A board certified specialist is a veterinarian who has not only received a degree from an accredited veterinary school, but has also completed considerable post-graduate education, passed a series of certification examinations and achieved the status of a board certified specialist, or `Diplomate`, in their specialty (internal medicine, dermatology, cardiology, etc.). The majority of colleges require a 1 year internship and a two to three year residency program before the candidate can take the final certification tests.
Each specialty is governed by a college that oversees the rules and regulations regarding board certification. For example, the American College of Veterinary Dermatology (ACVD) oversees board certification of veterinary dermatologists in America and the European College of Veterinary Surgeons oversees the board certification of veterinary surgeons in Europe. The American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) oversees a variety of specialties including Neurology, Cardiology, Oncology, and Internal Medicine, the European College of Veterinary Internal Medicine for Companion Animals oversees those including cardiology and internal medicine. Each American college is approved by, and is overseen by, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), a national organization whereas each European college is approved, and is overseen, by the European Board of Veterinary Specialization (EBVS).
A board certified specialist is identified by the initials, after his/her name, of the college to which he or she belongs. For example, a veterinarian who is an American board certified ophthalmologist would have the letters ACVO, which stands for the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmology, after his/her name:
John Doe, DVM, ACVO
John Doe, DVM, Diplomate ACVO
Because both the European and the American Colleges of Veterinary Internal Medicine oversee multiple different specialties, the specific specialty will often be placed after the initials ACVIM or ECVIM-CA, respectively. For example an American board certified Neurologist would have the words `ACVIM (Neurology)` after his/her name:
John Doe, DVM, ACVIM (Neurology)
John Doe, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM (Neurology)
A European board certified cardiologist would have the words Â“ECVIM-CA (Cardiology)Â” after his/her name:
Dr. Pauline Arnold, ECVIM-CA (Cardiology)
Dr. Pauline Arnold, Diplomate ECVIM-CA (Cardiology)
In the US, a veterinarian is not allowed to use the words `specialist` or `specializing in` unless he/she has completed a board certification program approved by the AVMA. EBVS rules apply accordingly to veterinarians in the majority of European countries.