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  1. News Release

  2. Mar 20, 2024

The Physicians Committee Congratulates Duke University on Replacing Animals in Medical Student Curriculum

More Than 550 Physicians Had Asked the School to Change

DURHAM, N.C.—The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is congratulating Duke University for ending the controversial practice of using live animals to teach surgical procedures to medical students. The decision comes after 556 physicians from across the country wrote to the dean of Duke’s school of medicine on Feb. 2, urging her to join all other U.S. and Canadian medical schools by using only nonanimal, human-relevant training methods. According to a 2023 paper written by surgery faculty, Duke had only recently reinstated the practice, in which invasive surgical procedures are performed on live pigs. Prior to using animals, Duke’s Surgical Technique and Review course had successfully used human cadavers for several years.

On March 14, the Duke Health News Office confirmed in an email to the Physicians Committee that animals would no longer be used, stating: “Recently, a compliance issue was identified within one of our medical student training programs using live animals. That element of the program is no longer offered.” It is unclear what the “compliance issue” was, but under the Animal Welfare Act, researchers and course instructors must consider alternatives to procedures that may cause more than momentary or slight pain or distress to an animal. With no other medical school known to use animals, alternatives are not only available but widely used.

“By replacing animals, Duke has rejoined every other medical school,” says John Pippin, MD, FACC, director of academic affairs with the Physicians Committee. “Medical students don’t want to kill their first patient, and it’s important they learn with models based on human anatomy.”

No other medical school in the United States or Canada is known to use live animals to train students, and none has done so since 2016. The schools instead often use high-tech devices known as simulators, which replicate human tissue and organs, can bleed, and even “die.”  Duke possesses several simulators in its Human Simulation and Patient Safety Center.

To speak with Dr. Pippin, please contact Reina Pohl at 202-527-7326 or rpohl [at] (rpohl[at]pcrm[dot]org).

Media Contact

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.

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