Lord Dowding Fund for humane research

 

National Antivisection Society

Interview with Professor Dewhurst

2 February 2012

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Professor David Dewhurst is Director of Learning Technology at the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, University of Edinburgh and 2011 marked an amazing 25 years of funding from the LDF. As Director of Educational Information Services in the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine he has College-wide responsibility for educational technology issues

Pictured, Prof. Dewhurst receiving the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education, 2005, courtesy D. Dewhurst

What interested you about alternatives to animals in your field of expertise?
I supervised a final year honours project in 1985. It was a project to capture the responses of a frog’s sciatic nerve on computer, then build those responses into a program to allow students to simulate them on a computer. I was so pleased with the result that I started to use it to replace the real frog nerve experiments with several classes. The LDF became aware of the work we were doing and so began a working relationship spanning 25 years.

When you embarked on your career, how did you picture the situation would be in 2011?
When I started this work personal computers had only recently been introduced into teaching. My first experience of using computers was the BBC microcomputer and at that time it was impossible, at least for me, to foresee the impact technological developments, particularly the Internet would have on my personal and working life. I may have imagined that computers would become more mainstream but mobile computers, smartphones and touch-screen technologies were something I could not have imagined.

What is your overall impression of the last 25 years?
Mainly very positive. I have been fortunate to work with some leading academic colleagues from UK and international universities and have been very fortunate to have employed some very competent and creative computer programmers. Perhaps most special was my team winning the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education in 2005 which was presented to me by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

What are your thoughts regarding the progression of teaching without animals for the next 25 years?
I think, currently, this is difficult to predict. It is clear that the increasing range of available alternatives can meet the educational needs of the majority of university students studying courses where physiology and pharmacology are significant components. This is probably true for students of medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, pharmacy and the healthcare professions.

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