Freelance MD, a community of physicians that gives you more control of your career, income, and lifestyle. Join us. It's free, which is a terrific price. Grab Some Free Deals
Search Freelance MD

Freelance MD RSS    Freelance MD Twitter     Freelance MD Facebook       Freelance MD Group on LinkedIn      Email

Sponsors

2nd MD Special Offer

ExpedMed CME
Medical Fusion Conference

Medvoy Society of Physician Entrepreneurs

20 Newest Comments
Newest Nonclinical Physician Jobs
Thoughtstream
This area does not yet contain any content.
Navigation
« Non-Disclosure Agreements For Physicians | Main | 10 New Year's Physician Blogging Resolutions »
Sunday
Dec192010

Zoo MD: Another Nontraditional Medical Career

It really is a jungle out there.

All of us have had cases we never forget. Mine was a 12 year old female who I was asked to see in consultation for noisy nasal breathing.

It seems the patient was unable to talk about her problems, so her caretaker, dressed in a loud green coat with bright white buttons, told me that for the past several months she had noticed the patient had left sided noisy nasal breathing, irritability, and a change in appetite. The patient, Sally,  had no previous history of surgery or similar complaints and was taking no medications.

The patient's past medical history was otherwise unremarkable.  She was not sociable, usually playing by herself. She had an extensive family history and review of symptoms was otherwise non-contributory.

Physical exam showed a hirsute, overweight, female with abnormally long fingers and toes. She had significant craniofacial dysmorphosis. On ENT exam, I could hear noises coming from her left nostril. The remainder of the exam was normal.

My initial clinical impression was some kind of symdromic abnormality or an intranasal cause of her problem.

Because the patient was uncooperative, we scheduled her for fiberoptic nasopharyngolaryngoscopy  under general anesthesia. Endoscopic exam was normal except for a shiny white object in her left nasal cavity that I extracted without difficulty. The object was a button that looked remarkably similar to one on the coat of her caretaker.

Follow up with Sally's primary care physician indicated complete resolution of Sally's nasal obstruction, but the foreign body removal did nothing to resolve her hirsutism or abormal facies.  But, then again, I wouldn't have expected it to. You see, Sally is a Pongo pygmaeus abelii, a Sumatran Orangutan at the Denver Zoo, where I am a consulting otolaryngologist in the primate division.

The convention wisdom has always been that 98% of the DNA between chimps and humans are the same. It turns out that is not true. It's only 95% similar and there are many other differences. For example, apes have 24 pairs of chromosomes, not the 23 pairs in humans.

Despite that, I am amazed at how similar the endoscopic anatomy of our forebearers is compared to humans.

Orangs are an endangered species with only 9200 left in the wild, so it is unlikely that I'll be reporting a case series.

I've provided a lot of uncompensated care in my career, as I'm sure almost all you have, and I've never regretted helping those who couldn't pay the freight. This was no exception. The patient seemed extremely grateful and , every now and then when I make a housecall to see her at the Zoo, I can't help think Sally remembers me and occaisionally gives me a smile. Every now and then she'll offer me a banana in exchange for her care.

My nontraditional medical career, consulting to the Zoo, has been a kick. And here you thought your last clinic day was a zoo.

Reader Comments (4)

Very interesting post.

Reminds me of the story my old boss (a surgeon) told me about being called to operate on a baby elephant caught in a trap gun blast. His many years of treating gunshot and war injuries were put to use in a very unusual way that day !

THanks for the interesting comment from Sri Lanka.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/19/world/africa/19zimbabwe.html?_r=1&
The story above indicates orangs are not the only species getting care in exchange for food.

Great story, Arlen. Thanks for sharing.

Thanks, Greg. There is actually more to the story. A few months later I was asked to see a small South American monkey with out of control diabetes. Turns out he had an odontogenic maxillary sinusitis that resolved after sinus irrigation and tooth extraction.

I remember my attendings telling me not to look for zebras. Show's you what they knew.

Plus, we all know things come in threes, so maybe there is a case series in this after all.

I'd be interested in hearing from other ZooDocs.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.

Join Freelance MD

captcha
Freelance MD is an active community of doctors.

All rights reserved.

LEGAL NOTICE & TERMS OF SERVICE