News From the 2013 Integrative Healthcare Symposium: A Foot Soldier's View From the Trenches of the New Medicine
May 30, 2013 10:59AM
● By By Chris McLane, M.D.
The 2013 Integrative Healthcare Symposium, held from February 27 to March 2, in New York City, promised to be atypical when it opened with a blessing by Zen Buddhist priests. It was a joyous and humbling experience to be surrounded by doctors that many see as Galileo-like revolutionaries of medicine: Mehmet Oz, M.D., Larry Dossey, M.D., and Mark Hyman, M.D. It was equally as refreshing to be in the company of other integrative practitioners—including naturopathic doctors, doctors of Chinese medicine, chiropractors and integrative nurses—all of which want to push the envelope of medicine and wellness.
One of the conference themes was the inadequacy of the current medical system to treat what many perceive as a coming medical crisis. The current system is based on an acute care model that works well to treat illnesses like the flu, colds and immediate surgical problems. However, it fails to address 80 percent of the current medical issues, which are related to chronic diseases according to Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D., considered one of the fathers of functional medicine, who says that the diabetes epidemic has engulfed not just the United States, but also countries such as China.
His driving point is that if doctors wait until prescription drugs are needed to treat conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease, then the patient is already years into the disease and much damage has already been done. To provide true health care, providers need to intervene much earlier with recommendations for lifestyle changes that will make patients healthier. Functional medicine works in this way because it is a more personalized approach that strives to connect the dots into a whole picture of wellness.
Another common thread throughout the conference was the idea to let food be our medicine, a theme common throughout traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines. Hyman, author of The Blood Sugar Solution, says that organic whole foods, low glycemic foods, and fruits and vegetables comprise good medicine and that refined flour and sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, saturated fats and artificial sweeteners are bad medicine. He and nutritionist Kristi Hughes point out that nutritional training in medical schools is abysmal, saying, “Medical students learn more about malaria than they do nutrition.” They emphasized that lifestyle changes (better diet, more physical activity and less smoking) could have powerful effects to decrease the rate of chronic disease. The take-home point is that we need to increase our phytonutrients (chemicals derived from plants) by filling our diets with the colors of the rainbow, reds, purples, greens, oranges and blues.
Oz received the conference’s Leadership Award. His talk centered on the idea of inspiring patients by making health funny, personal and even sexy. He made the point that health providers need to engage their patients and let them know they care about them. He noted that no matter what happens politically, America will bankrupt the health care system if we do not change our lifestyles. We need to eat better food, move more and decrease our stress. People need to say to the food, pharmaceutical and health insurance industries, what was aptly exhorted in the Paddy Chayefsky movie, Network: “I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore!”
One of the most exciting aspects of the conference was the focus on medicine that incorporates mind, body and spirit. James Gordon, M.D., a Harvard-educated psychiatrist who founded the Center for Mind-Body Medicine at Georgetown University, spoke about the topic of healing psychological trauma through group therapy, meditation, yoga and spirituality. He says, “Humans are the only prey that carry the lion with us,” meaning that for humans, trauma has deep physical, psychological and spiritual consequences that change us forever.
Dossey, the author of such bestselling books as Healing Words, and Prayer is Good Medicine, received the conference’s Visionary Award. He postulates that we are entering a new era, where spirituality will return to medicine. He spoke of the “One-mind,” or what others have referred to as the “Buddha-mind” or “Christ-mind”—a common consciousness that links us all together, causing us to radically rethink the interrelated role of the individual and humanity. Dossey frames it with a rephrasing of the Golden Rule: “Be kind to others, because in some sense, they are you.” He warns that conventional medicine has gathered a lot of knowledge, but also has developed an arrogance that is absent of the wisdom that can be found in holistic approaches such as naturopathy, homeopathy, Ayurveda and traditional Asian medicine.
The symposium offered hope and encouragement for holistic practitioners to find and embrace their bliss unapologetically and to unleash their inner superheroes.
Chris McLane, M.D., graduated from Haverford College, where he was a Howard Hughes scholar in biochemistry. He became a Doctor of Medicine at Case Western Medical School and completed his residency at Lancaster General Hospital in family medicine. McLane was the first physician in Lancaster County to be board certified by the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine