Grant supports hands-on surgical and clinical veterinary training simulation lab

Students at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University use a model of a dog leg to practice placing a needle to draw blood (Alonso Nichols/Tufts University).
June 26, 2017

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Tara Pettinato

GRAFTON, Mass. (June 26, 2017) – Plans to create a new state-of-the-art simulation lab that provides hands-on surgical and clinical training to students at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University will take a major step forward thanks to a $100,000 Cummings Foundation, Inc. grant.

The multi-purpose teaching and simulation lab will be located in the basement of the newly renovated Henry and Lois Foster Hospital for Small Animals at Cummings Veterinary Medical Center and will house a variety of life-sized simulated animal models and a dedicated surgical preparation space.

The lab will include cat and dog simulators that will enable students to practice fundamental procedures, including abdominal palpation, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, dentistry and intravenous catheter placement. Students will be able to check out these small animal simulation models to use in the lab or take home, as they would at a lending library. The lab also will accommodate four large-animal simulator stations to teach procedures such as rectal palpation in cows and horses, and intravenous catheter placement.

“We are tremendously grateful to the Cummings Foundation for its dedication to innovation and excellence in education,” said Deborah Kochevar, D.V.M., Ph.D, dean of Cummings School. “We aim to create an environment where students are comfortable admitting when they need extra time or hands-on experiences to develop their skills, whether they are in their first semester or last clinical rotation. Successful veterinarians engage in lifelong learning and continual self-improvement, and the lab will encourage these practices in our students.”

The simulation lab will build on the talents of faculty and staff who have created many homegrown small-animal models over the years. For example, a Cummings School internal medicine specialist led the development of six different canine abdomen palpation models that students use to differentiate between a full bladder and a tumor, among other medical conditions.

The teaching and simulation lab is part of a national trend at veterinary schools to expand simulation training, much like medical and dental schools have already done, said Nick Frank, D.V.M., Ph.D., professor and chair of clinical sciences at Cummings School, who is leading the working group to develop the simulation lab.

Frank noted that students need opportunities to practice basic procedural techniques without the inhibitions or anxiety that can come from working on live animals. “With a lab like this, students can practice at their own speed,” he said.

The grant will partially fund the cost of the initial architectural planning for the lab, a critical first step toward completion of the project.

Cummings Foundation, Inc., founded by Tufts alumnus and trustee emeritus Bill Cummings and his wife, Joyce Cummings, has awarded more than $170 million in grants to non-profit organizations serving a broad range of causes in greater Boston and around the world, including human services, education, health care, and social justice. Cummings Foundation is active internationally through aid to the post-genocide rebuilding of Rwanda and support of education to help prevent future genocides and other intercultural violence and injustice. The Cummings' philanthropy has had a significant impact on the Tufts community in particular, including a naming gift in support of Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

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About Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University

Founded in 1978 in North Grafton, Mass., Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University is internationally esteemed for academic programs that impact society and the practice of veterinary medicine; seven teaching hospitals and clinics that combined log more than 80,000 animal cases each year; and groundbreaking research that benefits animal, human, and environmental health.