KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Following contact from the Physicians Committee, Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine (WMed) has ended the use of live animals in its emergency medicine residency program. The Physicians Committee, a nonprofit representing more than 12,000 concerned doctors, applauds WMed for making the switch to human-relevant training methods for its emergency medicine residents.
In June 2017, John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., Physicians Committee director of academic affairs, contacted officials at the university to provide evidence for the educationally and ethically superior nonanimal methods available for procedural training. The resulting correspondence with William Fales, M.D., F.A.C.E.P., F.A.E.M.S., the Chief of the Division of EMS and Disaster Medicine within WMed’s Department of Emergency Medicine, included a discussion of simulation resources. The thread ended with Dr. Fales stating: “I will continue to discuss this with our faculty and educational leadership…I am optimistic we will continue to pursue alternatives to animal training with a goal of eliminating this.”
Emergency medicine training at WMed previously involved cutting into live pigs to practice procedures. Trainees were instructed to make incisions into an animal’s throat and chest to insert tubes, cut into veins, insert needles into the chest to remove fluid surrounding the heart, split open the breastbone in order to access the heart, and to cut the skin and ligament at the lateral corner of the eye. If the animals survived the invasive procedures, they were killed following the training session.
On May 16, 2018, the Physicians Committee received confirmation that procedural labs for WMed emergency medicine residents no longer use live animals.
“The Physicians Committee congratulates WMed for its decision and for the faculty’s willingness to review the curriculum in light of changing nationwide trends and recent developments in technology” says Dr. Pippin. “Providing modern, human-based training methods will better equip WMed’s emergency medicine residents to provide the quality of medical care that patients deserve.”
Now, 95 percent (214 of 226) of surveyed emergency medicine residency programs across the United States and Canada use only nonanimal, human-relevant training methods.
Reina Pohl, M.P.H.
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.