TUCSON, Ariz.—The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine—a national nonprofit with more than 17,000 doctor members—and local residents held a demonstration at the University of Arizona (UA) this Thursday, calling for an end to the use of live animals in the university’s surgery residency. At UA’s Tucson medical campus, trainees practice invasive medical procedures on live pigs before the animals are killed. Kerry Foley, MD, and members of the public held banners and signs that read “UA: Stop Using Animals to Teach Human Medicine. ArizonaDeservesBetter.org,” “Modernize Medical Training,” and “End Animal Use.” The physicians group also purchased five billboards that surround the campus, all within a 1.5-mile radius.
The Physicians Committee’s survey of surgery residency programs shows that 76% of responsive hospitals and universities—including UA’s Phoenix campus, the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, and Midwestern University at Mountain Vista Medical Center—do not use animals. Instead, these programs use educationally superior methods that accurately replicate human anatomy and physiology. The remarkably lifelike medical simulators can include layers of lifelike skin, fat, and muscle, replicate human anatomy, and simulate bleeding. UA could replace animals quickly using its state-of-the-art Arizona Simulation Technology and Education Center.
Across the U.S., many medical training programs have seen the pandemic as a wake-up call and transitioned from animals to simulators. Animal-based labs make social distancing impossible because veterinary staff and multiple trainees must share a room. In comparison, human-modeled simulators can allow physicians to practice on their own.
Since March 2020, the University of Washington, Vanderbilt University, the Cleveland Clinic, and the University of Virginia have all replaced animals in medical training programs.
“These lifesaving skills are best learned on human-relevant methods, ensuring that the transition from training to treating patients is not such a big leap,” said John Pippin, MD, FACC, director of academic affairs with the Physicians Committee. “You don’t learn how to drive a car by practicing on a bike, just as UA’s use of pigs is inappropriate for training future surgeons.”
To interview Dr. Pippin or to see the billboard artwork or locations, please contact Reina Pohl at 202-527-7326 or rpohl [at] pcrm.org.
Reina Pohl, MPH
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in education and research.