On May 21, I reported on a controversial surgeons' training program taking place at the University of Vermont's College of Medicine. The course, "Advanced Trauma Operative Management," or "ATOM," gives area surgeons the opportunity to practice their knife skills on wounded pigs. A few area animal rights protesters say the course is inhumane and unnecessary. But Michael Ricci, a Fletcher Allen Health Care surgeon who has taken the course, told me it's an invaluable way to prepare for the real thing.
UVM's one-day ATOM course, one of about 20 worldwide, is offered on an as-needed basis. While reporting my story back in May, I heard from several protesters that the next ATOM course was scheduled for early June. At the time, Carol Whitaker, UVM"s assistant dean for medical communications, declined to confirm their hunch. But as the Humane Society of the U.S. reported on June 13, a course was being planned. And it was later canceled.
When I called Whitaker yesterday to ask why, she said it mostly had to do with lack of enrollment. "There was a class tentatively scheduled for June," she explained. "How ATOM works is that when there's enough people to take it, then we put it on — it's not like we pick a day, and then promote it, and then people come. And a couple of the people who were scheduled couldn't do it then, and with all the other activity around it, we decided to cancel the class. So we don't have another class scheduled at this point."
That means the class isn't permanently canceled. Did the cancellation of the June 5 class, I asked, have anything to do with the recent protesters? Whitaker declined to respond directly.
Later, Whitaker mentioned that, about a month ago, she had received over 100 emails from the Humane Society. "But it was disappointing not to be able to have the dialog with the Humane Society directly," she said. "It would have been helpful for them to be more informed about exactly what it is that this course involves. There just seemed to be a little bit of a disconnect."
Whitaker says she is open to considering Seven Days' request to take a tour of the surgery lab. (Photo: Matt Thorsen)