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Russell Gray and Bryan Pfahl

Location: Calgary, AB

Award: Innovation Award

Category: Education

Year: 2017

Innovation:

Bovine Dystocia Simulator

Growing up, both Russell Gray and Bryan Pfahl had an innate curiosity about how things worked, often taking items apart and putting them back together. While their creativity and problem-solving skills led them to careers designing and building props for the motion picture, television, and display industries, they never thought that they would one day design and build life-size, anatomically correct cows.

The idea for the VSI Bovine Dystocia Simulator was sparked in 2009 following a conversation with Dr. Alastair Cribb, the dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Calgary. Hands-on experience is crucial for veterinary students but the traditional use of live and preserved cadavers or biological materials in the classroom is expensive, potentially hazardous, as well as an ethical concern.

Russell and Bryan love a challenge and their creativity, varied skill set and unique history of fabrication were a perfect fit to tackle the development of the first anatomically correct bovine simulator.

One year later the pair unveiled the VSI Bovine Dystocia Simulator, the first life-size cow and calf model. The cow bodies are made from steel reinforced epoxy resin-infused fibreglass, with a removable hatch granting access to inside the cow.

Veterinary professors can demonstrate dystocia (difficult birth due to a misaligned fetus) by placing the calf model in the Bovine Dystocia Simulator in different positions that could occur. The cow also features a functional udder with replaceable silicone teats. Students are able to perform a California milk test, used to detect mastitis, or inflammation of the udder, which is a common disease in dairy cows.

Canadian designed and manufactured VSI Bovine Dystocia Simulators are used in 130 institutions in more than 35 countries. Russell, Bryan and their team are currently developing a canine dental surgery simulator.