The European College of veterinary Dermatology
Professor Emeritus KL Thoday
Keith Thoday was Professor of Veterinary Dermatology and Head of the Dermatology Service at The University of Edinburgh, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Edinburgh, Scotland. He was chosen as a Founding Diplomate of the European College of Veterinary Dermatology, one of the first Colleges of the European Board of Veterinary Specialisation (EBVS) to be established, in 1992 and was its President in 2004 and 2005. He represented the College on the EBVS for 10 years, from 2008 to 2017.
Figure 1. Professor Emeritus Keith Thoday
There had been a growing interest in veterinary dermatology in Europe for many years and this fostered the creation of several specialty dermatological organisations. The inaugural meeting of the first European dermatology interest group, the British Veterinary Dermatology Study Group, took place on 20th February 1976 in London, United Kingdom. The French Veterinary Dermatology Study Group (GEDAC) was founded on 23rd April 1981 in Paris, France. The first meeting of the German dermatology organisation, the Freundeskreis Hautkrankheiten Interessierter Tierärtzte (subsequently Arbeitskreis Dermatologie) was held on October 12th 1982 in Birkenfeld, Germany. On September 18th 1984, the European Society of Veterinary Dermatology (ESVD) was formed to provide an organisation for veterinarians across Europe who had a specific interest in veterinary dermatology, to promote research in veterinary and comparative dermatology and to improve diagnosis, treatment and prevention of dermatological disorders. It was recognised from the view of the profession, as well as the animal owner, that dermatological expertise should be subject to stringent quality control by defining requirements for training and experience. The ESVD’s Executive Board subsequently decided to initiate the process of specialisation in veterinary dermatology.
It was decided that a specialisation sub-committee of the ESVD be established to develop the concept of a European College of Veterinary Dermatology (ECVD, the College). Members were Dr David Lloyd (Chairman, UK), Dr Didiër-Noel Carlotti (FR), Professor Richard Halliwell (UK), Dr Claudia von Tscharner (CH), Dr Margreet Vroom (NL) and Dr Ton Willemse (NL). Subsequently, in 1992, it was recommended that the ECVD be formed with a maximum of six Founding Diplomates as its Interim Board and organisers of the College.
To reduce the potentially controversial element involved in selecting the Founding Diplomates it was decided that they be invited by the European Community Board of Veterinary Specialisation on nomination by the Honorary Members of the ESVD (all senior dermatologists in the US). These were: Dr George Muller, Dr Robert Kirk, Dr Peter Ihrke and Dr Danny Scott. These nominations would be based upon stringent criteria which stated that Founding Diplomates must be initiators of veterinary dermatology in Europe, have contributed substantially to the development of the subject by research and lectures, be Full or Founding members of the ESVD practising in Europe, have at least 10 years of experience in veterinary dermatology, must spend at least 60 per cent of their time working in veterinary dermatology and, most importantly, their appointment must be uncontroversial for the majority of ESVD members.
The Honorary Members of the ESVD made a detailed study of who they wished to consider as Founding Diplomates and called for their curriculum vitae. They subsequently chose six people (Table 1).
Table 1. The ECVD’s Founding Diplomates (‘Grandfathers’)
|Didier-Noël Carlotti (FR)|
|Richard Halliwell (UK)|
|Hans-Joachim Koch (DE)|
|David Lloyd (UK)|
|Keith Thoday (UK)|
|Ton Willemse (NL)|
The first meeting of the College took place on 19th December 1992 in London UK, making it one of the older Colleges of the EBVS. The Founding Diplomates remember it well: the UK was in the middle of the Irish troubles, there was a bomb at Piccadilly and some of us arrived several hours late! A constitution and bylaws for the College were subsequently drawn up and approved.
Since its foundation, the College has now had 13 Presidents (Table 2). As can be seen, in 2012 the presidential term was extended from 2 to 3 years. This change was introduced to allow a smoother progression of changes and developments in college matters during a period of presidential office.
After this meeting, a call for application for de facto specialist status was issued. Specialists appointed de facto would have to apply before 5th October 1995 and would have to satisfy tough criteria. The credentials of the applicants were examined by the Board; 19 people were approved and thus, by the closure of the de facto process, there were 25 College Diplomates. The ECVD gained full recognition from the EBVS in 2006.
The College currently has two routes to the Board examination: via a standard residency programme of a minimum 3 years’ duration and an alternative/individualized route/programme of variable length, as stipulated in the EBVS’s Policies and Procedures, for people who, for whatever reason, are unable to train on a full-time basis. The credentials which must be achieved by candidates are the same, the difference in the routes being that those on the alternative/individualised route/programme may spend more time in training and each programme is evaluated and approved for one specific candidate only.
There are currently approved standard residency programmes in 11 countries. Twenty-two are at universities and 11 are in specialist private practices. There are currently 16 approved alternate-route residency programmes. Initially, there was a third, internationally recognised route where accepted candidates could be allowed to sit the examination without having to undertake a residency. This was designed as a temporary measure for established colleagues who were unable to apply for the de facto process and who would otherwise have been lost to the College. Only three applications were accepted by this route and all three persons subsequently passed the examination. This route closed in 2006.
The first ECVD Diploma examination took place in 1996 and, since then, has continued annually resulting in a healthy growth of Diplomates. After the 2022 examination, membership of the College had grown to 169, 157 of whom are active (practising) and 12 of whom are non-active (non-practising). Three ECVD Diplomates are deceased. There are Diplomates in the majority of the Member States of the European Union and in Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
The Diploma examination currently consists of four sections (open, multiple choice, image-based and histopathological). Examiners receive training in question writing by means of written material and workshops. The expected answers to all questions must be supported by at least two references. The examination is anonymized with the blinding only being discontinued at the end of the whole examination process. Since 2019, the examination has been completely computerized with most questions being scored automatically. Candidates may appeal against the decision of the Examination Committee as outlined in the bylaws of the EBVS.
All practising Diplomates must reaccredit every 5 years to demonstrate that they remain active in dermatology and continue to maintain and update their knowledge and skills. Each must submit a completed reaccreditation form in the EBVS-approved format. In addition, two letters of support from senior colleagues or authorities must be sent independently to the College certifying that the Diplomate in question has been active in his/her specialty for the previous 5 years. The submissions are evaluated by the ECVD Credentials’ Committee
The College is the joint organiser, with the ESVD, of a very well-attended Annual Congress (European Veterinary Dermatology Congress) in Europe in 3 out of every 4 years (in the fourth year the World Congress for Veterinary Dermatology [WCVD] takes place). The ECVD is also a joint organiser of the WCVD Congress. Working on the principle that if you are going to have a Congress you may as well have it in a really nice place, the venues of past meetings read like a list of some of the very best places in the world to visit!
The College has a website (www.ecvd.org). This has a general access area (the College has always believed its policies and procedures must be open to all who wish to see them). Other features in this section include ‘Find a Specialist’ for both members of the profession who wish to refer a clinical case or members of the general public who are looking for specialist care for their animals, which can be navigated via an interactive map. There are also two restricted access areas, one for Diplomates only and one for Board Members only. The website’s content is constantly revised and further developed so that it now provides a virtual College with all correspondence and submissions being able to be carried out via the website.
One of the most important duties of the College is the training of the next generation of dermatology specialists. Prior to being accepted as a Resident of the ECVD, applicants must have completed a minimum 1 year recognised, general clinical training programme in an academic institution (ideally a general internship) or a satisfactory practice equivalent. A subsequent specialised dermatology internship is also advantageous but the College recognises that such positions are few and this is not a requirement. Places with standard active ECVD-registered residency programmes are listed on the College’s website as are most of the current residency vacancies. Additionally, everyone interested in applying for a residency can obtain a candidate status and also see who and where residencies are being offered in each country.
Most of the College’s Diplomate mentors find it very helpful if people who are seriously considering applying for a standard residency programme contact them with a view to conducting a short externship at their institution. This is also invaluable to prospective applicants who can thus get a flavour of the programme at that institution, their potential mentor(s) and the place where, with luck, they could be spending 3 years of their lives!
Table 2. ECVD Presidents
|1992-1995||Professor David Lloyd (UK)|
|1996-1997||Professor Richard Halliwell (UK)|
|1998-1999||Professor Ton Willemse (NL)|
|2000-2001||Dr Didier-Noël Carlotti (FR)|
|2002-2003||Dr Hans-Joachim Koch (DE)|
|2004-2005||Professor Keith Thoday (UK)|
|2006-2007||Dr Rosario Cerundolo (IT)|
|2008-2009||Professor Thierry Olivry (FR)|
|2010-2011||Dr Emmanuel Bensignor (FR)|
|2012-2014||Dr Richard Harvey (UK)|
|2015-2017||Dr Jacques Fontaine (B)|
|2018-2020||Dr. Monika Linek (G)|
Dr Chiara Noli (IT)
Figure 2. The 2012-2015 ECVD Board. From the left: Jacques Fontaine (BE, Vice-President), Emmanuel Bensignor (FR, Past- President), Susanne Ahman (SE, Member), Richard Harvey (UK, President), Monika Linek (DE, Secretary), Dominique Heripret (FR, Treasurer). Absent: Natalie Barnard (UK, Member)
The College itself has invested a lot of time and effort to assist Residents in their training. The ECVD:
has replaced the original syllabus with a document now termed Learning Outcomes of the Residency Programme. This describes in detail in 15 sections, the knowledge and skills expected of a Resident at the time of examination. This is a guide for both the Resident and for the mentor and is accompanied by workplace-based assessments (see below).
provides a detailed reading list of books and journals that should be consulted. This is divided into core, essential and recommended material.
has negotiated a discount rate for its Residents to become members of the ESVD and to receive the journal Veterinary Dermatology.
organises a Residents’ Day meeting immediately after the annual congress, the associated costs being shared between the College and an external sponsor.
organises special meetings to assist in the learning of basic sciences such as structure and function.
began to offer in 2021, two on-line dermatopathology workshops to help provide information based on histological sample description and evaluation.
provides access to a histopathology platform (https://vetdermatlas.com), free of charge to Residents, thanks to College and external sponsor support.
additionally organises and financially supports weekly online histology/dermatopathology rounds with three pathologists.
has recently developed a video bank with lectures on some of the basic sciences (structure and function and immunology).
pays for Residents to attend workshops organised by the ESVD (if these are not free of charge). The ESVD currently organizes one or two workshops annually.
has developed workplace-based assessment tools. These tools, implemented in 2021, currently comprise: discussions of professional activities, the performing of mini-clinical examinations, the benefits of regular clinical-based discussions, the recording of direct observations and the writing of clinically appraised topics.
The ECVD is very concerned about the lack of official recognition of this and other Colleges in some countries in Europe. Recognition of the DipECVD qualification and the EBVS specialist dermatology title (European Specialist in Veterinary Dermatology) differs from country to country ranging from full (e.g., Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, The Netherlands, Slovakia, Sweden and the UK) and informal (e.g., Germany). The College strongly supports and appreciates the efforts of the EBVS in its attempts to make inroads into this situation.
One notable achievement of the College is that, although there is, as yet, no reciprocity, ECVD members are considered specialists by the American College of Veterinary Dermatology (ACVD) and can be sole mentors for residency programmes of the ACVD. Additionally, the College now admits ACVD Diplomates to be full members of the ECVD without examination after application to its Credentials’ Committee on their beginning to work in Europe. In 2022, for the first time, the two Colleges exchanged a selection of multiple-choice questions to see whether the level set by each college was essentially the same.
There have also been major developments in the UK where its Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons recognises the specialist quality of European diplomas and has begun to close its own routes to postgraduate diplomas and specialisation if there is a corresponding qualification offered by an EBVS-recognised College. There is a similar situation in France where the Conseil National de la Spécialisation Vétérinaire is now recognizing a high number of European Colleges, granting the official title of veterinary specialist to European Diplomates of fully recognised Colleges. This contrasts with some other countries in mainland Europe (e.g., Germany, Italy and Spain) where no such move has yet occurred.
In the last 30 years, there has been tremendous progress in specialist education in veterinary dermatology in Europe. Pivotal in this has been the ECVD, under the auspices of the EBVS. It is interesting to speculate as to what developments the next 30 years may hold for European veterinary dermatology.
Thoday, K.L. (2013). A college on stage. European Board of Veterinary Specialisation Newsletter 6, (ed. S. Romagnoli), Spring 2013, 6-9.
Revised and updated August 2022