Criteria and Best Practices

Statement of Criteria for Departmental Training in Anatomic Pathology- Combined Anatomic Pathology Residency and Advanced Degree Program


This document will summarize the anatomic pathology training program leading to American College of Veterinary Pathologists (ACVP) board eligibility with current information and departmental best practices. The document brings together several documents given to students pursuing ACVP board certification training and has been reviewed by faculty and students in training. Our program is dynamic and undergoes continuous review and assessment. Additional information also can be found on the website in the Graduate Student Handbook for the department.


The successful training of ACVP board eligible pathologists is a primary goal of the Department of Veterinary Pathology with training that provides time for student learning; integrated into the departmental research, teaching and diagnostic missions; and centered in hypothesis-driven critical thinking. The Department offers graduate study leading to the MS and PhD degree and post-doctoral training for highly qualified biomedical scientists. For pathology trainees, emphasis is placed on quantitative morphologic analysis of cells and tissues, molecular pathology, and animal models of disease. The graduate faculty are dedicated to producing a strong, creative intellectual environment where ideas are vigorously debated and rigorously tested and to translate knowledge of pathobiology as a resource for strengthening research capacity. Training, in addition to being directed by the major professor and POS committee, is monitored by a Director of Graduate Education, and if the student is in a track for ACVP board certification training, a Professor-in-Charge of the Pathology Residency Program, and by Professors-in-Charge of rotations through Clinical Pathology, Anatomic Pathology, and Surgical Pathology services. This training focus has led to the second highest ranked training program in North America for success in certification by the American College of Veterinary Pathologists (personal communication, Dr. Paul Stromberg, ACVP Secretary/Treasurer, 2004). Training consists of course work, seminars, examination practice tests, and faculty mentoring. Departmental faculty have held and currently hold key positions on the ACVP examining board, including Examination Chair, Examination Committee Members, and QA/QC positions. Graduate students are given the departmental policy stating the time required for training and expected qualifications for ACVP faculty to sign to take the ACVP examination.

Criteria for Training

  1. Completion of criteria for ACVP board eligibility as outlined for the Department of Veterinary Pathology (Appendix A below), including service duties within the department. Further details of the program are present in Appendix B.
  2. Successful completion of required course work as described for the departmental graduate program for anatomic pathology.
  3. Participation and completion of teaching pathology courses in the professional curriculum for DVM students. Currently required teaching courses in the anatomic pathology series are: V Pth 342 Spring and V Pth 372 Fall.
  4. Attendance at required seminars for training: 604 seminar, gross pathology slide review, departmental WIP, AFIP slide review, necropsy rounds with senior students. Other rounds are optional.
  5. Presentations at national meetings including: ACVP, AAVLD, ASM, and similar meetings.
  6. For a graduate degree from the Department of Veterinary Pathology, it is required that the major professor or co-major professor will be housed in the Department of Veterinary Pathology.

Appendix A

Sponsoring A Graduate Student For The ACVP Board Examination (Anatomic or Clinical Pathology)

Policy June 1, 2003

All graduate veterinary students contemplating seeking board certification from the American College of Veterinary Pathologists (ACVP) should become knowledgeable of the requirements set by the ACVP to be qualified to take their board examination.  Please go online for additional information.

An ISU faculty member who is a Diplomate of the ACVP may act as a sponsor for a graduate student candidate applying for ACVP certification. The faculty sponsor should be the ISU veterinary pathologist most responsible for the diagnostic and pathology training of the graduate student while at Iowa State University (ISU) and most knowledgeable of the candidate's level of preparedness for the examination. In addition to ACVP sponsor time requirements, the ISU sponsor should have direct, regular and frequent contact with the candidate for at least a minimum of six months immediately prior to signing a candidate's application as the sponsor.

The requirements for signing for a candidate are very specific. Signing for a candidate guarantees that the candidate has been adequately prepared to sit and pass the examination. The signature does not guarantee that the candidate will pass the examination.

If the sponsor from ISU concludes that the candidate is not adequately prepared to successfully complete the ACVP certifying examination, the sponsor shall not sign the candidate's application.

Currently, the Department of Veterinary Pathology has a required minimum 10-12 weeks of service duty time per year (a minimum of 50 weeks/5 years) for ACVP board certification qualification. The duty weeks can be accumulated as a total over the 4-5 year period. It is critical for the candidate to understand that the completion of the service duty is only one factor used by a sponsor to determine whether a candidate is adequately prepared for the ACVP examination. Other factors include evidence of adequate competency in general pathology and diagnostic pathology knowledge, expected attendance at gross and histopathology seminar, journal clubs, and other relevant training sessions. Other individuals responsible for the candidate's residency, diagnostic, and ACVP training will have input to determine if the candidate is adequately prepared to take the ACVP board examination. The sponsor also will obtain input from the candidate's major professor. If the candidate has not completed a minimum number of service duty weeks or is not adequately prepared to take the examination, completion of additional weeks of service duty may be required by the sponsor. In order for an ISU ACVP pathologist to sign as a candidate's sponsor, the additional weeks of service duty must be under direct supervision at ISU or extensive knowledge and continued documented communication with the ISU sponsor will be required.

Appendix B


Adjunct Instructor in Pathology is a training-level faculty position designed to provide graduate education and experience in veterinary pathology. Other training positions also may be used with similar goals such as research assistants. The trainee program is a combined graduate degree/residency program that leads to the PhD degree in Veterinary Pathology and training programs for examination for certification by the American College of Veterinary Pathologists. Knowledge of mechanisms of disease and diagnostic pathology is achieved through formal graduate courses and seminars, rotations in necropsy and biopsy services, and in teaching professional students.

Appointments are made for up to 1 year at a time and terminate at the end of the fiscal year, June 30 and appointments are renewed annually with successful completion and progress from the preceding year. The department has the right not to renew a contract based on financial deficits or contingencies or lack of progress in the program. Conditions are in the Letter of Intent signed at the time of appointment. Trainees are provided graduate student office space, binocular microscope, computer, standard office supplies, and receive support for meeting presentations as available. Access is provided to departmental computers, copy machines, FAX, library and electronic literature searches.

The combined PhD degree/residency program in veterinary pathology is designed as approximately a 4-5 year program. Faculty guide the residents during the initial portion of the program in cooperation with the major professor. The research advisor/major professor should be identified at the end of the first year. Faculty will work together to facilitate progress of residents during the third, transition year. The residency portion of the program is completed in the first 3 years with the majority of service training in the first 2 years.


Adjunct Instructors take 1-12 credits per semester of formal coursework or research credit. In the first 2 years this typically represents 2 courses (5-8 credits) each semester. Most formal coursework should be completed during the first 2 years of the program. The MS degree requires 2-3 years and a minimum of 40 graduate credits including 10 credits earned outside the department. The PhD degree requires 72 graduate credits including 12 earned outside the department. The first year also should be dedicated to adapting to a graduate research culture and creative intellectual environment where ideas are vigorously debated and rigorously tested.


You are encouraged to design and complete a small research project for credit under VPTH 590 (Special Topics). The trainee should participate in weekly Science seminars and begin to think creatively in terms of modern research techniques. During the year, a major professor should be selected, a Program of Study committee formed, and a research project initially formulated. Research training for the PhD degree is provided through projects within the department, with other CVM departments or ISU colleges, and USDA laboratories.


The trainee will be assigned to assist in required teaching courses and other assignments may occur after consultation with the course coordinator and the trainee. Those courses currently are V Pth 342 Spring and V Pth 372 Fall.


Trainees in veterinary pathology are assigned to surgical pathology and necropsy services with a senior faculty member one week out of every 2-4 weeks. Trainee activities and reports are reviewed by senior faculty. Each trainee will be assigned to assist in departmental services according to the following schedule:

Biopsy Service. Residents will be trained in proper methods of cutting in tissues for processing and in the technical services of the histopathology laboratory. Residents will review the histologic slides and enter a pathologic description of microscopic findings on the computer program within the 24-hour goal of the biopsy service. During the first 4 months of biopsy duty, residents are trained at multi-headed microscope by the attending pathologist to review microscopic changes and composition of pathologic descriptions.

Necropsy Service. Residents will conduct daily necropsy duty under supervision of an attending pathologist during the first 4 months of necropsy. Senior veterinary students do necropsies each day under the supervision of the resident. The attending pathologist will be available for questions and will review gross findings of each case. Residents will complete reports and the resident and attending pathologist for the case will review the slides and written report within 4 days after completion by the resident.

Cytology/Hematology/Chemistry Services. Residents will complete the daily work of these services and will review morphology and compose microscopic descriptions under the guidance of the attending pathologist for the first 4 months. Thereafter, the resident will be responsible for composing and typing reports. The resident will review all laboratory data sheets from the previous day for abnormal data changes and to identify cases for teaching purposes.


Year 1

  • Complete departmental graduate courses: V Pth 570/571, 590
  • Choose major professor
  • ACVP training explained and mentorship
  • Develop Program of Study (POS) committee
  • Select research project and begin Research Plan development
  • Assist in surgical pathology and necropsy services
  • Attend departmental seminars and meetings
  • Pass Graduate English Examination (if required)

Year 2

  • Assist in teaching formal course (1 semester) in professional curriculum
  • Assist in surgical pathology and necropsy services
  • Begin research project
  • Begin elective graduate courses (genetics, immunology, microbiology, et al.)

Year 3

  • Finish graduate coursework
  • Take Preliminary Examination for PhD
  • Assist in teaching formal course (1 semester) in professional curriculum
  • Assist in surgical pathology and necropsy services as arranged

Years 4-5

  • Research
  • Decreased diagnostic and teaching duties


  Vet Path 570 Systemic pathology I (4)
  Vet Path 590 Special Topics/research (3)
  Vet Path 604 Pathology case seminar (1)
  Vet Path 655 Cellular and Molecular Pathology I (3)
  Stat 401 Statistical methods for research workers (4)
  Vet Path 652 Pathologic hematology (3)
  Vet Path 549 Clinical pathology laboratory (1)
  Vet Path 554 Ethics in scientific research and writing (1)
  Vet Path 699 Research (1)
  Vet Path 550 Surgical pathology laboratory (1)
  Vet Path 571 Systemic pathology II (4)
  Vet Path 604 Pathology case seminar (1)
  GDCB 528 Advances in Molecular Cell Biology (3)
  BBMB 542 Intro to Molecular Biology Techniques (1)
  Vet Path 551 Postmortem pathology laboratory (1)
  Vet Path 604 Pathology case seminar (1)
  Vet Path 656 Cellular and Molecular Pathology II (3)
  VMPM 625 Mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis (4)  
  Vet Path 550 Surgical pathology laboratory (2)
  Vet Path 590 Special topics (2)
  Vet Path 699 Research (2)
  Vet Path 551 Postmortem pathology laboratory (2)
  Vet Path 604 Pathology case seminar (1)
  Vet Path 605 Seminar (1)
  Vet Path 699 Research (4)
  Tox 501 Principles of Toxicology (3)
  Vet Path 606 Diagnostic interpretation (R)
  Vet Path 699 Research (4)
  Vet Path 699 Research (4)
  Vet Path 590 Special topics (2)
(Revised: February 2014)