories at Harvard and Tufts. Research training emphasizes formulation of a significant research project, its design and implementation, critical reviews of pertinent scientific literature, data analysis and statistical evaluation, formal presentation of data at national and international meetings and publications of research in peer reviewed journals.
NIH also funds DCM to employ summer veterinary fellows; the summer fellows program introduces motivated, bright veterinary students to the field of biomedical research. These students spend a summer in the same research environment in which DCM postdoctoral fellows conduct their research.
Since 1982 54 veterinarians have completed the training program and have gone on to establish themselves in positions of prominence throughout the laboratory animal community. Seventeen other scientists have completed postdoctoral studies in the Division as well (see former and current postdoctoral fellows). DCM postdoctoral veterinarians have authored or co-authored more than 150 scientific papers and chapters during their tenure at DCM and have contributed extensively to the scientific programs of the national meetings of a number of professional societies. Performance in the ACLAM board examination has also been exceptional.
The objective of the program is to train postdoctoral veterinarians in the conduct of biomedical research in a comparative medicine context. The program is comprised of a minimum of 3 years of integrated practical and didactic training in research and medicine that promote a multidisciplinary approach to questions in biomedical science. The training is structured to expand upon the unique comparative knowledge, skills, and perspectives that a veterinarian brings to biomedical research. Postdoctoral fellows have the option of pursuing an advanced degree through MIT's Department of Biological Engineering or the interdepartmental Microbiology Graduate PhD Program or Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine. An optional six months of clinical training, funded outside the T32 training grant, are also available and strongly recommended.
The basic format of the program is 3 consecutive, three-month rotations followed by research in one of the Division’s many areas of inquiry. The combined duration of research and rotations is three years. The Transgenics, Pathology and Diagnostic Laboratory, and Molecular Biology rotations are required and typically completed at the start of the fellowship. The Committee on Animal Care (CAC) rotation is a part time, 6-month experience that is concurrent with other rotations in the first 18 months. Two additional 3-month rotations, MIT Clinics and Surgery are strongly encouraged. Research interests and available projects are then matched through conversations with the Director and a mentor group. The mentor group is comprised of several members of the Division’s senior staff. Extramural faculty may be engaged in this research depending on existing collaborations and the requirements of the project.
Mentor sessions are formal opportunities to meet with a mentor group, comprised of the Director and other staff members. Meetings are held twice yearly and augment less formal conversations. Fellows should organize and schedule meetings and come prepared to discuss their progress, research interests and associated issues. A written outline facilitates the process.
The rotation coordinator will direct the activities of the fellow. The objective is to provide an overview of the transgenic animal resources program. The fellow will share responsibility for the maintenance of donor and recipient mice in the transgenic breeding facility, will help coordinate hormone injections, breeding, and surgical implantations, and will become familiar with the spectrum of embryonic manipulation in transgenic research.
PATHOLOGY AND DIAGNOSTIC LABORATORY ROTATION:
The rotation coordinator will direct the activities of the fellow. The objective is to provide an overview of the pathology and diagnostic laboratories and activities. The fellow will share responsibility for necropsies, tissue processing, histopathologic evaluation, serologic and immunocytological assays, hematology, parasitology, and microbiology. The fellow on pathology rotation is available by cell phone for the purpose of assisting the pathologist.
MOLECULAR BIOLOGY ROTATION:
The rotation coordinator will direct the activities of the fellow(s); the rotation will be placed in the Molecular Biology Laboratory of DCM. The objective is to provide an overview, hands-on experience, and basic principles of molecular techniques which are routinely used in our research projects. The fellow will perform experiments, analyze the obtained data, and discuss the results with the rotation coordinator.
The rotation coordinator will direct the activities of the fellow. The objective is to familiarize fellows with Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) procedures and activities. Fellows will attend scheduled meetings, perform site visits, evaluate protocols, and complete a project.
There are two optional rotations, which are predominantly clinical in nature and funded by the Institute. These are MIT Clinics and Surgery rotations. They are each three months in duration.
The Division sponsors research in several general areas: molecular pathogenesis, infectious gastroenterology, and carcinogenesis. Faculty members funded in these areas are James Fox, Susan Erdman, Zhongming Ge, Mark Whary, Sureshkumar Muthupalani and Jonathan Runstadler. They interact with a number of intramural and extramural collaborators. Research interests and available projects are matched through conversations with the Director and a mentor group. Research responsibilities include protocol development, experimental design; materials preparation and procurement; manipulation and care of experimental animals; data collection, management, and analysis; manuscript preparation; and public presentation.
Fellows are required to satisfactorily complete four semester-long courses in disciplines related to research. A course in molecular biology is required and must be completed within the first year of the program. A course in technical or scientific writing is encouraged. Other subjects have included immunology, toxicology, and statistics. Courses must be approved in advance by the Director. In addition to these courses, fellows must complete a course in ethics which is held annually during the Independent Activities Period (IAP) and is offered by Brain and Cognitive Sciences.
Fellows may choose to enter degree programs with which the Division is affiliated. Advanced degrees are offered through the Microbiology Graduate PhD Program, (http://microbiology.mit.edu/grad.html) and Biological Engineering Graduate Studies in Applied Biosciences; (http://web.mit.edu/be/education/appbiosci.htm). Advanced degrees are also offered through Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. Formal application, followed by successful completion of a qualifying exam, thesis preparation and defense are required. The degree options must be discussed in advance with the Director.
Role of the OIE
This presentation is an overview of the nascent role of the OIE in animal welfare, and will emphasize where that role might relate to the theme of this session and perhaps the overall theme of the conference.
One must bear in mind that the OIE’s involvement in animal welfare goes back only six or seven years, so we are looking at relatively recent international involvement. My presentation is made wearing two hats, both as Director of Animal Welfare for the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and as Chair of the OIE Animal Welfare Working Group.
The OIE consists of 172 countries, making it bigger in terms of membership than the WTO, which has approximately 149 countries. Therefore, by any standards, an intergovernmental organization representing 172 countries has a significant role to play in influencing public policy in governments around the world, and also plays a key role in implementing agreed policy.
The raison d’être of the OIE relates to ensuring transparency related to global animal disease and zoonoses, and also to coordinating the collection, analysis, and dissemination of scientific animal health information. The OIE is very conscious of the need to work closely with scientists in a whole range of disciplines. The organization strives to improve the legal framework and resources of national veterinary services and to provide expertise and encourage international solidarity in the control of animal diseases.
In the WTO mandate, the international standards of the OIE safeguard world trade by publishing health standards for international trade in animals and animal products, to provide a better guarantee of animal production food safety and to promote animal welfare through a science-based approach.
Since its inception the OIE has operated from a relatively small central bureau in Paris, with about 40 staff members. It has a network of reference laboratories and collaborating centers around the world, totaling almost 200. Reference laboratories exist for specific disease entities, such as blue tongue, rabies, or foot and mouth, and the collaborating centers are centers of excellence from which the OIE can draw expertise to assist [in the] achievement of its mission. Currently, there are 171 reference laboratories and 24 collaborating centers.
Animal welfare is a new area for the OIE. There is potential for collaborating centers to be established in each of the OIE’s regions to support its work in animal welfare. A group in Italy that has recognition for veterinary training, epidemiology, and food safety is also playing a role in animal welfare. We in New Zealand sought recognition for the animal welfare science and bioethics center at Massey University headed by Professor David Mellor. There is opportunity for other centers to achieve that recognition and assist the OIE over the next few years and decades.
Two or three years ago, the 172 member countries expressed a desire that the OIE play some role in the laboratory animal welfare area. The initial decision was to establish a dialogue with existing international organizations, particularly ICLAS and IACLAM, and to identify common interests. A formal memorandum of understanding (MOU) has now been signed with ICLAS, which is similar to the OIE’s MOUs with other international organizations to allow for information sharing and mutual participation in identifying areas for synergy, with the goal of emphasizing the role of the veterinary profession generally and of veterinary services in particular.
The OIE has a four-year strategic planning cycle and in the period from 2001 to 2005 some building blocks for animal welfare were established, and guiding principles in animal welfare were identified at the first OIE global conference in Paris. The profile of animal welfare was further enhanced in the strategic plan for the period 2006–2010. The OIE has published and promulgated a set of nine guiding principles, with emphasis on the linkage between health and welfare, something that often is not fully appreciated and recognized by the public at large or by politicians.
The OIE has a mandate on animal welfare in the use of animals in scientific studies and education. OIE supports appropriate animal use in the fields that are relevant to animal health and welfare and animal production food safety, including research and development of veterinary medicines, diagnostic tests and vaccines, and education of veterinarians and other professionals. Another program established under OIE auspices is the International Cooperation on Harmonization of Technical Requirements for Registration of Veterinary Medicinal Products (VICH). In addition, the OIE can help in the international facilitation of adoption of nonanimal tests where scientifically validated. This will complement work done in Europe by the European Center for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) and work done in the US by the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM).
The mission of the OIE Animal Welfare Working Group, which I have chaired since 2002, is to provide international leadership in animal welfare through the development of science-based standards and guidelines, provision of expert advice, and the promotion of relevant education and research. The working group represents the five OIE regions; Professor David Fraser from the University of British Columbia represents the Americas. We consider the available science, but also highlight the importance of ethics to ensure that we take a holistic approach to our mission. The detailed work on producing standards and guidelines is carried out by expert ad hoc groups established by the OIE Director-General; we have had six ad hoc groups established over the six-year period, and the process works very effectively.
The working group follows the established guiding principles and takes an outcomes rather than an inputs approach. The principles emphasize the importance of the linkage between health and welfare, the Five Freedoms,1 the Three Rs, and the need for a scientific basis for standards, and recognize that better animal welfare can improve productivity and deliver economic benefits.
In 2005 the OIE developed four sets of standards for the transport and slaughter of livestock. At the time, there was concern about diseases like BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) and avian influenza, slaughter practices, and the ethical acceptability and economic justification for transporting animals large distances for slaughter. The OIE is working to implement these standards by using its regional infrastructure to facilitate the process.
We are now following the same process for laboratory animals by looking at principles and guidelines for animals used in regulatory testing and teaching. We are also liaising with the VICH and making sure that we engage with all the international stakeholders, be they industry groups or welfare NGOs. An ad hoc group was established to develop the guidelines, which is the OIE’s modus operandi for such tasks. Several participants in this conference are members of the ad hoc group that met for the first time in December of 2007 and will meet for a second time in December 2008. They will address these topics: animal care and use program and committee; assurance of training and competent provision of veterinary care; physical facility and environmental conditions; husbandry; source of animals; occupational health and safety; and importance of postapproval monitoring and validation. The group also identified veterinary training in laboratory animal medicine, transportation of animals, and regulatory testing as topics to be examined in the future.
A second global conference, to be held in Cairo in October 2008, will be a further manifestation of the relevance of global standards particularly to the developing world.2
Information on OIE activities is available on its considerably enhanced website or in the OIE Bulletin or Scientific and Technical Review Series publications.
It is certain that the OIE’s involvement will not be transient. In addition, the OIE is heavily wedded to the One Medicine, One Health concept. Over the next one to two years there will be a major conference sponsored by the OIE and attended by veterinary deans from around the world to ensure that veterinary education meets the needs of society. There will also be a major review of future needs in veterinary education published in the OIE scientific and technical review series in 2009.
AAVMC Strategic Plan
I will discuss a very exciting program that the AAVMC in collaboration and partnership with AVMA will have here soon. It is important to emphasize Dr. Fox’s leadership not only with AAVMC and ILAR but with the AVMA. In the last year, he chaired the animal care welfare committees of both the AVMA and the AAVMC, so it is his vision and his leadership that brought this together for the event that is going to occur. I also want to mention the Morris Animal Foundation, which will help to support this venture.
The title of the conference is Animal Welfare as an Evolving Discipline, and Educating Veterinarians to be Effective Decision Makers and Advocates.1 It is an international educational symposium that will be held November 8–11, 2009, at one of our premier member institutions, Michigan State University in East Lansing. The program is being designed with requested input from all of our member institutions. It is important to emphasize that our intended audience will include scholars involved in animal welfare, the laboratory animal community, and veterinary medical students in the international realm. The intention is to satellite broadcast the program.
On the first day, the program will address the role of science in society and will include the definition of animal welfare, key policy statements in this area, and how different stakeholders frame and discuss animal welfare issues. The point is to address animal welfare from a scientific point of view, determine how it is measured, how it is perceived by different people, and ethical approaches to assessments of animal welfare. The role of ethics will include cultural norms, differences in religious expectations, morality, and cost/benefit from the perspective of the role of science in society.
The next topic area will be entities and agreements and will consider the different groups involved in animal welfare decisions about which veterinary medical students must know; these groups include veterinarians, scientists, researchers, industry leaders, retailers, advocates, animal welfare groups, the public, lobbyists, and attorneys who are involved in the animal welfare area. The groups will be brought together to speak and participate in roundtable discussions with the aim of informing students about important issues to consider such as agreements, standards, available voluntary schemes, regulations, legal considerations, and international differences. The speakers will address research, the history of animal welfare and animal care research, and the current state of that research today worldwide. It is important to have international presentations so that the students get a well-rounded view of the issues. After the presentations will be roundtable discussions that will include the students so that we can learn what they are being taught in their schools.
The second day will focus on the topic of meeting societal needs through veterinary education and research and will examine models for veterinary animal welfare education. In advance of the meeting, we intend to survey deans, department heads, faculties, and students about how animal welfare is and isn’t considered in DVM degree programs. The survey will query the students about what they learned and whether their expectations were fulfilled during the four-year program.
In addition, we will look at preveterinary education and students’ background before attending veterinary school. We need to examine the selection criteria for veterinary students in animal care and welfare from [the point of view of] both US and international expectations. This session will also include a roundtable discussion with student participation.
We also want to center some of these discussions on post-DVM education. Since education is a lifelong process, continuing education is essential. The session will include graduate program specialization and the Foresight Report to delve into how we are meeting societal needs in educating not only our students but also our practicing veterinarians.
The last part of day two will present a model for animal welfare research. We will look at program design, the applied priorities of our research programs, access to results, and the application of the research to teaching veterinary students and how to apply it to meet societal needs. We will also address funding for animal welfare research, both private and public. We would like to develop a clearinghouse of funding information resources so new graduates and veterinarians will know how to access funding.
We will conclude on day three with a session on moving forward, focusing on communications with respect to animal welfare. This session will also look at veterinary culture in relation to animal welfare, particularly some special challenges faced by veterinarians employed by industry or a producer or somebody who owns animals in carrying out animal welfare. For example, how can the veterinarian bridge the gap between what an employer or animal owner wants and societal needs and expectations?
Finally, the conference will address the issue of advocacy—how can we get veterinarians involved in becoming activists, community leaders, possibly running for Congress, to be the senator that Dr. Pappaioanou says we need to contact? Veterinarians need to step up to the plate rather than letting somebody else do it. So the sessions tackle how to become involved, what to advocate, and how to educate the public.
We believe this will be an excellent symposium and encourage all of you to attend. Drs. Golab and Granstrom at AVMA are the lead people for this program.
Online Training and Distance Learning
Patricia V. Turner.
My presentation will continue with the theme of providing adequate veterinary care for animals used in research, teaching, and testing. One potential solution for providing veterinary training in this area is through online training and distance learning.
I will focus on some of the challenges in providing adequate veterinary care for animals used in research, teaching, and testing, particularly the aspect of veterinary training. I will also discuss trends in educational delivery that are occurring at universities and colleges across North America and may be occurring in Europe as well. Finally, I will talk about online learning programs for veterinarians and provide an example,1 with some potential future applications.
Current challenges in laboratory animal medicine (LAM) occur because there is now an increasingly complex globalized research environment, with companies and institutions having multiple sites around the world, and there is difficulty ensuring adequate veterinary care and harmonization of training across all these sites.
Even in countries where there are well-established training programs, there are shortages of well-trained personnel. Increased public expectations for the accountability of scientists and institutions, and for providing adequate veterinary care and ensuring research animal welfare, have led to an increased need for veterinarians. This has resulted in increased employment opportunities for veterinarians; however, there are not enough adequately trained veterinarians to fill these roles.
In addition, there is difficulty in recruiting enough veterinarians to return for graduate work and specialization in residencies in some of these programs, primarily due to debt load. In North America, veterinary students graduate with huge debt load and they cannot afford to come back for additional education or training, although they might like to. The stipends may or may not be attractive to these new graduates, and we don’t have enough stipend positions to bring these veterinarians back. Furthermore, the traditional methods for training specialists in laboratory animal medicine are expensive and not necessarily efficient. I say this as a program leader for our research-intensive ACLAM-recognized doctoral training program at the University of Guelph. I still believe this is the gold standard for LAM training, but it isn’t geared for a high volume of trainees because it is based on one-on-one intensive mentoring—the program can produce only one graduate every three years, which is not sufficient. Together, all the institutions that are producing these very intensively trained specialists cannot meet the employment opportunities and needs out there.
Other training options to bring enough veterinarians into the field and ensure that they are adequately trained must be explored. The immediate problem is that there is an urgent need for entry-level training for licensed veterinarians in laboratory animal medicine to fill some of these roles. This population includes licensed clinical veterinarians who may be looking for a career change, some who own clinics, who are working or consulting at a biotechnology company or community college, or who are working full-time in a field but are unable to return for graduate studies or a residency because of location, financial constraints, or because they have no desire to go back to school for another three to five years. A new approach is needed to attract these adult learners and provide them with the basic education they need to fulfill their responsibilities as attending veterinarians in these institutions.
Distance education has been increasing in popularity in recent years. One of its main advantages is that the participants are not required to travel to commit to an institution. They may do it from a distance, hence its name. Also, participants can study when it is convenient, allowing them to work full-time and attend to family needs at home, then study during evenings or weekends, when they have free time. I would argue that a distance education program is very well suited for providing both basic and, perhaps in the future, advanced information to veterinarians in laboratory animal medicine.
Current trends in educational development are toward an increasing number of courses taught in the online classroom. Many full-time students attain degrees with these blended programs, with traditional didactic courses on-site and up to 50% of the program provided in online courses. Students seem to like a combination of both. Even with traditional courses, the online classroom is becoming increasingly used, so students may be given an assignment in class, and then a portion of their grade will be assigned to an online discussion group that is monitored by teaching assistants (TAs) or the professors.
However, the program needs to be very well structured with very clear objectives to be effective in educating students. There is no daily face-to-face meeting with the TA or the professor, so the course goals and progression need to be very well structured, learner-centered, geared to developing problem-solving skills, and still provide the interaction that is normally achieved in the classroom, tutorial, or seminar.
Online course participants need to be motivated since they are working on their own. This format is not suitable for everyone, since it is not easy to work an eight-hour day and come home and have to study at night. However, with motivation it can be done successfully.
It should be noted, however, that it is not necessarily less work for the instructor to conduct online courses. There is a lot of development work in terms of setting up the program, and then in providing feedback and facilitating instruction during the course period. In addition, this format is very different from traditional teaching forums and involves a different educational philosophy. It does not involve just taking PowerPoint presentations, taping an audio, and putting it on a website. This format focuses on short bursts of intensive learning followed by some type of application to evaluate consolidation of learning.
MIT has an absolutely astounding open courseware project with over 1,800 courses available online. Tufts University also has some excellent open courseware available. The MIT Open Courseware website has PowerPoint presentations from all the courses offered at MIT. However, while the information is freely available, the certificate, diploma, and degree programs are not free. Also, it should not be assumed that, because the information is provided for free to the public at large, people are consolidating and learning it. The skill is in the instructors’ abilities to provide the information in an online setting to educate people.
It should also be noted that there are costs involved in online courseware: software costs for those writing online platforms, costs for staff who are doing the administration, and in some cases an honorarium for the course instructor.
I would now like to provide an example of how we have tried to deal with the challenge of providing adequate veterinary care for animals used in research, particularly veterinarians working in laboratory animal medicine.
Canada is a large country with a relatively small population. There are about 220 veterinarians in laboratory animal medicine, working across the country in a variety of sectors, often in very remote locations. We sometimes have a language barrier since there are two official national languages.
Since for many years there was only one formal training program in Canada, at the University of Guelph, with a low graduate output, most of the veterinarians working in laboratory animal medicine have entered the field through experience rather than by formal training in LAM. These veterinarians are very well qualified with solid skills in clinical medicine and surgery typical of small animal practice. Several years ago, it became evident that there were facility compliance issues at some smaller institutions because of a lack of adequate veterinary training. Veterinarians did not always understand their full responsibilities as the attending veterinarian in these facilities. In conjunction with the Canadian Association for Laboratory Animal Medicine (CALAM/ACMAL) and the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC), we determined that it was necessary to provide theoretical and applied training to bring veterinarians up to speed quickly. It was also deemed necessary to have mentoring contacts, because these people were physically isolated in many cases.
This situation led to the development of the LAM certificate program, a university-approved academic program of study consisting of a minimum of 160 hours of effort. That time is what the university has approved, but it may actually take a little longer for participants to work through all the material.
There are four courses in the program. The first is the web-based program that is a self-study course. It provides broad-based theoretical information on major themes in LAM. This is followed by three skills-based courses that are held at regional training sites across the country; I will talk about each of these in a little more detail. The LAM certificate program is partnered with the Office of Open Learning at the University of Guelph to provide the distance education platform and the technical support for running these programs.
The curriculum was developed in part from the Federation of European Laboratory Animal Science Associations (FELASA) guidelines for Category D specialists as well as from recommendations developed by the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine (ACLAM) for formal training of laboratory animal veterinarians. An advisory committee comprising laboratory animal veterinarians from across Canada edited and produced the course content and assisted with question bank development; other veterinarians were conscripted as needed in the program to develop skills lists or to review materials. A skills list has been developed for the applied courses.
Participants who enroll in this program theoretically could complete it in as short as a month but we provide them with up to two years. Some participants are clinical vets who may own a practice and cannot take off four weeks in one year to complete the program. This program is envisioned as an entry-level tool and is not in competition with postgraduate training programs in this area. It is intended for a completely different population of veterinarians who have no intention of returning to school for further specialization.
The course covers bioethics, regulations, animal care committee function, anesthesia, analgesia, euthanasia, occupational health and safety, biosafety, and animal models. It is set up as a combination of online notes and heavy HTML mining, primarily to enable veterinarians to learn how to find sources of information through relevant websites and electronic resources. The program is multimedia to accommodate different types of learning, so participants receive a hard copy reader containing key papers, references, regulatory guides, short video clips, CDs, and DVDs. Some of these items can be used in their training programs in their own facility. Evaluations are both formative and summative. There are several short written assignments submitted electronically for evaluation by the coordinator, as well as multiple choice quizzes for each online topic. Participants must achieve at least 80% on these to pass, and they only get two chances to take any quiz, so the program of study is rigorous and must be taken quite seriously by the participants. Because we have a large question bank for each quiz, participants won’t get the same quiz twice.
There are currently three entry points for enrollment in the program throughout the year: October, February, and May. Once the participants are enrolled and the online course starts, they have nine weeks to complete the material, because we want to give them some structure for completing the course in a timely period.
The applied courses consist of 40-hour one-week applied placements at regional facilities across Canada. The sites were selected based on the experience of the veterinarians, the number of vets per site, the quality and diversity of the programs, the species, and locations, with efforts to have wide geographical distribution and inclusion of French language sites. All training sites are CCAC-assessed. Participants take a skills list with them to use as a training passport and placements are facilitated by a course coordinator. The areas in which they receive training are somewhat tailored to their area of employment; for example, if they work with aquatic species they will focus on aquatic training, without much training in nonhuman primates.
The program is approved and has been recognized by the CCAC, which is important in terms of regulatory recognition, as is the professional recognition given by CALAM/ACMAL. Upon successful completion, participants receive a certificate in LAM and can receive a transcript of their marks.
The accompanying slides represent some screenshots from the program. The Home Page has a number of hot links across the top and gives general information and announcements. The Course Outline page provides an introduction, information about the course development, expectations for learning, and other resources. The Time Line for the course shows various activities occurring each week, and assignments and quizzes that are to be done at each time point. The expectation is that participants will move sequentially through each topic before advancing to the next. In terms of actual topic content, there are brief instructors’ comments and other readings students must do to consolidate the knowledge.
The Course Resources page includes a broad range of references from many organizations including the Canadian Association for Laboratory Animal Science, ACLAM, and ILAR. Most importantly, the website contains contact information for the course instructor and there is 24/7 online support for participants provided by the Office of Open Learning.
Ongoing related projects include working together with a number of ACLAM diplomates in the US to develop a similar entry-level US certificate program, which will become available soon. In addition, we have been in discussions with veterinary colleagues in Southeast Asia and Latin America to develop similar online programs to meet some of the veterinary training needs in those regions. The online format affords many opportunities to provide more advanced training in other LAM areas such as imaging, cardiology, and pathology, among others.
An example of an advanced program is that being developed by Dr. Bob Cardiff, a comparative pathologist at University of California at Davis. He is developing online courses in genomic pathology geared to different levels of instruction for technicians, graduate students, pathology trainees, and scientists. This program will provide information on informatics, basic pathology, and recognition of lesions in tissues as well as histologic phenotyping. These will be tuition-based courses and will offer credits for graduate students anywhere in the world.
The advent of slide scanning and related software now provides the option of developing online comparative pathology programs for advanced training. Glass slides can be scanned in at very high magnification with excellent resolution for students viewing from their desktops. The particular software (ImageScope, Aperio) is free, and students can download it as long as they can access a server that has the slides saved onto it. Students can annotate the slides by, for example, circling lesions or putting arrows on different parts, save the changes, and send them back to the instructor as part of their online training. This is an excellent opportunity for coaching and facilitation of learning in comparative pathology.
So in summary, we are at a very early stage in the veterinary medical field and in particular in laboratory animal medicine and science for implementing some of this technology. However, there are a lot of exciting opportunities in the future to use online training as one potential tool to provide for harmonization of veterinary training and ensure at least a minimum level of training of veterinarians for the provision of adequate care of laboratory animals.