Skip to main content

SynDaver Surgical Training Models

Active Learning, Clinical Education, Video
soft tissue surgical team with canine SynDaver surgical model on table

In 2018, the Soft Tissue Surgery section at CUHA began using SynDaver training models to teach students surgical competency. SynDaver canine models provide a realistic training experience for students to practice surgeries and receive individualized feedback on their technique. Originally led by CVM’s Dr. Galina Hayes, the use of SynDaver models was born out of a need to produce veterinarians confident in performing common abdominal procedures, such as gastrotomies, gastropexies, enterotomies, intestinal resection and anastomosis, and cystotomies. To ensure students learn as much as possible from the hands-on component, Dr. Hayes worked with the ESS team to produce a series of narrated videos showing each procedure, with close-up shots detailing each step.  Students can access the videos, as well as extensive notes and learning materials, in the college’s learning management system as part of their Soft Tissue Surgery rotation.

Dr. Hayes and the ESS team have also developed SynDaver resources to teach a series of advanced emergency procedures, including gastric dilatation-volvulus, splenectomy, and stapled resection and anastomosis. Both the basic and advanced SynDaver sessions are used in the DVM curriculum and for continuing education workshops for practicing veterinarians.

Project Support 

Projects like this would not be possible without early private support from our most generous and loyal friends and alumni who seek to improve the tools for teaching the next generations of skilled veterinarians.

David ’80 and Joyce Rivas were early supporters of Dr. Hayes and her vision. Their border collie named Zip is a very active agility competitor, so when it was time for her spay, they chose Cornell. When they learned about the SynDaver program, they were anxious to help and provided the seed funding for the first synthetic canine which they appropriately named after Zip.

When board-certified surgeon and alumnus Tom Scavelli DVM ‘82 heard of the SynDaver program, he too was an early supporter, as he sees first-hand how early surgical training builds confidence in veterinary students. Dr. Scavelli recruits Cornell-trained students and residents to Garden State Veterinary Specialists and sees the benefits that the skills and confidence gained from these types of innovative tools and training can have on their careers.

Zip Rivas inspired the donation to purchase the first SynDaver

The program is in need of additional SynDaver trainers as well as annual organ replacement for existing trainers. Investments of all sizes can be made to the program. Contact Amy Robinson at or 607.253.3742 for more information.

This investment will have a tremendous impact on the confidence and surgical skills of Cornell’s students.

Dr. Galina Hayes