Karen McCall, spokesperson for UNC Medicine, said the change was made in relation to professor James Manning’s retirement.
“Jim Manning, director of the department of medicine resuscitation research laboratories, ran a live animal research lab where he could help educate emergency medicine residents on life-saving interventions,” McCall said. “After 27 years at the school of medicine, Dr. Manning is retiring. His entire lab and research operation will close.”
The decision to stop using animals in emergency medical training comes after a federal complaint was filed by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
John Pippin, director of academic affairs for the Physicians Committee, said he does not know if their complaint had anything to do with the decision.
“We’re sure it’s the right decision,” Pippin said. “We’re glad that when the opportunity came to change the curriculum, they took advantage of it. We congratulate them for doing that.”
Roberta Gray, a graduate of UNC’s School of Medicine and a retired professor, said she thought it was a great decision.
“It’s a major milestone for them, and it has been for 90 percent of all the other emergency medicine training programs in the country who have done the same thing,” she said. “I’m really pleased that they looked at the evidence and saw that the training with simulators is just as good, if not better, and it doesn’t harm any animals.”
Pippin said he considers the use of animals a “sub-standard method of training.”
“It results in the abuse and killing of animals for no purpose, and it goes against 90 percent of the emergency medicine training programs surveyed,” Pippin said. “Ninety percent is a pretty loud argument in favor of advancing beyond the use of animals for this training.”
There are a few advantages of using simulators over animals, Gray said.
“One is the anatomy of the animals that the residents would train on is quite different than the anatomy of a human. So the simulator allows a more realistic approach to the anatomical detail,” Gray said. “Another thing is that when live animals are used, they can’t be used over and over again, but a simulator can be used 100 times for the same procedure until a trainee can get it right.”
It has never been necessary to use animals in emergency medical training, Pippin said.
“It certainly is not justifiable now with all of the programmable and interactive simulators and available human cadavers that can be used to give training that actually relates to people,” he said.
Gray said medical schools no longer use animals for training their medical students, although it should be noted that students and residents are not the same thing.
“Simulation technology is just so fabulous these days, so realistic,” she said.
“There are at least two dozen simulators for emergency medicine training in and of itself. It’s an incredible improvement in medical education that this kind of technology has come along.”