Q & A with Dr. Pam
I would like to thank the individuals who have submitted questions to Science Corner! I have enjoyed hearing from you and would like to share with our readers some of the questions that I have recently received. Please continue to send your science questions to firstname.lastname@example.org!
- Dr.Pam Osenkowski, Director of Science Programs
Hello Dr. Pam,
I'm considering going to medical school but I learned that to teach suturing, teachers have the med students perform the technique on pigs’ feet. Is this true? If I don’t want to use pigs’ feet, are other alternatives available?
Thank you very much for contacting Science Corner. I taught at a medical school last year and can vouch for the fact that pigs’ feet are used to teach students the suturing technique. But I would like to mention that there are simulators made of synthetic materials available to learn this technique, and they serve as a great alternative.
My advice is to raise your concerns to your instructors as early as possible to give them an opportunity to accommodate your request. Be prepared and impress your instructors by providing them with information about the alternative models you wish to use well in advance of the semester to allow them time to place the order for the simulator, if they allow for its use. An example of an affordable simulator that could be purchased can be found here.
My father recently had heart valve replacement surgery and received his new heart valve from a pig. I am greatly saddened by the fact that a pig, who probably did not have much of a life had to be killed although I am very happy that my father is still alive. If it were me, I would probably choose the mechanical replacement although one can never be sure until faced with that choice.
What are your thoughts on using the pig heart valve in humans? Overall, I just do not think this should even be a choice but, at the same time, I would not want to choose a pig's life over my father's. I guess you can say I'm feeling a little conflicted over this, so I thought I'd ask for your thoughts on the subject.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
You bring up a very good question, and I appreciate you taking the time to reach out to Science Corner. The issue of valve replacement is a matter that causes conflict for a lot of people. The first thing I would like to say is that I’m very happy that your father is doing well. While I’m not knowledgeable of the specifics related to your father’s condition, I suspect that your father’s doctor may have supported the choice for the pig valve for specific medical reasons. When choosing between pig valves and mechanical valves, doctors have to consider durability of the valve versus risk of blood clot. While mechanical valves are considered more durable, the risk for blood clots is increased with mechanical valves. Patients with mechanical valves are prescribed blood thinners, so perhaps that was a factor your father’s doctor took into consideration.
Mechanical valves are continuously being improved and it is my hope that the medical community will better resolve the blood clotting issue and rely solely on mechanical replacements in the future, so that heart valve replacement patients are not placed in difficult position of having to choose between pig valves and the mechanical variety.
Dear Dr. Pam,
In addition to making a donation, in what other ways can I help NAVS?
Thank you so much for your email, it is great to hear from our supporters.
Some things you can do to help our cause is sign up for our Take Action Thursday e-blasts (if you haven’t already done so), and contact your local legislators on the animal issues that we bring to light. You can also order our Personal Care for People Who Care book- to show you which companies do not test their products or ingredients on animals- and tell your friends and family which companies we should support! If you are a fan of social media, you can follow NAVS on Facebook and Twitter, and tell you friends and family to do the same!