Phoenix Zoo Teams Up With Top ‘Human’ Heart Surgeon to Save Oldest Mandrill in U.S.

PHOENIX, Aug. 12, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Veterinarians at the Phoenix Zoo welcomed the help of the Associate Chief of Cardiovascular Surgery at St. Joseph’s Heart & Lung Institute, Dr. Brian deGuzman, to perform a delicate surgery on the oldest mandrill in the United States.


Wucaria, a 34-year-old female mandrill, a species of monkey, had a large abscess on her kidney. Phoenix Zoo veterinarians Dr. Gary West and Dr. Julie Swenson, discussed all options available to Wucaria. They also enlisted the aid of the Animal Health Advisory Committee, a team of specialists, consisting of mostly veterinarians, but also including “human” specialists, who volunteer their time and services, offering specialized medical care in areas like dentistry, cardiology, and surgery.

Wucaria’s case was discussed and it was determined that Dr. deGuzman, a Harvard-trained surgeon, would assist with the removal of Wucaria’s right kidney. Veterinarian Dr. West says, “Dr. deGuzman is able to bring his specialized skills to the operating table, offering us opportunities to provide exceptional care to our Zoo’s animals.”

With more than a half dozen people on the team including the Phoenix Zoo’s three veterinarians, a veterinary anesthesiologist, a veterinary surgeon, Dr. deGuzman and St. Joseph’s nurse, Jenifer Traylor, the kidney was successfully removed on June 2.

Wucaria is now comfortable and back on exhibit with her troupe. “A procedure like this requires an incredible amount of teamwork,” says Dr. deGuzman. “The Phoenix Zoo veterinarians are an extraordinary team and have been really accepting of the advice that I can provide on the animal cases. Each person on the team brings something different and unique to the table to help out these animals.”

Dr. deGuzman began volunteering at the Zoo three years ago as a member of the Animal Health Advisory Committee. “Volunteering at the Zoo is so gratifying as a physician,” says Dr. deGuzman. “The animals are innocent, they rely on us to help with their illnesses and provide them with the best care possible. We treat them in a compassionate and calming manner, and our goal is to always help them continue to live life to the fullest.”

“Dr. deGuzman brings the highest level of medicine from the human side which we can try to strive for,” says Dr. Swenson. “The specialists we are able to work with on the Advisory Committee bring very specific skills to some of our difficult cases.”

About the Phoenix Zoo

The Phoenix Zoo is a non-profit zoological park that serves 1.5 million guests annually. Home to more than 1,300 animals and many endangered and threatened species, the Zoo is dedicated to providing experiences that inspire people and motivate them to care for the natural world. For more information about the Zoo and upcoming events visit

About St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center

Located in the heart of Phoenix, St. Joseph’s is a 607-bed, not-for-profit hospital that provides a wide range of health, social and support services, with special advocacy for the poor and underserved. St. Joseph’s includes the internationally renowned Barrow Neurological Institute, the Heart & Lung Institute and a Level I Trauma Center and the Muhammad Ali Parkinsons Center.

SOURCE St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center; Phoenix Zoo

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