Smeak DD. How to Build an Ethically Responsible Surgery Education Program. Paper presented at: Alternatives in the Mainstream: Innovations in Life Science Education and Training. 2nd InterNICHE Conference; 2005 May 12-15; Oslo, Norway


The public, and veterinarians seeking to hire new associates, expect entry-level graduating veterinarians in the United States to be proficient in surgery. This is unlike the expectations of graduating human medical students, since further postgraduate training experience is offered before they are able to conduct even minor surgery. While the level of surgical competency differs between what students expect and what academic surgeons can deliver, all agree that graduating veterinarians must be able to handle routine elective procedures and some emergency techniques. Rapid curricular changes in North American veterinary surgery programs have been fueled by ethical concerns over the use of animals for teaching, the added expense and labour to comply with strict new live animal care standards, a reduction in faculty time commitment for surgery instruction, poor student preparation before live animal laboratories, and the changes in caseload variety at university clinics. Veterinary schools have responded to these concerns by introducing more interactive autotutorial programs (coupled with appropriate models) early in veterinary curricula, substituting cadavers from humane sources for live animals during early surgery laboratories, and introducing alternative surgery experiences (externships, added clinical rotations and elective courses, and cooperative programs with humane organisations for live animal surgery experience) instead of using purchased bred animals in a traditional laboratory settings. Curricula in North American veterinary schools will continue to evolve as our profession struggles with the question about what is (and how to reach) the appropriate level of surgery competency for our entry-level graduates.