Barbara Natterson-Horowitz: What veterinarians know that doctors don't | Summary and Q&A

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Barbara Natterson-Horowitz: What veterinarians know that doctors don't


This content explores the overlap between human and animal disorders and emphasizes the importance of collaboration between physicians and veterinarians.

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Questions & Answers

Question 1: What prompted the speaker to start collaborating with veterinarians?

The speaker received a phone call from a veterinarian at the Los Angeles Zoo, asking for help in diagnosing a chimpanzee with a possible stroke. This experience led the speaker to realize the significant overlap between the disorders of animals and humans, prompting them to start collaborating with veterinarians.

Question 2: What similarities did the speaker observe between the disorders treated by physicians and veterinarians?

The speaker noticed that physicians and veterinarians were essentially treating the same disorders in their animal and human patients. These disorders included congestive heart failure, brain tumors, leukemia, diabetes, arthritis, and even psychiatric syndromes like depression, anxiety, compulsions, eating disorders, and self-injury.

Question 3: Why had the speaker never thought to consult the veterinary literature or veterinarians for insights into their human patients?

The speaker admits to a lack of awareness regarding the significant overlap between human and animal disorders. Despite having studied comparative physiology and evolutionary biology, they had never considered consulting veterinarians or attending veterinary conferences. This lack of knowledge and awareness was a surprise to the speaker.

Question 4: What are some examples of connections the speaker has discovered by considering insights from veterinarians?

The speaker provides a few examples of exciting connections that this collaborative thinking has led to. For instance, veterinarians had been diagnosing and treating emotionally induced symptoms in animals long before human cardiologists discovered them. Veterinarians also have specific ways of treating self-injury in animals, which could be valuable for psychotherapists and patients struggling with self-harm. Additionally, veterinarians have interventions to address foal rejection syndrome that could offer insights into postpartum depression and psychosis in humans.

Question 5: Why does the gap between physicians and veterinarians continue to exist?

The gap between physicians and veterinarians exists partly due to the condescension and ignorance some physicians exhibit towards doctors who are not M.D.s, including animal doctors. Many physicians are unaware of the rigorous training and breadth of knowledge that veterinarians possess in treating multiple species. This lack of understanding contributes to the divide between the two fields.

Question 6: How is the speaker working to bridge the gap between physicians and veterinarians?

The speaker is passionate about closing the gap between physicians and veterinarians. They are involved in programs like Darwin on Rounds at UCLA, which brings animal experts and evolutionary biologists to collaborate with medical teams. Additionally, the speaker organizes Zoobiquity conferences, where medical schools and veterinary schools engage in collaborative discussions about shared diseases and disorders. These initiatives aim to bring physicians and veterinarians together as colleagues and peers.

Question 7: Why should physicians embrace their patients' and their own animal natures and join veterinarians in a species-spanning approach to health?

Embracing a species-spanning approach to health allows physicians to better understand and treat their human patients. By paying attention to how animals live, grow, get sick, and heal, physicians can gain valuable insights into various medical conditions. The speaker believes that some of the best and most humanistic medicine is practiced by doctors whose patients are not human, and adopting this approach can lead to more effective and compassionate care for human patients.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The speaker had a transformative experience when they were invited by veterinarians to help diagnose and treat animals at the zoo, leading them to see the overlap between animal and human disorders.

  • The speaker questions why veterinarians are not typically consulted or considered in the medical field and highlights the potential benefits of collaboration between human and animal doctors.

  • The speaker discusses specific examples, such as fear-induced heart failure and self-injury, where veterinary knowledge and treatments could be applied to benefit human patients.

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