Humane Education

AV Magazine Issue 1, 2011 2011 Issue #1 Humane Teachers The Equusimulator

"We are pleased with the development of the Equusimulator, because it addresses a lack of large animal training manikins in veterinary education."
Laura Ducceschi, Animalearn Director


As a leader in the field of humane science education, Animalearn is in an excellent position to understand where there are still gaps in filling the needs of educators and students with alternatives to the use of animals. To address these areas, in December 2009, Animalearn teamed up with AAVS's affiliate, the Alternatives Research & Development Foundation (ARDF), which has a 15-year track record of providing funding for projects to develop new non-animal methods in research, testing, and education. That collaboration led to the establishment of the Alternatives in Education Grant Program. Last year, the Program awarded $30,000 to selected education projects, including a grant to Dr. Mary Rose Paradis of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University to develop a veterinary training alternative called the Equusimulator.

Dr. Hawkes guiding a student as she practices taking a blood sample (top). Close-up view of a blood draw using the Equusimulator (bottom).Dr. Paradis is working with Drs. Alicia Karas and Jack Hawkes at Tufts to create a sophisticated equine anatomical model designed to train veterinary students in medical techniques like blood collection, IV drug administration and catheterization, and other procedures that can be particularly stressful for large animals. The simulator can be placed around the neck a life-size horse manikin so that students can develop proficiency in accessing the trachea and jugular vein of a horse for medical intervention.

The Equusimulator consists of a soft, foam-filled sleeve containing tubing with a feel unique to the trachea and offers the same type of tissue resistance found in live animals. A window of a light synthetic fiber mimics the skin, giving students opportunity to practice blood draws, injections, and other procedures. A miniature pump acts as the heart, forcing fake blood through a jugular vein made of tubing that lies over a touch-sensitive switch. When the student holds off the vein, the switch closes a circuit, and the pump, which is powered by a rechargeable battery, turns on.

"You have to see this model 'in the flesh' to truly appreciate it," commented Dr. Karas. "It turns out Dr. Hawkes is an extremely gifted model architect. I'm hopeful that it will inspire more such models for use in teaching."

Currently, the present design is being tested by a large number of students, and the Equusimulator will be adjusted as needed, eventually moving to the next phase of the project, which is to evaluate how training on the simulator impacts student performance.

Animalearn Director Laura Ducceschi commented, "We are pleased with the development of the Equusimulator, because it addresses a lack of large animal training manikins in veterinary education, and commend Dr. Paradis and all those who have been working so hard on this."

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