ZOOBIQUITY: Animals have the Answers

Zoobiquity may sound like a Cirque du Soleil show.  But it’s not.  Coined by Dr. Barbara Natterson-Horowitz MD and Kathryn Bowers, the term refers to the study of health and disease spanning across the animal kingdom, including us human beings. Listen to my interview with Dr. Natterson-Horowitz, MD, TED speaker, cardiologist and consultant to the LA Zoo.

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Zoobiquity and the One Health Initiative encourage physicians, veterinarians and other professionals to put their minds together to solve the world’s health problems–be it for man or mouse or marsupial.  It’s an interdisciplinary approach.  Physicians and veterinarians used to collaborate before the 1900’s then went their separate ways.  Actually the physicians went their separate way. I’m finding my way back because Zoobiquity is vital to the future of medicine.  I believe animals have the answers.

Nature has already figured out some of mankind’s problems. Bears, for example, can add and shed fat depending on the time of year without becoming obese.  Cats are helping inmates to rehabilitate themselves.  Horses are co-teaching classes in public speaking and leadership.  Furthermore, humans and animals share common diseases. Jaguars get breast cancer, elephants get TB, and gorillas take anti-depressants.  Cats get CAT scans, too.  We having amazing similarities and inherent connections.

After all, all living organisms start from one cell.

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Zoobiquity will inspire the health clinic of the future.  Imagine this:  Your doctor texts you to come see her tomorrow morning because your blood pressure readings have been running too high.  A monthly summary of your blood pressure readings have already been automatically e-mailed to her via your smart watch. She then reminds you that your cocker spaniel’s annual physical exam is also due.  You both arrive and she sees you together in her exam room. On the wall, hangs her diploma for DMZ, Doctorate of Medical Zoobiquity.  Lastly, she prescribes a walking program for both of you to trim your waistlines.

In her book, Dr. Natterson-Horowitz concedes that there is a snobbery among most physicians that hinders collaboration with other professionals. This is ironic since veterinary research has paved the way to diagnosing some human diseases.  At the last Zoobiquity conference at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, I witnessed no such arrogance.  Veterinarians, physicians, science writers, and a farrier all intermingled in one intellectual melting pot.

The study of Zoobiquity is also breaking down another kind of arrogance–the one that implies that humans are more important than animals. In other words, it’s the hubris that humans are the landlords, and animals the tenants.  I find it strange how we humans exalt nature on one hand, then on the other, bulldoze it flat down.  Animals and their habitat carry hidden answers that may one day solve many of our own medical problems.  We are all neighbors on this one planet.  We must learn to learn together.

For more information on the next Zoobiquity Conference, click here.

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With Dr. Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers.  Darin Collins, DVM, Director of Animal Health, Seattle Woodland Park Zoo (below).

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