Editorial: Responsive Medicine: When the Going Gets Tough
Many people predicted that the tragedies of Sept. 11 and the ensuing weeks would devastate nonprofit organizations, as individuals neglected all causes other than disaster relief, and anthrax scares disrupted organizations' ability to send and receive mail.
It has been partly true here. On Sept. 11 and 12, our telephones were nonfunctional, and, since then, Washington National Airport has never made it back to normal operation. Mail delivery was disrupted, affecting our outgoing updates and appeals, as well as our ability to receive donations. Happily, mail service seems to be back to normal now. But, while most of our members have remained as supportive as ever, recent events have been distracting to those who are new to PCRM, and we have felt the effect as we review our budgets.
Two things were not affected, however: Our successes are continuing one after the other, and our staff is working as hard as ever. We are seeing continuing progress in our program to replace animals in medical education, for example. At last count, 93 of the 126 U.S. medical schools have completely eliminated animals from their teaching curricula. The battle is not over, of course. We are aiming to stop a lab exercise at Des Moines University, in which medical students must cut a nipple from a dog and then sew it back on again. Last year, we pushed the University to use better ways to teach elementary surgical techniques, and many students sought to end the lab exercise. The faculty in charge has insisted on continuing the lab, however, and we are again working to stop it.
Virtually all trauma training centers have used live animals to demonstrate emergency surgical skills. But our video program promoting alternatives has been very well received, and now 19 training centers use nonanimal methods exclusively. At its recent convention, the American College of Surgeons officially approved the use of simulators in trauma training. At the same ACS conference, 265 surgeons signed up for PCRM membership. We are also seeing great progress in PCRM's Humane Charity Seal of Approval program. Health charities are jumping on board, letting donors know that they do not fund animal research and putting pressure on those that have not yet made the switch.
Abuses of humans are coming to light, too. My recent review of the controversial and potentially dangerous practice of using estrogens, such as Premarin, to arrest growth in tall girls will be published in the Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology in January.
There is similar progress with helping people understand the value of vegetarian diets. Our research study of vegan diets for weight loss has finished its acute phase with 59 study participants, and our new study using a vegan diet for diabetes has been approved to begin. And, for the first time, students training to become doctors or dietitians anywhere in the world can take a full online course in vegetarian nutrition directed by PCRM's Brie Turner-McGrievy, M.S., R.D., through the University of Alabama. PCRM's new four-book series on healthy diets for pregnancy and childhood, women's health, diabetes, and cancer will be in bookstores in February. PCRM's Cancer Project is now offering continuous classes in vegetarian nutrition for cancer survivors. Our legal challenges to the industries that promote unhealthy diets are more vigorous than ever.
So while it is true that our support has been threatened and sometimes disrupted, our focus has not changed one iota. Let me express our special appreciation for all of our members who continue to foster our growth and success. In many ways, the recent conflicts are signs that efforts to promote wisdom and compassion are needed as desperately now as ever, and we very much appreciate your support as we tackle the difficult issues we face.
Neal D. Barnard, M.D.
President of PCRM