Readily Available Alternatives to Animals
In the early 1990s, medical schools began rapidly replacing the use of animals for medical education with non-animal teaching methods. Today, the use of animals for all medical school educational courses has been eliminated by more than 85 percent of U.S. medical schools. The Medical College of Wisconsin is one of a handful of schools still using animals to instruct physiology courses—a practice that has been eliminated by more than 90 percent of U.S. schools, including 19 of the top 20 ranked schools.
This change has been facilitated by the emergence, adoption, and validation of excellent non-animal educational alternatives (such as lifelike simulation models, computer-based learning methods, and interactive virtual reality programs), and by the progressive refinement of medical school curricula to emphasize human-based learning and ethics in medical education.
Simulators, Computers, and Clinical Mentorships
Modern simulator and computer technologies provide excellent and clinically relevant teaching in physiology and pharmacology. The METI Human Patient Simulator (HPS) is a programmable and interactive lifelike simulator that accurately mirrors human responses to a variety of physiological situations, including intravenous administration of over 55 drugs. HPS facilitates repetition, progressive learning, and immediate feedback and correction in safe but true-to-life scenarios, all of which are important for optimal physiology education and not possible using live animals.
Human simulators are just one of several widely adopted alternatives to animal use. In many top-ranked medical schools, physiology instruction is focused on didactic teaching, class and small-group case discussions, interactive computer-based methods such as virtual reality programs, and hands-on mentorship opportunities with faculty in anesthesiology, surgery, emergency medicine, and other clinical disciplines.
Top-Ranked Schools Do Not Use Animals
In response to a recent survey, the curriculum office of a top-five ranked U.S. medical school wrote the following:
. . . It has been a decade since we used animals in the lab. As there are very few individuals left who teach that remember using animals, there have not been any concerns with not using animals. Our curriculum is very successful, providing our students with a strong foundation without using animals.
Some of the country’s most highly regarded medical schools stopped using animals in their undergraduate curricula more than a decade ago. Yet these schools continue to be highly ranked year after year, making it clear that the use of non-animal alternatives has not impaired the quality of medical education provided by these schools. At a time when the mainstream of American medical education has successfully and advantageously replaced the use of animals, just a few schools, including MCW, adhere to archaic and inhumane methods.