“Humans are not the only species that suffer from various diseases. So to develop medicine for all species, we must widen our perspectives from a human-centered perspective to a species-spanning perspective,” stated Dr. Barbara Natterson-Horowitz on the first day of her secondary school class. This was indeed an accurate statement. Human and veterinary medicine have shared many diseases and their cures, whether we, as humans who were centered in an only human point of view, realized it or not.
For instance, in her book Zoobiquity that she wrote with Kathryn Bowers, Dr. Natterson-Horowitz describes the “aha moment” that she experienced as a cardiologist working at the UCLA Medical Center. As a cardiologist, she was asked to visit the Los Angeles Zoo and share her expertise with its veterinarians. That day, she was called to help assess the heart failure of an emperor tamarin. As she would do to a human child, Dr. Natterson-Horowitz locked her eyes with the tamarin to build a bond between herself and the scared and confused animal. When she stared into the eyes of the tamarin, a veterinarian came by and stopped her from doing this, as it would give the tamarin capture myopathy, which is a condition that is associated with a predator looking into the eyes of an animal and would lead to the animal’s muscle failure.
Although this was widely known in veterinary medicine for decades, most human doctors were not familiar with this concept. At least, not with the exact words of “capture myopathy.” However, this condition was similar to a known human condition with a different name: takotsubo. Takotsubo is a medical condition that occurs when humans experience a physically or emotionally traumatic event that would lead to heart failure.
Right at this moment, Dr. Natterson-Horowitz started to wonder if there were diseases or disorders that humans and animals shared. With research, she found out that humans and other animals shared many diseases and conditions such as fever, breast cancer, leukemia, melanoma, and endometriosis. She then realized the necessity for a collaboration between human and veterinary doctors to provide further knowledge and possible cures for all species.
Natterson-Horowitz, B., & Bowers, K. (2012). One: Doctor House, Meet Doctor Dolittle: Redefining the Boundaries of Medicine. In Zoobiquity. essay, Vintage Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.
Zoos South Australia. (n.d.). Emperor Tamarin. Adelaide Zoo Animals. https://www.adelaidezoo.com.au/animals/emperor-tamarin-2/.
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