Who doesn’t love Halloween? Hollywood celebs sure do, just ask Heidi Klum or Neil Patrick Harris. 158 million Americans are expected to enjoy Halloween 2013, spending $6.9 billion on costumes, candy and decorations. Halloween isn’t just for kids anymore, either – 66 percent of adults will celebrate the holiday in some way. And who can blame them, especially when there are wonderful haunted houses like this one on view. Take a tour for some ghoulish fun.
A handful of places around the world are emerging as business trendsetters, and OZY is keeping an eye on them for you. We’ve recently profiled an Asian gateway, a city built from the ground up that hopes to connect East and West, and a beautiful two-island Carribean nation that doesn’t need to rely on tourism. Have you read these stories yet?
It doesn’t take more than a few minutes in Astana — Kazakhstan’s futuristic new capital — to make you forget what little you may have assumed about the country, most of it no doubt from a certain Sacha Baron Cohen movie. Until about a decade ago, Astana was an insignificant provincial town. Then longtime President Nursultan Nazarbayev decided to move the capital to this empty stretch of grassland and build a city essentially from scratch.
After more than $10 billion in investment, most of it fueled by the country’s oil boom, the result is a towering urban center of glass skyscrapers and gleaming domes, the physical embodiment of the country’s vision of itself as a 21st-century global player, one that serves as a bridge between the East and the West.
The “Asian tiger” of the ’80s has successfully recast itself as a high-tech center. Long a regional economic powerhouse, Singapore is becoming one of a handful of places around the world that are attracting a new kind of elite global innovator — both the wealthy (like Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin) and those well on their way.
More and more, Singapore is going toe-to-toe with Hong Kong to become an Asian financial center — one roughly equidistant from Dubai, Mumbai, Beijing, Tokyo and Sydney. In recent years it has closed in on or surpassed Hong Kong and even money-friendly Switzerland to handle upwards of $1.29 trillion in personal assets under management.
The typical Caribbean vacation includes white-sand beaches and turquoise seas — as well as monolithic hotels, all-inclusive packages and too much rum. The double-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago is an exception. It has all the beachy beauty of other Caribbean countries but relatively few tourists competing for cabanas.
It’s Caribbean exceptionalism at its finest, and Trinis have a natural gas boom to thank. In the past 15 years, natural gas exports have grown from nil to 623 billion cubic feet (in 2011). Today, Trinidad and Tobago’s energy sector contributes more than 40 percent of the country’s GDP and 70 percent of its foreign exchange. The upshot: Unlike its Caribbean brethren, Trinidad doesn’t need your tourism — tanks.
Less than a year ago, much of the world hadn’t heard of Julie Larson-Green.
Today, plenty of people are talking about her.
As the search for a new CEO at Microsoft continues, most eyes are focused outside the company. But those who are looking internally have Larson-Green on their radar. The person some insiders view as Steve Ballmer’s “heir apparent” has spent 20 years building a strong and respected presence within the company. Not bad for someone who was told “no thanks” the first time she applied at the company.
“Julie has this immediate ability to cut through things,” Jensen Harris, a Microsoft software designer who worked with Larson-Green for over 10 years, told Bloomberg earlier this year.
Larson-Green has never been someone who was unclear on what she wanted. In high school, she had her mind set on working in the computer industry — even though she had never used one before.
The person some insiders view as Steve Ballmer’s “heir apparent” at Microsoft was told “no thanks” the first time she applied at the company.
“I knew it was cool and it had to do with math,” she said in a Microsoft internal interview.
Ford’s Alan Mulally might be the most frequently mentioned name when the topic of Ballmer’s successor comes up (despite his repeated insistence he has no plans to leave the automaker). And former HP chief Mark Hurd and Nokia CEO Stephen Elop have both been discussed as well.
She possesses what many successes show — not an MBA or PhD but rather a GSD (Get Stuff Done) degree.
— Scott Steinberg, analyst and CEO at Tech Savvy Global
But Larson-Green’s name is part of the conversation too. And while she’s viewed as a diplomat on the Microsoft campus, she hasn’t shied away from wanting to continue her journey up the corporate ladder.
Earlier this year at Wired’s business conference, an audience member asked Larson-Green if she could see herself replacing Ballmer.
“I wouldn’t rule it out, but I’m not in a hurry,” she said. “Give me a year and ask me again.”
Larson-Green started down the high-tech path at Western Washington University, where she was a student employee offering technical support in the microcomputer lab. When she graduated, Microsoft was her first choice — but the company rejected her application.
She ended up taking a customer service job at Aldus, a maker of desktop publishing software PageMaker. Six years later, though, she got her foot in the door at the Redmond-based software giant — and has been on the rise ever since.
Her ascent at Microsoft has followed Moore’s Law, escalating at a phenomenal rate. She was hired to help oversee development of Microsoft’s Visual C++. From there, she went on to head the user-interface design for Office XP and Office 2003. She was also responsible for the major upgrade to Office 2007’s user interface, replacing the menu-driven interface with the “ribbon,” a controversial move that was met with some user resistance but was ultimately embraced. And she led planning on Windows 7 — something that accelerated her journey on the fast track.
Then, last November, everything changed.
Microsoft president Steven Sinofsky shocked company observers by leaving the company — and Larson-Green was thrust into the spotlight. The company named her head of all Windows software and hardware engineering.
In July of this year, she was promoted again as part of Ballmer’s reorganization push — and put in charge of the devices and studios engineering group, which oversees the company’s prized Xbox division, as well as devices like the Surface tablet.
As head of the devices and studio engineering group, Larson-Green is responsible, perhaps more so than any other Microsoft executive, for charting the course of the company.
Just as people were getting used to that managerial shift, Ballmer dropped another bomb: He was leaving Microsoft. And that’s when the handicapping started.
“Her strengths lie in persistence and resilience,” says Scott Steinberg, analyst and CEO at Tech Savvy Global. “She possesses what many successes show — not an MBA or PhD but rather a GSD (Get Stuff Done) degree: She’s smart, she’s flexible and she’s tenacious.”
Her leadership style is different than many other department heads. Whereas Sinofsky was said to be almost dictatorial, Larson-Green looks for good matches on teams, theorizing that if the people working on a project gel well, it results in a better product.
“It’s more of an art than we like to give it credit for,” she said in her internal interview. “There’s no formula for making good software … The chemistry between the people is very important.”
Should someone else get the CEO job, insiders predict that Larson-Green will not leave Microsoft. Her devotion to the company is fierce, they say.
Also, while it’s not the CEO spot, as head of the devices and studio engineering group, Larson-Green is responsible, perhaps more so than any other Microsoft executive, for charting the course of the company.
The Xbox One, says P.J. McNealy, founder of Digital World Research, is the most important product launch at Microsoft in the last 10 years — and likely will hold that spot for many more years.
I think I’m a better mom because I work…I think it makes me more engaged and more interested…
— Julie Larson-Green
Her unit will also oversee any efforts in wearable tech, an area she has said is of interest to her.
Outside of the Microsoft campus, Larson-Green lives the life of a soccer mom. Her husband, Gareth Green, is an associate professor and chairman of the economics department at WWU. Her daughter, 20, is in college and her son is in seventh grade. The balance, she notes, can be tough, but she enjoys the challenge.
“I think I’m a better mom because I work,” she says. “I think it makes me more engaged and more interested and more efficient with my time.”
And her excitement about her job has rubbed off on her kids — at least it had five years ago, when she quoted her then-14-year-old daughter who thought “working at Microsoft someday would be pretty cool.”
Wonder how cool it would be if her mom becomes CEO?
OZY and JPMorgan Chase have partnered to bring you an inside look at how entrepreneurs and their good business are helping the communities around them. Enjoy the rest of our special series here.
Halloween makes us want to watch scary movies. And while Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” in all of its ’80s gruesome glory, is neither a movie nor scary, its zombie theme earns it a place on the Halloween shelf. But curiously, “Thriller” — the video that changed videos forever — almost had nothing to do with zombies and “grisly ghouls.” Writer Rod Temperton first penned the demo as “Starlight.” How different would things be now if we learned to sing “Starlight! Starlight sun” instead of the catchy “Thriller! In the night?” Quite.
“And whosoever shall be found, Without the soul for getting down, Must stand and face the hounds of hell, And rot inside a corpse’s shell.”
If you’re above the age of 35, you’ll probably remember the hype around the TV debut of “Thriller” on November 30, 1983 (not on Halloween). And whether you watched its world premiere on MTV or networks broadcasting it throughout the world — or didn’t watch it at all — you knew something special had happened. It was a 14-minute epoch in TV history, what Rolling Stone called a true “watershed” moment for the music industry. Because ”Thriller” was, if anything, a game-changer.
Michael Jackson didn’t want just a music video; he wanted Hollywood grandeur: a full-on motion picture short. He tapped director John Landis for the project, based solely on his film “American Werewolf in London.” Landis agreed, insisting on union workers and proper rehearsal time. All in all, the total cost of the big theatrical endeavor: half a million dollars — a hefty price cleverly paid for by the documentary of its own creation, The Making of Thriller. The end result set the bar for music videos; every musical act looking to chart or secure a spot in pop culture legendry now needed a video.
Remember the “Thriller” storyline? A couple played by Jackson and Ola Ray (Playboy’s Miss June 1980) are walking through the woods after running out of gas. Jackson stops and asks Ray if she’ll be his girl and then delivers the ominous warning, “I have something to tell you. I’m not like other guys.” Uh-oh. Cue the full moon, and Jackson transforms into a werewolf. But, deep breath, it’s all just a movie. MJ and Ray leave the theater and, at the 4:13 mark, the song starts.
A playful Jackson sings about thrillers, dancing in the now-iconic red jacket (created by Landis’s wife to help make the 99-pound star look “virile”). Zombies rise up from their “funk of forty-thousand years” (thank you, Vincent Price) and encircle the couple, followed by the infamous ”Thriller” dance, the centerpiece of the show. Fans everywhere memorized the choreography, and whether they zombie-shuffled at home or en masse like the prison inmates in the Philippines, it became a universally recognized shimmy of the undead.
Next month, the video that became one of the most influential pop music videos turns 30. For a Halloween treat, grab some popcorn, sit back and rediscover your inner zombie — “‘Cause this is thriller, thriller night.”
This editorial article was originally created by OZY Media and published on OZY.com prior to, and independently of its inclusion in this JPMorgan Chase & Co. sponsored series. OZY Media claims the full rights and responsibilities of this article.
The weight of scientific evidence, scholarly research and observed experience all appear to be pointing in the same direction: The world is getting warmer, and the question now is not so much if but when temperature increases will occur, and how dramatic they will be. And while extreme weather events, the loss of biodiversity and droves of environmental refugees pose seriously negative consequences for us all, the hard-nosed pragmatists among us have also pointed out that the impacts of rising temperatures will vary from location to location — and that some regions may even stand to gain from a few degrees’ rise in temperature.
Such climate-change “winners” would include parts of southern England, particularly along the coast near Dover, which are already being scouted by Champagne producers who like its chalky soil composition and are attracted by the possibility of milder weather. Grape vineyards are extremely sensitive to even slight changes in temperature, rain and sunshine, sending wine producers to scout new territories in Tasmania, the wilderness of Yellowstone Park and the hills of central China.
Shifting wine regions
Other kinds of agricultural products would also shift, making parts of Northern Europe — especially the Scandinavian countries — resource rich in staples like wheat and corn, owing to a productivity increase of as much as 25 percent by 2050. And as agriculture moves, so does the infrastructure required to support it: Food processing, storage and transportation industries will also be disrupted.
Percentage of England’s grape crop now devoted to varietals from the Champagne region
How much less a vineyard owner would pay for chalky-soiled land in Dover, England vs. Champagne, France (for now…)
Projected decline in wine production from Bordeaux, Rhone and Tuscany by 2050
70% and 74%
Projected decline in Californian and Australian wine production by 2050, respectively
Consider, for example, Arctic shipping routes that currently remain closed for much of the year because of icy conditions; as weather warms, they remain open longer, creating opportunities for cheaper shipping and shifting the power dynamics amongst the eight nations that claim territory in the region. While most of them consider these international waters, in a poll, about half of Canadians said their government should assert national sovereignty over the Arctic waterway; compared to only 10 percent of Americans lending their political will to the cause.
It’s not just wine…
With so much of its territory in the Great White North, climate change holds additional changes for Canada: Immigration to its increasingly accessible and habitable lands could give it one of the world’s highest population growth rates by 2050. Of course it’s not only human populations that move into newly de-iced regions. Receding ice has made room for an 84-percent increase in the population of Adélie penguins in Beaufort (an island just south of New Zealand) since 1983.
Percentage change in the amount of land that will become hospitable to corn crops in Sweden and Finland by 2080
Percentage change in the amount by which wheat production may rise in Northern Europe by 2080
Percentage change of crop yield in California corn, wheat, rice and cotton over the next several decades
The further flourishing of some animal species, however, may not be exactly welcome. Mosquitoes, for instance, are set to greatly expand their numbers and could be present in every city along the United States’ Eastern seaboard by the end of the century. Such a development would pose not just a nuisance but also a public health risk, given the number of tropical diseases that are also traveling northward with mosquitoes. Other roving pests pose a further threat to crops in some of the world’s most productive farmland.
More hospitable agricultural conditions in some areas will mean contracted growing seasons and fragile weather in other areas: Champagne producers have been shopping for fields in England not because they want to but because their existing vineyards may not be able to produce quality grapes under changed weather conditions. The agricultural losses facing other countries — for example, the severe droughts predicted for parts of the Sahel and Southern Africa — are far more serious; will Sweden and Norway be ready and willing to export their new grain reserves to Mali or Mozambique?
The consequences of rising temperatures are potentially devastating; no one should consider them desirable. But if climate change is inevitable, then we would do well to heed the small head start we have, and learn how to use new resources to mitigate the loss of old ones.
Despite the Arab Spring, for many people around the world, the Middle East and its turmoil are a potent symbol of hopelessness. You might think that a world leader who has seen the fighting up close would ultimately agree. But not Tony Blair.
When we sat down recently, the former British prime minister (and onetime aspiring rock star) surprised me not only with his optimism for a real solution, but also with the depth of his concern for what might happen if the U.S. and Europe do not take an even more active role in trying to move the region into a new era. Take a moment to listen to Blair’s perspective on what could happen in the Middle East — even with the struggles in Iran and Afghanistan — and the surprising protagonists who may lead the way.
All the world’s allegedly a stage, but many of us gave up performing in childhood, around the same time we outgrew our tap shoes or ruined our magician’s hat. Though many of us still regularly perform for others — be it on Twitter, in front of the water cooler or on a first date — there’s still no substitute for the bright lights. If only someone would provide us a stage (and a bit of a prod).
Enter stage left: Lucy Baker, compere extraordinaire, the leading lady of London-based amateur cabaret The Little Show Off. Baker is a woman of many talents — performer, clown, self-proclaimed fool — and better (or worse) yet, she can persuade and coach first-time performers to do outrageous things. She knows how incredibly illuminating and nerve-racking a stage can be, amplifying everything about you and exposing it to the world.
But that sort of vulnerability can make magic. One night, Baker recounts, a first-time performer took the stage, bearing a sheet of paper on which she’d written a poem. As she read the poem, she very slowly lifted the paper higher and higher until it completely covered her face. The innocent, unconscious act added to her performance a richness and innocence no one could have planned.
When Lucy asked me to perform in The Little Show Off, I was intrigued. It seemed the perfect opportunity for what I call a “life experiment,” a challenge to my normal patterns. But I’ve never liked speaking in public — let alone being on show. A disguise would be essential.
I outfitted myself with a white dustproof body suit, gloves and plastic safety goggles, as well as an old microwave I found on eBay, and a bar of soap. The concept was simple: I walked onto the stage very slowly to dramatic music, carrying the soap as though it were a sacrament. I microwaved the soap for one minute. And, ta-da! I presented my soap-sculpture masterpiece to the audience.
It was perfectly mad — and I loved every minute of it. The audience seemed to, too. They heralded my performance with ecstatic applause and hoots and hollers. How weird is that?
Baker says that she uses The Little Show Off simply to create a frame, but the performers make the pictures, choosing to present themselves however they desire. She has a lot of faith in humankind’s capacity to entertain: When I asked her what she thought of hit TV shows like American Idol and Britain’s Got Talent, she told me she believes everyone does indeed have talent. And they want to be seen, too — if not always in the way big media thinks they do.
Maybe the point is not about being famous or rating ourselves against one another, as those shows suggest. Rather, it’s something deeper: being confident in who we are, taking the risk to put ourselves out there. Not for any prize, but for life itself. After all, life is the real stage.
So go on — be fabulous and show off a little!
Transgender people and their politics have always occupied an uncomfortable place, even for those who are comfortable with the notion that gay people are born that way. Thirteen years ago, writing in the New York Law School Journal of Human Rights, Shannon Minter asked, “Do Transsexuals Dream of Gay Rights?” Gender identity versus sexual orientation was hotly debated, as was whether transgender people should be included in the gay rights movement at all.
We use transgender as an umbrella term that includes people who are transsexual, cross-dressers or otherwise gender non-conforming.
Today transgender folks are included in so-called queer concerns and in the awareness of the general public. A recent survey found that not only could two-thirds of Americans correctly explain the meaning of transgender, but three-fourths of Americans backed legal protections and equal rights for trans people. Movie critics are praising Jared Leto’s portrayal of a transgender AIDS patient alongside Matthew McConaughey in The Dallas Buyers Club, which opens this week: Oscar buzz and the actors’ major weight loss will put the true story in front of mass audiences. All signs of progress — but how far have we come in making the political a little more personal?
By conservative estimates, approximately 500 people a year undergo sex reassignment surgery in the U.S. at a cost of up to $24,000 for male-to-female surgery and up to $50,000 for female-to-male surgery — creating a penis is difficult and costly, apparently. Add to this long-term hormone therapy, often a yearlong counseling mandate, and a battery of postsurgical follow-ups, and it’s clearly not a decision one would take lightly.
While these complex surgeries are becoming more sophisticated, not every trans person is interested in them. Whether or not someone elects to go under the knife, members of the trans community still wish to be recognized by their acquired gender, making the Social Security Administration’s decision to alter to official gender designation without proof of surgery a major victory this summer.
However transgender people express their true selves, seeing more of them on the public stage raises questions about the way we typically divide the sexes. The transgender male-to-female cage fighter Fallon Fox wants to fight against women, for instance. Potential Olympic athletes also want to compete in their reassigned genders, as do beauty pageant contestants. Not surprisingly, others are pushing back.
Finally, and to cut even deeper: How much does it matter in a romantic context? As the many shades of transgender experience become clearer, and with all the fluidity of gender and identity and changing mores, the question is: Would you date a transgender person? Would knowing your date had a “less typical gender than others” pose a problem, or could you, as Lana Wachowski put it, be drawn toward a transgender person “not in spite of their difference, but because of it”?
Sixty-five years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the world is still ridden, and riven, by war and injustice. Human rights itself has matured into a complicated and often contentious field. Its practitioners, though bent on making the world a better place, are not perfect saints. Instead, we at OZY find that they’re often conflicted, very passionate and utterly fascinating.
Consider our piece on Samantha Power, the United States’ new Ambassador to the United Nations. The fiery 43-year-old made her name in human rights, calling out U.S. foreign policy for blindness, hypocrisy and arrogance. She’s still thought of as a human rights specialist — she wrote a career-making, Pulitzer prize-winning book on preventing genocide — but OZY pegs her as a “humanitarian hawk,” not a feel-good peacenik. That means Power supports military strikes to prevent atrocities, even at the risk of civilian lives.
Then there’s Sarah Holewsinki, a 36-year-old who’s devoted to trying to make war less brutal — namely by convincing warmakers to reduce, account for and mitigate civilian casualities. Instead of preaching against war, Holewsinki and her organization, the Center for Civilians in Conflict, work with militaries to find practical solutions to reducing civilian harm. The work is not without controversy: “The wishful notion that war can be refashioned into a therapeutic, surgical instrument by activist lawyers is elite santería with little basis in the reality of war, though its proponents of course present themselves as ‘pragmatists,’ as opposed to those unreasonable ‘pacifists,’” wrote one of our commenters. And yet, because of its pragmatism, Holewinski’s organization is one of the few humanitarian outfits that warmakers actually listen to.
If anyone can show how counterintuitive the world of human rights can be, it’s Mario Joseph, a human rights lawyer in Haiti whose latest big case is against the United Nations. The United Nations, self-proclaimed protector of human rights, sponsor of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, etc.? Why, yes. It stands accused of inadvertently importing cholera into Haiti. The disease has, to date, killed more than 8,000 Haitians. Although the great weight of scientific evidence is on Joseph’s and his clients’ side, the U.N. has so far refused to acknowledge fault. This month, Joseph and his team sued the U.N. in American court. Stay tuned.
Many think of the Olympics as a chance to celebrate our common humanity and love of sportsmanship, competition and athleticism — this despite differences in nationality, religion, gender and race. But a spate of Russian antigay laws has led to much consternation around the upcoming Olympics in Sochi. With its eye on Sochi, OZY looked back to the 1968 Olympics, when African-American medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in a salute to human rights — and against racial discrimination. We remember Smith and Carlos for the courage of their silent gesture, but the protest was bitterly received back home.
Indeed, as our flashback on Bartolomé de las Casas suggests, defending human rights has never been simple or straightforward. The 16th-century Spanish priest vociferously opposed the atrocities that Spanish conquistadors inflicted on the people of the so-called New World. Some call him the world’s first human advocate; others, the “Apostle of the Indians.” But Las Casas didn’t always get it right. Early in his career, he advocated importing a new labor force … from Africa. This led to accusations that Las Casas supported the soon-to-come transatlantic slave trade. Though he recanted later in life, Las Casas’ error points up how even the most farsighted people can have blind spots.
Barbara Natterson-Horowitz’s life was changed in a huge way by one of her tiniest patients: a kitten-sized emperor tamarin monkey named Spitzbuben. Although the UCLA cardiologist spent most of her time seeing patients and teaching medical students and early-career doctors, she was also on the medical advisory board for the Los Angeles Zoo, where she occasionally consulted for zoo veterinarians. One spring day in 2005, the chief zoo veterinarian called Natterson-Horowitz to examine Spitzbuben, who was suffering from heart failure.
When Natterson-Horowitz arrived, she did what she normally does to soothe her human patients. She knelt in front of the monkey and gazed deep into her round, glassy eyes. She immediately felt the veterinarian grip her shoulder.
“Please stop making eye contact,” the vet said. “You’ll give her capture myopathy.”
Natterson-Horowitz stepped aside, puzzled. What was capture myopathy? When she later researched the condition, she learned that it’s a form of heart damage animals can experience due to the stress of being captured by a predator. What’s more, locked eyes can trigger capture myopathy. To Spitzbuben, Natterson-Horowitz’s warm gaze was saying, “I’m going to eat you.” Then something clicked in the doctor’s mind. She had seen a similar condition in humans, called Takotsubo cardiomyopathy — heart failure caused by intense emotional stress. Physicians discovered the condition a few years ago — but vets had known about the animal equivalent for decades.
The goal is treatments that heal all species.
The experience opened Natterson-Horowitz’s eyes to how much doctors and vets could learn from each other. In recent years, she and other health specialists have encouraged greater collaboration between veterinary and human medicine in an effort to better understand diseases and develop treatments that heal all species. Researchers from both fields are increasingly working together to cure cancer, obesity, infertility and other ailments.
Natterson-Horowitz coined the term “zoobiquity” to describe this interdisciplinary approach. In 2011, she launched the annual Zoobiquity Conference, where vets and doctors jointly present case studies and go on “Walk Rounds” through the local zoo to discuss its patients. Institute of Medicine president Harvey Fineberg will speak at this year’s conference in New York City on November 2. Fineberg’s participation holds symbolic importance, Natterson-Horowitz said. The Institute of Medicine is a highly influential organization that advises Congress, federal agencies and others on health issues.
Vets and doctors jointly present case studies and go on “Walk Rounds” through the local zoo to discuss its patients.
“The case is pretty overwhelming that you can’t really comprehensively and knowledgeably deal with human diseases without being connected to animal disease,” Fineberg said.
Zoobiquity is also the title of Natterson-Horowitz’s book, which she co-wrote with science writer Kathryn Bowers. The book, published in 2012, explores the many health conditions we share with animals. For example, jaguars can suffer from breast cancer, and koalas can catch chlamydia. Gorillas in the wild experience clinical depression, and canaries faint when they’re stressed.
Natterson-Horowitz’s meeting with Spitzbuben was serendipitous, but not unexpected. Her love for nature and wildlife dates back to her childhood trips to national parks. Today, she lives in the Santa Monica Mountains in a house surrounded by huge sycamore trees with her husband, two teenagers and two dogs. She starts each day with an early morning hike, spotting coyotes, deer and the occasional rattlesnake along the way.
Vets and doctors jointly present case studies and go on “Walk Rounds” through the local zoo to discuss its patients.
Natterson-Horowitz isn’t alone in her quest to bridge the human-veterinary medicine divide. In 2006, the American Veterinary Medical Association established the One Health Initiative to build partnerships among doctors, vets and other health professionals. The nonprofit focuses mainly on diseases that spread from animals to humans, or “zoonoses,” like West Nile virus and avian flu.
Jaguars can suffer from breast cancer, and koalas can catch chlamydia. Gorillas in the wild experience clinical depression.
Zoobiquity extends to other diseases, too, including cancer. Scientists typically study the disease by inducing it artificially in mice. Although they’ve cured cancer in mice, they’ve failed to translate the results to humans. So the National Cancer Institute (NCI) decided to take a zoobiquitous approach, launching the Comparative Oncology Program to support research into naturally occurring cancers in dogs in 2003. The major advantage of this approach is that the tumors emerge spontaneously, just like they do in humans, so they better reflect the natural complexities of cancer. Canine and human cancers also share many genetic and other features. And since dogs and humans live together, they’re exposed to the same environmental factors.
Studying naturally occurring cancers may not speed up drug development, but it might make the process more efficient by giving scientists “additional, complex information” that improves the chances that a trial will be successful, said NCI veterinarian and Comparative Oncology Program director Chand Khanna.
The strategy has shown promise so far. If all goes well, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will take a drug they showed in an NIH-funded study to be safe and effective in dogs with osteosarcoma and lymphoma to human clinical trials in mid-2014. Since the compound enters the brain, unlike most cancer drugs, the clinical trial will target brain-cancer patients, who have few therapeutic options.
Dogs and humans share another chronic disease: obesity. In fact, research has shown that obese dogs tend to have obese owners, and with this in mind, a number of dog/owner fitness programs have sprung up. Thank Dog! Bootcamp, for example, offers hour-long classes in the U.S. and Canada consisting of cardiovascular, strength and obedience training.
And since the exchange goes both ways, veterinary science is learning and benefitting from human medicine. Researchers at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Virginia are applying assisted reproductive techniques being used with women to preserve fertility in endangered species, including cheetahs, coral reefs and wild horses.
A drug shown to be safe and effective in dogs with osteosarcoma and lymphoma will go to human clinical trials in mid-2014.
It wasn’t so long ago that health professionals for people and animals were one and the same. In the 1800s, town doctors commonly treated humans and their farm animals, but increasing urbanization at the turn of the 20th century made veterinary medicine less lucrative. Around the same time, federal legislation pushed veterinary schools to rural areas, while academic medical centers rose to prominence in wealthier cities.
The gap widened further as physicians became “fixated on a hierarchy that put MDs on top of the pyramid, and anyone who’s not an MD below,” Natterson-Horowitz said. Doctors are often unaware of the rigor of veterinary education, she added. (In fact, admission to vet school is more competitive than med school admission; there are 141 med schools in the U.S. but only 28 vet schools.)
In addition to research partnerships, another solution is to create opportunities for veterinarians and physicians to collaborate on joint cases. Besides the Zoobiquity Conference, doctors and vets could one day include each other in the referral process, suggests Peter Rabinowitz, associate professor in environmental and occupational health sciences at the University of Washington and founder of the UW Human Animal Medicine Project. A vet who notices that a dog and its owner are overweight might refer the owner to a physician. The clinicians might then discuss both patients and recommend they enroll in a joint exercise program.
But zoobiquity goes beyond bringing physicians and vets together. Evolutionary biologists, ecologists and public health officials should also have “a place at the table,” Natterson-Horowitz said. “I’m convinced that bringing the fields together will generate important scientific advancements that can benefit not just humans, but all patients on the planet.”