New Distance-Learning Course Aims To Help Foreign Veterinarians Prepare For Professional Licensure Exam

Published: February 12 2002

Category:Health, Research, Veterinary

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Latin American veterinarians who hope to practice in the United States are receiving help through a new distance-education course offered by the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in collaboration with Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale.

The 12-week program, now under way, involves a series of videotaped lectures in which UF veterinarians are teaching 53 foreign veterinary graduates how to prepare for the written portion of the licensing examination they must pass if they intend to practice in this country.

“All veterinary graduates must take this test, which is known as the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination, or NAVLE,” said Carlos Risco, an associate professor in the UF veterinary college’s Food Animal Service.

The course came about largely through the efforts of Sergio Vega, immediate past president of the Dade County Veterinary Foundation, who contacted administrators at UF and within the veterinary college. Vega, who is a member of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s board of veterinary medicine, convinced UF’s team that such a course would be a win-win for all involved.

“There was such a need,” Vega said. “These foreign veterinarians do not have any type of study guide. They come in from other countries and are faced with having to take the exam, but don’t know how to prepare for it.”

About 30 of the course participants are from Cuba, Vega said. Others come from Venezuela, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador and Puerto Rico. Topics covered in the course run the gamut from small and large animal medicine and surgery to bacteriology, pathology, immunology, pharmacology, radiology, infectious diseases, ophthalmology, foreign animal diseases and more –- everything veterinarians in a typical D.V.M. program are expected to know when they sit for their licensure exam.

“Originally, we were told we needed 30 people to make this work,” Vega said. “I managed to come up with 53, and there are others who would have signed up if they had been aware of it. I’m really hoping this course is a success, as I would love to see it continue.”

Class participants finish their coursework in March. They will take the licensure examination in April, he added.

From the UF veterinary college, Dr. Paul Gibbs, former director of UF’s International Center and a professor of infectious diseases, has been instrumental in pulling the course together with Risco’s assistance. The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences provides the teleconferencing capability.

“This is probably the most ambitious project we’ve ever done, from the standpoint of getting all of the UF veterinarians here to tape their presentations, and then back again for the live question-and-answer taping session,” said Ron Thomas, coordinator of distance education for IFAS Communication Services.

Thomas said 30 presentations are taped, and 60 copies made of each videotape. The tapes are then sent to Vega, who distributes them to each class participant. The foreign veterinarians then view the tape individually, and then again collectively at Nova, which provides a room with teleconferencing facilities for each session. At the end of the video, the professor featured on the tape appears for a 30-minute, live question-and-answer session.

“This type of teleconferencing collaboration with another university is also unique for us,” Thomas said.

Gibbs makes regular trips to South Florida to keep participants motivated.

“The detail of the questions asked of our faculty during the question-and-answer sessions indicates that the veterinarians involved in this course are working very hard,” Gibbs said. “Since many, if not all, have other jobs during the day and they must drive an hour each way to and from Nova University, they are definitely burning the midnight oil.”

One of the participants, Yolanda Melendez, works as a veterinary assistant at Parrot Jungle and Gardens in Miami. In a recent letter to the UF veterinary college dean, Joseph DiPietro, who also has been directly involved in setting up the course, Melendez called the classes “very specific and well organized” and Nova’s facilities “excellent and very modern.”

Her one problem: not enough time for the Q-and-A.

“We have so many questions; we would love to have another hour,” Melendez wrote. “But the professors are giving us their e-mail addresses, so we can communicate with them.”


Sarah Carey,, (352) 392-4700 Ext. 5206

Category:Health, Research, Veterinary