Open up, say 'neigh': Horses help teach med students
May 6, 2013 at 11:34 AM ET
Neurosurgeon Dr. Allan Hamilton of the University of Arizona Medical Center, Tucson, is using his ranch for a first-of-its-kind class to help train first year medical students, bringing the humans in close contact with large flighty four-legged patients who can’t talk and who can be highly -- and violently -- reactive to doctors who aren’t attuned to their patients’ body language.
At his first “lecture,” Hamilton shows this year’s class how to safely approach a horse. He slowly walks up to one of his horses, running his hand over the animal’s body as he moves around it.
“I put my arm around him like this so the whole time, even when I go through his blind spot, he knows exactly where I am,” Hamilton tells the students and NBC chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman.
The slow, careful contact with the animal is not only for self-protection -- the reaction of a startled horse can range from bolting away to spinning and kicking out at something it perceives as a threat -- but also as comfort and reassurance.
The idea for the course began when Hamilton caught himself approaching a patient too abruptly and without the right amount of sensitivity.