Veterinary pathologists contribute vital expertise to a wide range of fields, particularly food safety, the monitoring of animal health and welfare, the diagnosis of new, emerging diseases, animal models for human diseases and the development of new drugs.
© Fotolia, 2012
Veterinary pathology has a long tradition in Europe, but in the past each country established its own training and postgraduate qualifications. In order to harmonise the profession, the European Society of Veterinary Pathologists initiated the European College of Veterinary Pathologists (ECVP) in 1995, explains Anja Kipar, a Professor of Veterinary Pathology at the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom and currently the ECVP Secretary.
In 1999, the ECVP, now one of the 23 veterinary specialist colleges recognised by the European Board of Veterinary Specialisation (EBVS), introduced an examination for a European qualification in veterinary pathology (ECVP diploma). However, to avoid only a few centres in Europe providing adequate training and to encourage training towards the ECVP diploma in universities throughout Europe, the ECVP initiated an annual Summer School in 2003.
"At that stage, the funding opportunity from the Marie Curie programme of the European Union (EU) came up. This was perfect for us, because it allowed us to invite people from the whole field across Europe to attend." Kipar became the coordinator of the ECVP/ESVP Summer School in Veterinary Pathology, which was set up jointly with the European Society of Veterinary Pathology (ESVP).
A four-year cycle of 11-day annual events was organised from 2005 to 2008 with more than 90 participants each year, and was supported by a Marie Curie Actions (MCAs) grant of €402.000. "This was really an impetus for us, and the professional community strongly supported the initiative," says Kipar. A total of 293 participants have now gained a ECVP diploma. This achievement would not have been possible without financial support from the Marie Curie programme. The same is true for another aim of the ECVP, which is to support pathologists from countries without an appropriate training environment (in particular in new and candidate member states) in their ambition to gain European accreditation.
Kipar explains: "To support these colleagues, the ECVP has recently set up its "Ambassadorship Initiative". Our current ambassador is an Assistant Professor from Bucharest who was able to attend his first, grant-supported Summer School in 2006. There he was introduced to senior pathologists in ECVP recognised training centres where he subsequently spent training periods and is now supported by the ECVP to undertake a 12-month intensive training in preparation for the ECVP examination and thereby achieve his goal of becoming an ECVP diplomat and setting up the first internationally recognised training centre in Romania."
"The diplomas of the ECVP are globally recognised accreditations, and the Summer School is a unique worldwide training opportunity for veterinarians who aim to achieve such a qualification. As a consequence, the School attracts colleagues from many different backgrounds from both European and non-European countries," says Kipar.
"The summer school is now supported by the ECVP, the ESVP and the participating institutes funding their own students, but has retained its momentum and format," says Kipar. Every year more than 80 students take part. Training modules cover all relevant areas and are comprised of state-of-the-art lectures, complemented by hands-on practical training. Bi-annual simulation exams help students prepare for the ECVP examination. Students can take the ECVP exam after a 3-year period of dedicated training and revision in their home institutions. "This is the door that opens access to the international job market and to working in research," says Kipar.
Not only do the exams improve the mobility of veterinarians, but the Summer School provides an opportunity for them to join with colleagues and create international research networks. "There is a shortage of veterinary pathologists in the world, and I hope that our summer school can help alleviate this problem," says Kipar.