On Jan. 31, the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill announced that it will cease the use of live animals in its emergency medicine training program, according to an e-mail sent to the Physicians Committee. The university’s program joins the vast majority of emergency medicine residency programs in the United States in using human-based methods, such as medical simulation, to train residents. The announcement follows months of pressure from the Physicians Committee and comes on the heels of a similar decision by the University of South Carolina in September.

According to Karen McCall, chief communications and marketing officer for UNC Heath Care, going forward, “residents will solely use simulation models for emergency medicine training.”

Ninety percent (143 out of 158) of U.S. emergency medicine residency programs surveyed by the Physicians Committee use only nonanimal education methods. UNC’s decision places it alongside every other program in North Carolina - including Duke University, East Carolina University, and Wake Forest University. Programs still using animals should note this overwhelming preference for human-based training.

Simulators like those referenced by Ms. McCall replicate human anatomy much better than animals can. What’s more, simulators can move and react to touch, something that animals under anesthesia cannot do, and they allow for the repeated practice of a procedure.

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