University of Texas at San Antonio, Georgetown University End Use of Animals in Coursework
Medical education has taken a huge step forward at two major medical schools. In July, PCRM learned that the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and Georgetown University Medical Center have expanded their use of modern teaching methods and eliminated live animal labs from their undergraduate medical curricula. PCRM had been working for years to promote non-animal methods at both schools.
“The replacement of animal use with simulators and other advanced teaching methods combines the best education, the best ethics, and the best use of resources,” PCRM senior medical and research adviser John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., said.
Three surgery classes at the University of Texas had used live animals to teach surgery techniques. Those animals have now been replaced with modern medical simulators, which can simulate cardiovascular, pulmonary, and metabolic responses of the human body and also allow students the benefit of practicing the surgical techniques more than once. Animal use has also been eliminated from a first-year physiology class and a fourth-year anesthesiology research elective.
The university has been ahead of the curve on the advantages of simulation technology for several years. The department of anesthesiology began using Laerdal SimMan, a life-size simulator that mimics heartbeats, pulses, and audible complaints, in 2002 when it was one of only 18 medical schools in the country to have that type of anesthesia simulation technology.
Georgetown University School of Medicine ended the use of pigs for procedures such as suturing in its third-year surgery clerkship class for the 2006-2007 school year. After an annual review by the school’s animal use committee, the surgery department decided to drop the animal laboratory in favor of simulation as a teaching tool.
The schools’ elimination of animals in surgery classes may be the beginning of a positive trend. This spring, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) released a sweeping educational reform program. The ACS established the Accredited Education Institutes program, which provides a detailed structure for surgery training programs that replaces all animal use with simulators and other non-animal teaching methods. With the ACS specifically recommending alternatives to animals in surgery programs, U.S. medical schools should find no reason to continue using animals in surgery courses.
A handful of schools still use live animal labs in medical training. As the new school year begins, please consider contacting medical schools that still use live animal labs. Visit PCRM.org/Resch/MedEd.