Medical College of Wisconsin and the University of Virginia end the use of animals in medical student training
An Animal Rights Article from


Physicians Committee
June 2012

I am very excited to share two victories for animals with you. The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and the University of Virginia (UVA) informed PCRM last week that they have ended the use of animals in medical student training.

MCW was the only medical school that used small animals (rabbits, frogs, and rats) in physiology courses. UVA previously included medical students in a graduate level microsurgery course that used and killed 120 rats per year.

We did it together! These changes are the result of PCRM’s efforts, the support of our members, and the willingness of MCW and UVA to review and change their practices.

PCRM’s efforts to end the use of animals in MCW’s medical student curriculum began six years ago when we became aware of the use of dogs in the first year physiology course. PCRM teamed up with the Wisconsin Humane Society to stop this practice, but instead of taking a step forward to modern human-based medical simulation, MCW replaced the use of dogs with pigs. After continued efforts by PCRM, MCW ended the use of pigs as well.

Despite that change, MCW continued to use rabbits, frogs, and rats in small animal labs. PCRM campaigned against this needless use of animals, and last week we were informed that the physiology course will not include animals in the 2012-2013 curriculum. MCW has retained the option to reinstitute these labs in later years. PCRM will monitor this, but in our experience terminated animal labs have never been resumed.

Over the past four years, PCRM has reached out to UVA faculty and administrators to encourage them to discontinue the use of rats in medical student microsurgery training.

We pointed to the existence of nonanimal training methods, connected the school with providers of some alternatives, and argued that medical students do not need to learn the advanced skill of microsurgery. Last week, UVA’s medical school dean informed PCRM that the animal lab had been discontinued, stating in part:

“The [UVA Curriculum Committee] voted to eliminate the microsurgery elective from the medical school curriculum based on the belief that the microsurgery skills acquired are not necessary for the M.D. degree. The elective is no longer a part of our curriculum. In place of this elective, the plastic surgeons will provide a microsurgery simulation experience using a simulator.”

Our success at MCW, UVA, and other medical schools in convincing them to stop using animals is made possible by the generous support of members. Please become a PCRM member today to give us the resources we need to end the use of animals at the five remaining medicals schools and support all our efforts to promote ethical research and lifesaving nutrition.

When you join with a gift of $20 or more you will receive a Stop Animal Testing decal and a subscription to Good Medicine, PCRM’s quarterly magazine.

Thank you again for all of your support, without it PCRM would not be able to obtain victories like this for animals still used in medical education and for the future patients of today’s medical students. 

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