“Since Dr. Lawrence (Ray) Whalen joined CSU’s veterinary faculty in 1982, his unconventional approach to teaching and learning has improved anatomy education and animal welfare in veterinary schools worldwide. On Sept. 14, 2019, the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association presented Whalen with its the CVMA Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his enduring commitment to students and animals.
In 1999, Whalen began the Virtual Canine Anatomy program with the goal of reducing animal euthanasia worldwide while improving anatomy instruction. Whalen teamed up with Dr. Trent Gall and other veterinary students to create an interactive canine anatomy software program. With generous funding from CVMBS, the DVM Class of 2021, Alternatives Research and Development Foundation, and the CVBMS College Research Council USDA Experiment Station grant program, Whalen’s team expanded the Virtual Animal Anatomy suite to include equine, feline, and bovine modules. Support from ARDF also allowed the VCA to be available online without fees from 2013 to 2018. During that time, the site was visited more than 1 million times by users from 195 countries.
Now that Dr. Whalen has entered transitional retirement, Dr. Christianne Magee leads the Virtual Veterinary Educational Tools team. In 2019, Virtual Animal Anatomy became commercially available as a subscription service to other anatomy programs. Dr. Magee says virtual veterinary tools make anatomy education more humane, more ethical, and more effective.
“To teach professional veterinary medicine we have to use cadavers at some point in our program because eventually our students are going to be working on live animals,” Magee says. “We have to teach them about anatomical variation and working with a real specimen, but the more we can do virtually the more we can supplement that cadaver-based learning. They can see one, do one, teach one.”
Whalen attributes the ongoing success of the anatomy program to three things: a willingness to embrace change; outstanding colleagues; and the students. “The most important thing about my job here is the students. We select for the very best, so they’ve wanted to do this most of their lives, they’ve worked hard to get here, and they’re intellectually curious,” Whalen says. “Before every lecture, I have to sit and remember why I teach, what’s expected of me, and what a privilege it is to stand in front of these students who have worked their whole lives to be here. A privilege and a responsibility.””