The ACVPM aka at the post graduation Year 5 mark, why not up the ante even more?

So the next 6 months are going to be an interesting exercise in my efforts to blog whilst juggling life and work – I’ve been accepted to sit the ACVPM boards exam.

What’s the ACVPM?

It’s the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine. Think of it like big picture veterinary medicine. The stuff that probably doesn’t get associated with veterinarians as much on the media unless it involves puppies and kittens… (not that there’s anything wrong with that as our cat Glen Coco can vouch with his fine fez).

What is the exam made up of?

This exam is broken into 5 parts

  1. Infectious diseases
  2. Public Health administration and education
  3. Food Safety
  4. Environmental Health and toxicology
  5. Epidemiology and Biostatistics

The exam is run over 2 days – Day 1 will be a 6 hour block of short answer and essay questions broken into the 5 sections; Day 2 will be a 6 hour block of 300 questions evenly spread over the 5 sections.

Aren’t you doing your Masters?

Yes, I am currently completing my Masters in Veterinary Public Health. This should be completed within the next year.

So how are you preparing?

  1. I’ve been mainlining the ProMed posts for the past 3-4 years – it’s a good way to get a scope of what is current and topical – which is critical for the essay section which often pulls from the past few years of disease events.
  2. I’ve scared myself by looking at the reading list that is required for this exam… I’m still scared.
  3. I’ve enrolled into an online course run by the Centre for Food Security and Public Health at Iowa State University. There’s a ton of resources here and it’s a platform to interact with other candidates who are mostly based in the US.
  4. The word on the street is that I also have to have an intimate understanding of the compendia from the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians
  5. The hope is also utilise much of the foundation knowledge I have picked up during my adventures through my Masters in Veterinary Public Health.
  6. I’ll be sitting this exam with 2 other friends who are similarly minded on this side of the world. Whilst we are separated geographically in the region, having allies who are going through the same challenges is important to me – it’s how I got through vet school.


I feel that I will be asking myself that frequently over the coming months. There’s some logic behind all this (buried amongst a ton of ego).

  1. I am now 5 years out from graduation. This is the time many of us veterinarians start to work out where we’d like to develop our skills or even specialize. As someone who has an interest in all things public health, surveillance, biosecurity and epidemiology, I would like to upskill in these areas. Here in Australia, we used to have a Veterinary Public Health chapter under the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists – the college that facilitates our structured further training towards becoming specialists. Sadly, in the 1990’s, the chapter folded due to a lack of applicants sitting the exam and the exam was run intermittently until 2003. Since then, we’ve not had any formal process to develop our skills in that area apart from doing a graduate degree such as a Masters or PhD. There is a Chapter for Epidemiology which facilitates the membership and fellowship exams for epidemiology. Whilst I do see myself sitting at least the membership exam for epi into the future, I do want to be recognised in the world of veterinary public health… Which is an odd thing to want right?
  2. The dream would be to pass this exam and be part of the team that is seeking to build up the chapter and specialty of veterinary public health within Australia.
  3. Some of the blogs on the ACVPM exam talk about pay rises with getting boarded. As this is a non-existent specialty here in Australia, there’s no chance of that.
  4. Yet, there is hope to carve a small niche in the world of preventive veterinary medicine (and veterinary public health), and be part of the movement to make it a recognisable discipline in Australasia.

So what does this mean for Veterinary Careers?

I’m going to be juggling this quite a bit, however I reckon there is a win-win here. For anyone who’s ever considered sitting the ACVPM board exams, there’s a well frequented blog out there by Dr Elliot Garber (he of the “Uncommon Veterinarian” fame) where he muses before and after taking the exam with some great tips scattered for any potential candidates. My hope is to replicate Dr Garber’s efforts by writing about the study experience – this way we can track my descent into crazy study land, I can practice my communication skills via the blogging experience, and I can use my quite-frequent procrasti-brainwaves in a more productive manner. I won’t be putting any material up here from the prep course or other study sources, but hope to take the core messages from each section and see how such principles and investigations apply in Australia.

Am I going to pass?

Maybe, maybe not – but it certainly is worth a stab.


Guy is a Director for Veterinary Careers – he secretly works in clinical veterinary practice (and his opinions are reflective of his own and not of his place of work), whilst completing his Masters in Veterinary Public Health. He enjoys the interface of clinical practice and case management whilst unleashing his VPH-nerdiness onto the unsuspecting public. 

Choose Science. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose epidemiology. Choose a quality-designed study, peer-reviewed journals, replicable studies, critical thinking and meta-analyses. Choose veterinary public health. Choose viruses, bacteria, fungi and prions. Choose zoonoses, transboundary diseases, food safety and one health. Choose multi-disciplinary collaborations. Choose vaccination programs and disease eradication. Choose developing country work. Choose research. Choose communication and explaining concepts that are digestible to the public. Choose to take on the tough challenges, the snake oil peddlers and the pits of mistruth. Choose a world which appreciates science- and evidence-based approaches to issues. Choose to give a sh!t. 

Choose your future

Choose science. (*)

(*) With full apologies to fans of John Hodge, Renton and Trainspotting.