June 7, 2013
Larry Hergott's clinic is a zoo, literally. Fourteen years ago, Hergott received a call from the Denver Zoo asking if he would treat a 515-pound orangutan named Kandu. Hergott, an adult human's cardiologist, soon became the "gorillas' cardiologist" and has been treating them for fourteen years. "Once you are in their presence you get this connecting and soulful experience that is hard to describe," he says.
Primates, like Kandu, face increased risk of heart-related disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart failure when they are not living in the wild. Their hearts more closely resemble human hearts than animal hearts, which proved to be a challenge for the veterinarian cardiologists who previously treated them. Prompted by the reward of a peanut, the gorillas have now been trained to go through a basic electrocardiogram without being anesthetized.
Hergott's unique occupation was profiled by the BBC after they spent a day with him in his element. "The trouble we're having in the United States, [with] doctors..." Hergott says, "is that we are often practicing medicine as prose, rather than the poetry it really is."