Earlier this year I spent a couple days inside Boston's Franklin Park Zoo's Veterinary Hospital for a New York Times story about the zoo's partnership with Harvard Medical School for an unusual fellowship opportunity for medical students. These students, all focusing on human medicine, spend a month at the zoo shadowing the veterinary team at the zoo to provide medical care to the zoo's animal population. As one of the students told me, it's not as outlandish as it might seem at first glance. The history of medicine is replete with examples of diseases or syndromes first discovered and treated in animal populations. Second, it's useful to treat patients who can't describe their syndromes because that is common in practicing human medicine. Third, there are idiosyncrasies in animal expressions of certain diseases that might inform future treatment methods in humans. Giraffes, I was told, have very high blood pressure, but don't suffer the sames sorts of illnesses associated with high blood pressure in humans.
This one was an absolute joy to photograph, but difficult due to the sensitive nature of the animals, low lighting in many of the environments, and speed with which the veterinarians worked as they attempted to minimize the impact they had on animals during their treatment.