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Kokua Line

Ongoing education for vets not required for licensure

QUESTION: As I understand it, veterinarians are not mandated by the state of Hawaii to have "Continuing Medical Education." Why is this? Most states require continuing education for veterinarians. A doctor friend told me that medical doctors require "Continuing Medical Education" equivalent to 50 points every two years, with one point equaling one hour, in order to have their licenses renewed.

ANSWER: Veterinarians have been lobbying for years to have such a requirement for renewing their licenses, but the Board of Veterinary Examiners, part of the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, hasn’t felt it is necessary.

"Basically, the state is lazy," was the immediate response from Dr. Eric Ako, executive vice president of the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association, when asked why.

Ako said he had proposed the continuing education requirement in his former position with the Board of Veterinary Examiners (he is the immediate past chairman).

The Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association also has proposed it.

"The standard reply is that veterinarians have so few complaints … that they don’t want to do it (impose the requirement)," he said.

Ako pointed out that Hawaii is one of only three states that does not have the requirement: "We are oddballs."

"The issue has been raised" in the past, said Lynn Bhanot, executive officer of the Board of Veterinary Examiners. "The board did look at it but (felt) it did not meet the criteria for establishing continuing education."

Asked what the criteria are, Bhanot said "internal criteria in getting these things done" are considered "because it requires rule changes, additional resources to oversee," as well as "a lot of in-depth analysis" regarding the requirements.

She also said that requiring continuing education for licensing would necessitate coordination with the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association.

That wouldn’t be a problem, Ako said, noting that the association "even offered to do all the legwork, which means all the paperwork."

"It’s not difficult. You randomly select veterinarians who are reapplying for licensure," he explained.

"Then everybody sends in paperwork showing that you’ve earned CE (continuing education) credits, and then, on a random basis, the Hawaii VMA was willing to make sure it was true and that’s it."

Bhanot said the board is once again looking into whether requiring continuing education is feasible, but that it’s not a formal review or consideration. It is "just an inquiry stage."

But, she said, "Basically, the profession polices themselves. In that sense, because of that, they have relatively few complaints."

Bhanot said consumers can go to the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ website listing the various state-licensed professions, including veterinary medicine, "to check if there are any outstanding complaints regarding a particular individual and their business."

While that’s true, Ako said, "Sometimes we need a little clout."

Most veterinarians are "pretty good" at going for continuing education on their own, even to the mainland, he acknowledged.

"Most practitioners do go, but you’ve got those few black sheep that need a kick in the butt," he said.

As for Hawaii being one of only three states not having a continuing education requirement, he asks rhetorically, "Why are we oddballs? What’s wrong with us?"

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