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J Vet Med Educ. 2005 Winter;32(4):473-80.

Mainstreaming alternatives in veterinary medical education: resource development and curricular reform.

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Department of Population Health and Reproduction, and Director, UC Center for Animal Alternatives, University of California, Davis, CA, 95616, USA.


Veterinary medical educators are charged with preparing students to enter practice in veterinary medicine during a four-year, intensive, professional education program. This requires giving students in laboratory training that involves dead, anesthetized, or conscious animals, so that they become proficient in the expected range of veterinary knowledge, skills, and abilities. Undeniably, experience with animals is essential to prepare students for a profession in which animals comprise the total domain. However, the consumptive use of animals for teaching students, especially in laboratories, is increasingly subject to regulatory requirements, while also being scrutinized by animal protection groups, and has become a common focus of contention among veterinary students. Not surprisingly, the use of animals in teaching has sharply declined over the past few decades, as new teaching resources and methods, involving less consumptive use of animals, have been incorporated. This change in veterinary medical education has occurred on such a wide scale, in almost all veterinary schools and colleges, that the educational approach can serve as a model for further developments within the veterinary educational community and, indeed, for animal-related material in secondary schools and undergraduate higher education. This article highlights examples of the leadership provided by veterinary educators in developing alternative teaching resources and methods, while maintaining the high level of proficiency expected from traditional educational approaches.

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