Decades-Long Campaign Ends Animal Use at Military Medical School
For more than 20 years, the Physicians Committee has pushed the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences—the country’s only military medical school—to stop using animals to train medical students. On Sept. 3, 2013, the university agreed.
“Live animals are no longer used for training in the undergraduate medical curriculum,” confirmed USUHS dean John E. McManigle, M.D., F.A.C.P., in an e-mail to John Pippin, M.D., director of academic affairs for the Physicians Committee.
In the mid-1980s, the university made headlines in announcing plans to shoot beagles in a medical training exercise. A public outcry aborted the experiments. However, the university conducted other experiments on dogs as part of its routine medical curriculum. Medical students contacted PCRM, asking for help. Given their military obligation, they could not refuse to participate nor could they transfer out of the school.
In 1991, at PCRM’s request, 11 members of the House Armed Services Committee, including Pat Schroeder on the political left and Bob Dornan on the right, signed a letter asking the university to look into alternatives to animal laboratories and to respect students’ choices about participating. But the university refused to budge. Records obtained in 2007 through the federal Freedom of Information Act confirmed three separate live animal laboratories in the curriculum.
The Physicians Committee filed a petition with the Department of Defense asking for an end to this animal use based on a 2005 DOD mandate that nonanimal alternatives be used when available. Dr. McManigle’s recent e-mail confirms that USUHS joins the vast majority of medical schools in the United States and Canada that have moved away from animal use to ethically and educationally superior human-based instruction.
The Physicians Committee continues to work with the four medical schools still using live animals to help them transition to nonanimal methods: the University of Mississippi, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and Oregon Health and Science University.