Zoobiquity: A Species-Spanning Approach to Medicine
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2011
Kate Kang, BA; Wesley Friedman; Meredith Masters, BS
David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA


Zoobiquity Conference, organized by UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine; the David Geffen School of Medicine UCLA; and the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens) brought together leaders in both human and veterinary medicine to discuss the same diseases in a wide spectrum of animal and humans. The conference generated conversations and relationships between human and veterinary colleagues and demonstrated how collaborations between zoos and academic medical centers enhance the mission of both institutions.


Animals and humans share vulnerabilities to the same health threats. In fact, the vast majority of diseases physicians encounter in their human patients are treated by veterinarians in their non-human patients every day. Disorders many physicians consider human diseases, ranging from cardiac amyloid to glioblastoma multiforme to thyroiditis to obsessive compulsive disorder, are routinely diagnosed and treated by veterinarians utilizing essentially the same diagnostic strategies and therapeutic interventions used by human physicians.

Despite this, veterinarians and human physicians have few opportunities to collaborate around shared clinical concerns. Indeed, the vast majority of clinical physicians will move through their entire professional lives without engagement with a single clinical veterinarian. This is deeply unfortunate because collaborations between veterinarians and physicians have the potential to improve the health of many species.

In recent years, there has been a call by leaders in human medicine, veterinary medicine, public health, and wildlife biology to forge bonds between these fields and related institutions. Despite the recognition of the potential and benefits of these types of collaborations, to date there have been few projects which explicitly bring members of the two professions together.

Materials and Methods

Over the past several years, a number of cross-professional collaborations have emerged between UCLA School of Medicine, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and the Los Angeles Zoo. Veterinary sub-specialists have been invited to the UCLA Medical Center to participate in rounds and conferences. Physicians have assisted with tertiary care of animal patients at the Los Angeles Zoo. UCLA medical students have taken comparative cardiology classes in which EKG, echocardiography, and physical diagnosis are taught using human and animal patients. These programs are aimed at narrowing the distance between physicians and veterinarians who are treating many of the same diseases in different species. This goal is being realized by targeting emerging leaders in both veterinary and human medicine early in their professional education.

Closing gaps, creating conversations, and forging bonds between human and veterinary medicine was the inspiration behind the first Zoobiquity Conference, held January 29, 2011. Zoobiquity Conference: A Conversation Between Veterinarians and Physicians Caring for the Same Diseases in Different Species brought together over 200 veterinarians and physicians to discuss the same diseases in patients of many different species. Jointly sponsored by the UCLA School of Medicine, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, and the UC Global Heath Institute, the cross-disciplinary conference was designed to encourage conversations and create relationships between physicians and veterinarians confronted with similar clinical challenges.

Goals of the conference included fostering (1) a broader consideration of the epidemiology of disease with implications for shared environmental triggers and exposures; (2) the development of new approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of disease in both animals and humans; (3) relationships and collaborations between physicians and veterinarians leading to novel clinical, educational, and investigational approaches; and (4) a greater appreciation for the shared biology and pathophysiology of humans and animals by veterinarians and physicians.

Zoobiquity Conference 2011

The morning began in the auditorium of the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center where 200 leaders in veterinary and human medicine gathered. The Deans of both UCLA School of Medicine and UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine welcomed the participants. Human and veterinary sub-specialists discussed cases in the areas of cardiovascular disease, infectious disease, oncology, and psychiatry. Discussion between sub-specialists focused on comparative aspects of the disorders and their therapies.

Following the morning program, conference participants boarded buses and traveled to the Los Angeles Zoo to participate in “walk rounds” led by the zoo’s veterinary staff. Several fascinating cases with important comparative elements were presented with expert commentary provided from both human and veterinary medical experts.


The conference succeeded in generating conversations and relationships between human and veterinary colleagues. In addition, the event provided an example of the kind of collaborative and generative work which can be accomplished when zoos partner with academic medical centers. A key component of the conference was to expand the educational perspectives of medical and veterinary students and to generate ongoing dialogue between the fields.


Speaker Information
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Wesley Friedman
David Geffen School of Medicine
University of California
Los Angeles, CA, USA