Exploring the natural world.
Innovating for human health.
Cardiologist and evolutionary biologist Dr. Barbara Natterson-Horowitz is redrawing the boundaries of human medicine.
When the Los Angeles Zoo called her to consult on animal patients in 2005, she recognized a parallel world of health challenges including heart disease, cancer and mental illness in other species. The experience launched Natterson-Horowitz on a scientific journey into the realm of wild animals and wild places and toward research revealing important connections between human and animal health.
Pushing against the barriers between veterinary and human medicine, Natterson-Horowitz pioneered Zoobiquity, a new species-spanning approach to health that recognizes the natural world as a powerful source of lifesaving insights for human health.
Her bestselling books and global Zoobiquity conferences have brought together thousands of physicians, veterinarians, wildlife experts and evolutionary biologists, leading to dozens of collaborations aimed at inspiring new approaches to modern medicine. Her studies have uncovered roadmaps for solving human health challenges – from heart failure and breast cancer to anxiety disorders and infertility.
“Dr. Barbara Natterson-Horowitz exemplifies Darwin's spirit in making connections to figure out what's true. She has created a whole new field at the intersection of evolutionary biology, human medicine and veterinary medicine."
– Dr. Randolph Nesse, The Center for Evolution and Medicine
Photo credit: Crystal Lily Photography @crystallily.co
Redefining the boundary between animal and human medicine
Natterson-Horowitz co-authored the New York Times bestselling book, “Zoobiquity: The Astonishing Connection between Human and Animal Health,” with science writer Kathryn Bowers. Published in 10 languages, “Zoobiquity” was chosen as Discover magazine’s Best Book of the Year and a Smithsonian Top Book of 2012.
In 2011, Natterson-Horowitz hosted the first Zoobiquity conference, encouraging experts in human and animal health to tackle universal medical problems together. Its success blossomed into annual meetings in the U.S. and overseas, including a 2019 Zoobiquity event before the Nobel Conference in Stockholm. Natterson-Horowitz was invited to deliver the keynote address on bio-inspired medicine to members of the Nobel Assembly, the group responsible for selecting the Nobel Prize laureate in Physiology or Medicine.
Her second book with Bowers, “Wildhood: The Astounding Connections between Human and Animal Adolescents,” compared the challenges of coming of age across human and animal species. It was named an Editor’s Pick by the New York Times Book Review and won a Book of the Year Award from the Association for Science Education.
Natterson-Horowitz is a professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and founding co-director of the university’s Evolutionary Medicine Program. At Harvard University, she holds faculty appointments at its medical school and Department of Human Evolutionary Biology. She is a commissioner on the Lancet One Health Commission and past president of the International Society for Evolution, Medicine and Public Health. She serves on the medical advisory board of the Los Angeles Zoo as a cardiovascular consultant.
Photo credit: Crystal Lily Photography
Q & A
Los Angeles Times science writer Corinne Purtill spoke to Dr. Natterson-Horowitz for its Boiling Point newsletter about climate change, gender and what we owe our fellow animals.
Read Dr. Natterson-Horowitz’s ground-breaking PNAS paper, "Female Health Across the Tree of Life: Insights at the Intersection of Women’s Health, One Health and Planetary Health."
The physical changes that prevent common diseases in female animals — from giraffes and sharks to bats and bears — may help humans too.
The Los Angeles Times published a front-page Column One story on Dr. Natterson-Horowitz's cross-species research to fill in the gaps left by a dearth of studies into medical conditions affecting women.
Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times