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Sloan Foundation funds online continuing education program for veterinarians

Jim Barlow, Life Sciences Editor
(217) 333-5802; b-james3@illinois.edu

6/
8/2001

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – A $100,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has paved the way for the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine to develop a comprehensive online continuing education program for veterinarians.

Veterinarians soon can study at home or the office, on their own time any time, instead of traveling or adjusting their schedules, to keep up with often fast-changing advances in animal care, said Christine Merle, coordinator of marketing for Veterinary Education Online.

The three-year grant from the New York-based Sloan Foundation will be combined with matching $100,000 contributions from the UI Office of Academic Affairs and College of Veterinary Medicine to develop a full line of continually updated courses. The program will begin this fall with a Web-accessible course on pain management. Official launch of the expanded online program will be in early 2003.

"This generous grant from the Sloan Foundation makes this possible," said Merle, a clinical professor of veterinary medicine administration. "There are more than 60,000 veterinarians in the United States, with 75 percent of them employed in a clinical practice. These veterinarians are the caretakers of more than 100 million companion animals and 7 billion livestock animals. It is essential for these caretakers to stay up to date."

The Sloan grant will help to create a core set of 10 courses, which will cover dentistry, ophthalmology, behavior, business, nutrition, imaging, exotic pets, emerging diseases and public health. The courses will vary in content, duration and credit hours.

"We are impressed with the energetic program in online education at the University of Illinois, and we have been long-term supporters," said A. Frank Mayadas, program director of the Sloan Foundation’s Asynchronous Learning Networks Consortium. "This new project to create online courses for veterinarians has considerable potential."

U of I Online, an Internet-based education and public service program that began in 1997 to serve the three UI campuses, has received more than $1 million from the Sloan ALN Consortium. U of I Online last year featured some 300 courses and a total enrollment of more than 6,000 students.

"The University of Illinois has a good reputation in online education, and veterinarians need to be able to meet educational requirements while in the office or at home, if they so choose," Mayadas said. "This Veterinary Education Online program makes that possible. It will be the first such program in the country.
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Traditionally, veterinarians have had to take time off from their clinics to attend seminars and lectures to obtain continuing education, Merle said. Time, distance and money often are major obstacles that confront many veterinarians, she added. Current online programs require veterinarians to be on their computers at predetermined times.

The UI College of Veterinary Medicine has offered on-site continuing education seminars and conferences since its inception in 1944. Nationally, 44 states require an average of 14 hours of continuing veterinary medical education each year to hold a veterinary license.
The college’s Biomedical Communications Center and the Continuing Education and Public Service units will assist in the development and delivery of the program.