FARGO, N.D.—With a national petition and ads across Fargo, a national doctors group is asking Sanford Health’s leader to put an end to killing animals in its trauma training course—the only such course in all of the U.S. or Canada that continues the practice. Ronald Cohen, MD, a resident of Sioux Falls, S.D., where Sanford Health is headquartered, and a member of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, started a petition to Sanford Health’s president and CEO, Bill Gassen. The petition, which has collected 60,000 names as of today, asks that the health system improve medical training by replacing pigs in its Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) course with the same human-relevant methods used everywhere else.
The Physicians Committee, a national nonprofit with more than 17,000 doctor members, is also behind eight oversized bus wrap ads and three billboards that are running in Fargo this month. The ads feature a clean design and an image of a pig, reading “Sanford Health: Stop Killing Animals to Teach Human Medicine. FargoDeservesBetter.org.”
The ATLS course is run by Sanford Medical Center Fargo and is conducted at North Dakota State University. It involves cutting into pigs to teach invasive procedures. Trainees make incisions and insert tubes and needles into an animal’s chest cavity, abdomen, throat, and the sac surrounding the heart. But this practice is completely out of step with modern standards of medical training. In fact, among the 385 accredited programs surveyed in the U.S. and Canada, Sanford’s is the only one still using animals. Programs elsewhere in the Dakotas—at Altru Health Systems, St. Alexius Medical Center, Avera McKennan Hospital, and courses run by the South Dakota ATLS Taskforce—use only nonanimal training methods.
The American College of Surgeons, which developed and accredits ATLS courses, has endorsed the replacement of animals with simulation for training since 2001. Yet, more than two decades later, only Sanford continues to kill pigs for use in ATLS training.
“It’s only a matter of time before Sanford Health comes to terms with the fact that training standards have moved on without them,” said John Pippin, MD, FACC, director of academic affairs with the Physicians Committee. “It’s crucial in the field of medicine that you’re able to keep up with the times, and that means modernizing your training methods as needed.”
To interview Dr. Pippin or to see the petition, the ad artwork, or ad 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.