University of Texas at San Antonio, Georgetown University End Use of Live Animal Labs
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 (UTHSCSA) and Georgetown University Medical Center have expanded their use of modern teaching methods and have eliminated live animal labs from their entire medical curricula. These developments mean that just 19 of the 125 U.S. allopathic medical schools continue to use animals in their courses.
PCRM senior medical and research adviser John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., applauds the schools for their decisions. “The replacement of animal use with simulators and other advanced teaching and training methods combines the best education, the best ethics, and the best use of resources.”
Three surgery classes at the UTHSCSA—a senior surgery honors course, a surgery internship readiness elective, and a third-year surgery clerkship in general surgery at Wilford Hall Hospital—had used live animals in exercises meant 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 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 UTHSCSA 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 heart beats, 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. The school also has a state-of-the-art visualization and simulation center.
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 using simulation as a teaching tool.
UTHSCSA's and Georgetown’s recent decisions to eliminate 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. This initiative could change the landscape of medical school and surgery residency curricula for the better.
Unfortunately, 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. Voice your opinion today and help encourage these schools to adopt more compassionate and effective teaching and research methods.