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The Physicians Committee

First, Do No Harm

Dr. Nancy HarrisonDr. Nancy Harrison is one very busy physician. Aside from her work at a community hospital in Chula Vista, Calif., she has been leading the effort to eliminate "dog labs" at the University of California San Diego (UCSD).

Dr. Harrison completed her five-year pathology residency at UCSD, where she discovered that first-year physiology and pharmacology students were participating in laboratory exercises where Doberman pinschers, bred strictly for this purpose, were anesthetized, subjected to invasive procedures, and then killed.

When Dr. Harrison learned that more than half of all U.S. medical schools have opted in favor of state-of-the-art simulators and interactive CD-ROM programs or allow students to observe real surgeries on human patients, she was determined to sway UCSD in the same direction. With these models, she has been educating first-year medical students about dog lab alternatives, as well as empowering senior medical students to do the same by holding informational luncheons and meetings. The effort has amassed strong local support, with more than 150 San Diego physicians from varied specialties signing a petition of opposition to the labs. Today, UCSD students may opt out of the dog lab by simply e-mailing administrators with their preference rather than through an intimidating interview process, as was required in the past.

Dr. Harrison's daily work as a pathologist centers around a community just miles from the Mexican border where most of her patients do not speak English and lack private medical insurance. The close-knit staff is a pleasure to work with, says Dr. Harrison, who juggles problem-solving in the lab, performing autopsies, and comforting patients during unfamiliar biopsy procedures. "Teaching residents from our new family practice here has been a recent pleasant addition to my job." She also mentors young students interested in medicine, allowing them to observe activities in a hospital setting.

Much attention has focused on the dog lab issue thanks to compassionate physicians like Dr. Harrison. Her Web site,, is a great source of information for students, physicians, or anyone wishing to learn more. She is now working to get the issue on the priority agenda at UCSD's Bioethics Seminar. Dr. Harrison has long been a fervent supporter of PCRM's work, lending support and guidance to students in medical schools across the country. "I believe that the medical profession can and will find the compassion to halt this old-fashioned and unnecessary destruction of animals."


Spring/Summer 2000 (Volume IX, Number 2)
Spring/Summer 2000
Volume IX
Number 2

Good Medicine

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