A Thaw in Vet / MD Relations?
I’ve given my editor a nice list of topics for me to write about. The problem is that sometimes things come up that I’ve just got to comment on that aren’t on the list. It goes against my very fiber to remain silent. I came across an article last week on the Veterinary Information Network (VIN) news service entitled "Physicians and veterinarians to share perspectives" that I want to mention.
A human cardiologist named Dr. Barbara Natterson Horowitz went to the Los Angeles Zoo to do some cardiac stuff. She "realized the profound truth" that "humans and other animals experience the same disease."
Seriously? This is breaking news?
How can this be such a surprise to the human medical field? Why do they use animals in lab research? Is it because they can’t complain or sue? Well, that’s probably part of the reason, but a big reason is because they have roughly all the same parts and diseases as their human counterparts.
A pediatrician once laughed in my face because I mentioned that my job faced similar challenges to his. Except, of course, his patients start talking at some point, and mine never do. He thought I was joking! Needless to say, that doc didn’t make it past my interview.
I’ve had nurses stare at me in wonder when I mentioned that dogs and cats get diabetes . They use insulin and everything.
My family practitioner once asked me if she could take her dog’s prednisone. Prednisone is simply prednisone. There isn’t human prednisone and dog prednisone … it’s all prednisone! In the grand scheme of the pharmacy business, the vet industry is small potatoes, so there isn’t much financial incentive for them to produce "veterinary only" drugs. The majority of our medications are human drugs that are dosed down to accommodate animals.
Just last week, my cardiologist about fell over when I informed him that cats commonly develop hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). Whenever you read in the paper about a young football player (I’m in Texas, football is practically a religion) keels over dead. Well, they have HCM too. He could NOT believe we actually do echocardiograms on cats and put them on beta-blockers.
I always get the same vibe from MDs: That it’s such a novelty; like we’re playing doctor with pets.
Anyone out there use Restasis for dry eye? Guess who invented it and used it first? A vet. On animals. For dry eye.
I think that if human doctors stopped looking down their noses at us, thinking we’re just "pretend" doctors, we’d actually learn a lot from each other.
The two professions have evolved separately, treating the same diseases, often in vastly different ways, using different medications, techniques, equipment, etc.
I personally find these similarities and differences fascinating. They are the best thing about having to be involved with human medicine. Every single time I, or someone I know goes to the hospital or sees a doctor, I can’t resist "playing the vet card" to see what I can learn that I can use in my own practice.
Apparently, my view is also shared amongst some of my colleagues. The American Veterinary Medical Association has started the One Health Initiative to open up lines of communication with the human medical field. This is definitely a step in the right direction.
So, back to the cardiologist. Dr. Natterson Horowitz, MD, got together with the UC Davis School of Vet Medicine and the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine to sponsor the "Zoobiquity" conference at the end of January in the hopes to "create conversations and relationships between human and veterinary colleagues." Incidentally, a Google search of the term "Zoobiquity" yields an article in the New York Observer about how a book, written by the aforementioned cardiologist on the subject of Vet Med/Human Med relations, was sold to a publisher for "the high six figures."
The term "zoobiquity," in case you were wondering, is trademarked, and its website talks all about the concept, the book and the conference.
Curiously, the book was written by the MD and a writer whose credits include CNN, the Atlantic Monthly and the development of a Hollywood production company.
Nary a veterinarian to be seen.
So is this a giant leap in veterinarian/MD relations? Or just someone profiting from wacky similarities between the vets and the "real doctors"?
What do you think?
Dr. Vivian Cardoso-Carroll