Physician Profile: Lawrence A. Hansen, M.D.: A Scientist Who’s Followed His Heart
It takes nerve to sport a giant white-and-red button declaring “no more dog labs” on your black commencement gown. Especially if you teach at a research university that refuses to stop killing animals in freshman physiology and pharmacology courses. But if there’s a way to stick up for animals—while maintaining a busy career as professor of neurosciences and pathology at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine—Lawrence A. Hansen, M.D., is up for the challenge.
Several years ago, Dr. Hansen, along with Nancy Harrison, M.D., launched a campaign to end the unnecessary “dog labs” at UCSD. After years of struggle, publication of a review paper showing that the vast majority of U.S. schools had switched to alternatives, and a major public protest, they convinced the school to drop the labs from the core curriculum.
Earlier this year, Dr. Hansen published a powerful op-ed in the San Diego Union-Tribune about the cruelty of animal experiments, particularly the gruesome primate experiments at the University of California, San Francisco. He wrote, “The regulatory deck is stacked against the animals, since membership of these committees is comprised overwhelmingly of animal research scientists themselves,” and he called on those who care deeply about these animals to “watchdog the researchers.”
Dr. Hansen also routinely shares his views about animal rights with his students, using a slide of his cat Dennis to make a point about how precious an animal’s life is. An entertaining speaker who quotes everyone from Mark Twain to Star Trek characters, Dr. Hansen has won 17 teaching awards, one for each year behind the lectern.
Dr. Hansen is also a role model for compassionate young scientists. He pursues his subspecialty in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s research by studying human brains, not animal models.