October 23, 2014

Divergence and Convergence of Medicine: The Need for Veterinarians and Human Doctors to Collaborate

There is a definite need for collaboration among professionals and the sooner you realize this truth, the sooner you will be able to better serve your patients and the environment. As long as there has been disease and injury among humans and animals, there have been people within society that treat, cure, and care for those who are in need. These people who help others used to be one in the same; a general medical expert. However, there has been a schism in the field of medicine: Human and Animal. This is puzzling because humans and animals share so much from molecular, genetic, physiological, and anatomical standpoints. The genesis of research within health sciences that has been applied to human medicine has often been a result of experiments on animals. But only over the last decade have there been more significant findings on the similarities in medicine between humans and animals.

In an August 2012 Smithsonian.com interview with Dr. Natterson-Horowitz, author of Zoobiquity, Dr. Natterson-Horowitz describes "zoobiquity" as the harmonizing trifecta of evolutionary biology and veterinary science with human medicine. The book's goals are to shed light on two cultures - animal medicine and human medicine - and to discuss how these two branches of medicine can learn from one another. Also, it reminds us that humans are animals and that all doctors need to think that way too. Dr. Natterson-Horowitz said she wanted to formulate a word that brought together two cultures, so she took “zo, which is a Greek word for ‘animal’ and ubique, which is Latin for ‘everywhere’” and brought them together. While joining veterinarians on their rounds at the Los Angeles Zoo in 2004, Dr. Natterson-Horowitz watched the veterinarians take care of their patients and realized that “there is a parallel universe of medical practice, of which many [human] physicians are fairly unaware.” This observation “led to a very broad, open-minded question about how extensive the overlaps are in the critical syndromes of animals and humans.”

Veterinary doctors, unlike their human doctor counterparts, treat multiple species, and always understood that there is only one health, one medicine, and one planet that we all share and interact within. So the concepts within Zoobiquity are of no surprise to veterinarians, but are a great revelation to many of the human doctors. This is one of the pitfalls of super specialization that has permeated the human field and it is easy to forget that the finger that is being treated is connected to the hand and in turn that hand to the arm and that arm to the shoulder and so on… Luckily, with new innovative efforts in cloud computing and communicative technologies, the world we live in is shrinking and the schism between veterinary medicine and human medicine is narrowing.