WASHINGTON—The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s (PCRM) senior medical and research adviser John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., is asking the University of Washington’s animal care committee to vote to end the school’s use of live ferrets for pediatrics training at its March 17 meeting.
In a letter addressed to UW’s animal care committee chair, Dr. Pippin debunks statements made by UW professor of pediatrics Dennis Mayock, M.D., and underscores superior nonanimal methods used at major medical centers around the country, including the Cleveland Clinic and Texas Children’s Hospital.
The letter comes as another major medical center, UT Health Science Center in San Antonio, just announced it has stopped use of live ferrets in its pediatrics residency program. PCRM recently filed a federal complaint alleging that UW’s use of ferrets in its pediatrics residency training violates the Animal Welfare Act.
Read Dr. Pippin's letter below:
March 16, 2011
Susanna L. Cunningham, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N.
Chair, Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee
University of Washington
Sent via E-mail and Facsimile
Dear Dr. Cunningham:
I am writing to address misleading claims made by University of Washington (UW) professor of pediatrics Dennis Mayock, M.D., to the Seattle Times regarding the perceived need to use live ferrets to teach endotracheal intubation to pediatrics residents. Dr. Maycock's assertions are at odds with the facts about prevailing practices at major medical centers around the country, including the Cleveland Clinic and Texas Children’s Hospital. In light of this evidence—provided below—we request that the UW Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) vote during tomorrow’s meeting to immediately suspend approval of Dr. Mayock’s protocol.
Dr. Mayock was paraphrased as saying that UW “has a higher percentage of very low birth-weight preemies than many other medical centers in the country.” However, UW and its partner Seattle Children’s Hospital are far from unique in the number of premature “very low” and “extremely low” birth weight newborns they treat. The overwhelming majority (more than 85 percent) of United States pediatrics residency programs and their affiliate hospitals are providing exceptional care to premature newborns and doing so by teaching endotracheal intubation to residents without the use of animals.
For instance, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center trains its pediatrics residents at two facilities in Dallas—Parkland Memorial Hospital and Children’s Medical Center—and uses nonanimal methods at both to teach endotracheal intubation. In some areas of Dallas the percentage of premature births is higher than 20 percent1—well above the national average of 12.8 percent.2 Further, Parkland Memorial Hospital attends to more than 300 high-risk deliveries each month.3 When a newborn needs to be transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) he or she is brought to the adjacent Children’s Medical Center—ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top pediatrics hospitals in the country4—where care is provided for newborns with “severe prematurity.”5
Dallas is not the only city that has both a large percentage of premature births and a respected pediatrics residency program teaching endotracheal intubation without the use of animals. At the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic physicians and other staff provide neonatal services to a city that in 2006-2007 faced a premature birth rate of 18.3 percent.6
In addition, the majority of the 1,500 newborns who are treated annually in the Phoenix Children’s Hospital NICU—the largest in the nation—are premature, and some weigh barely one pound.7 In order to best train its pediatrics residents to intubate such extremely low birth weight newborns the hospital uses a combination of simulators and active training in the NICU.8
The treatment of low birth weight premature newborns is also familiar to other hospitals and their pediatrics residents. The University of Chicago pediatrics residency program is located at Cormer Children’s Hospital, where the NICU admits approximately 1,000 newborns each year and is able to treat premature newborns weighing barely more than one pound.9
Lastly, Texas Children’s Hospital, affiliated with the Baylor College of Medicine pediatrics residency program, is one of the nation’s largest pediatrics hospitals and was ranked 7th in 2010-2011 in the subcategory of neonatology by U.S. News & World Report.10,11 The hospital admits more than 2,000 infants to its NICU each year.12
It is clear based on the evidence above that UW has no need to harm animals in order to provide care for a large number of low birth weight newborns. We hope that you will immediately suspend approval of the use of animals for the training of endotracheal intubation in order to bring UW into compliance with the Animal Welfare Act. Please reply to inform me of your plans.
John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C.
Senior Medical and Research Adviser
CC: Tena L. Petersen
Manager of Program Operations, Office of Animal Welfare
1. Miller, R. Children's Medical Center, March of Dimes team up for March for Babies event in Dallas. Dallas Morning News. April 11, 2010. Available at: http://www.dallasnews.com/business/columnists/robert-miller/20100411-Chi.... Accessed March 9th, 2011.
2. March of Dimes. Available at: http://www.marchofdimes.com/baby/premature_indepth.html. Accessed March 9, 2011.
3. Parkland Memorial Hospital. Available at: http://www.parklandhospital.com/medical_services/women_infants/comprehen.... Accessed March 9, 2011.
4. Children’s Medical Center. Available at: http://www.childrens.com/AboutUs/AnnualReport.cfm. Accessed March 9, 2011.
5. Children’s Medical Center. Available at: http://www.childrens.com/Specialties/template.cfm?groupid=34&pageid=336. Accessed March 9, 2011.
6. Community Solutions. Available at: http://www.communitysolutions.com/assets/1/Page/County%20Briefing%20Book.... March 9, 2011.
7. Phoenix Children’s. Available at: http://www.phoenixchildrens.com/about/spotlight-stories/new-nicu/. Accessed March 11, 2011.
8. Confirmed via E-mail from 2010-2011 Chief Resident Mike Beasley, MD.
9. Comer Children’s Hospital. Available at: http://www.uchicagokidshospital.org/specialties/neonatology/nicu.html. Accessed March 9, 2011.
10. Baylor Medical Center. Available at: http://www.bcm.edu/about/affiliates.cfm#tch. Accessed March 9, 2011.
11. US News & World Report. Available at: http://health.usnews.com/best-hospitals/pediatric-rankings/neonatal-care. Accessed March 9, 2011.
12. Texas Children’s Hospital. Available at: http://www.texaschildrens.org/carecenters/newborn/nicu.aspx. Accessed March 9, 2011.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.