Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Why Are We Depressed?

• An 80 year old woman who just lost her husband to cancer

• A 55 year old man who just lost his job

• A 22 year old who just broke up with his girlfriend

• A 70 year old woman whose dog just died

• A 42 year old in the midst of a divorce

• A 51 year old man 2 weeks after his heart attack

• A 45 year old woman whose hormones are out of balance

In all of these examples, grief or depression would be a normal and healthy result of these losses. Would any of these examples fit the criteria of mental illness, requiring medication, or would their grief and sadness be seen as a normal response to what they had just experienced?

A few days after 9/11/2001, many patients came to see me when they realized they did not feel the emotions others did upon witnessing the devastation surrounding the Twin Towers. They felt numb from being medicated with anti-depressants previously prescribed by their physicians for circumstantial grief and depression that surfaced years ago after experiencing similar life events as those described in the list above. Although the situation that catalyzed their feelings had long passed, they had not received any support or help to process their emotions at that time, nor was it suggested that they wean off their anti-depressants. Their response to the 9/11 devastation made them realize they had unknowingly been emotionally numb for years due to the anti-depressants they were still taking.

This was a powerful sign for me to evaluate how we diagnose and treat depression. I also became acutely aware of the surprising amount of complacency that is normalized in the medical system when prescribing pharmaceuticals for symptoms of depression, anxiety, grief, or sadness. In fact, grief and sadness have been so pathologized in our society that people feel the need for medication if they experience either emotion. For many, feeling numb is preferred over experiencing intense emotions, which are actually a normal part of being human.

Our mental and emotional well-being is intrinsically related to how isolated and alone we feel during times of loss and transition, and whether or not we are a part of a larger community. People who feel their lives do not matter, are more vulnerable to depression and anxiety. People who are emotionally sensitive are vulnerable as well. Never before in the history of the human race have people felt so alone and isolated as they do today. Our connection with one another has been contaminated with technology and the mechanization of our systems. Before cell phones and computers were the norm, we actually spoke with one another. This has been replaced with texting and emailing, a method of communication that lacks heart or emotion. We have sacrificed our emotional and energetic connections with one another for convenience. Feelings of isolation, loneliness, and grief are the consequence of these choices.

When feelings of isolation, loneliness, or sadness arise, neurotransmitter levels (that regulate our moods) fall. Some important ones are serotonin, gamma-amino-butyric acid, L-Dopa, acetylcholine, and norepinephrine. Neurotransmitter levels are also directly affected by diet and exercise, our perceptions, and attitudes. It has also been well established that one of the most effective anti-depressants is regular exercise, as it affects neurotransmitter levels that regulate our mood. These levels are also affected by a sense of belonging. In fact, several studies have shown that women with breast cancer who were part of a support group lived twice as long as women who were not.

A diet high in Omega-3 and antioxidants and low in sugar and grains supports our nervous system and neurotransmitter levels. A diet high in refined sugar, processed food products, carbohydrates, chemical additives, and food colorings has a negative effect on neurotransmitter levels. When people use addictive substances such as recreational drugs and alcohol to ‘medicate’ their feelings, these can amplify depression and cause a rollercoaster of emotions. Unfortunately, this form of self-medication is normalized and present in epidemic proportions in our society today. In fact, it is a part of how we mark ‘the coming of age’ in our society.

An additional cause for mood disturbances is hormonal shifts in midlife. Between their late thirties and fifties, women experience a drop in levels of the hormone, progesterone, which causes their neurotransmitter levels to decline, intensifying feelings, and amplifying depression and anxiety. Both diet and exercise support the nervous system, as previously mentioned and, along with natural hormone balancing, are extremely effective in healing these symptoms.

Synthetic hormones, both prescribed and those present in non-organic food have the opposite effect, causing serotonin levels to fall, making everyone more vulnerable to depression and anxiety. A lack of sleep can also have this effect on mood and emotional health. Diet, exercise, and hormone balance are highly effective and restorative for sleep disturbance as well.

Processing our emotions and supporting each other during life’s transitions and losses (in addition to a healthy lifestyle) are the most powerful antidotes for depression and anxiety. Compensating for and normalizing our mood to appear unwavering (as expected by society) results in the denial of our very human experience of joy and sorrow. Having our feelings validated can do more for our sense of well-being than any anti-depressant ever can. If we require an anti-depressant for a brief period of time to help move through a window of difficulty, it is important to process our pain and wean off it, under a physician’s guidance, once we are stable enough to do so. When dealing with organic or familial depression or anxiety, prescription medication may be an important intervention. Normalizing the need to medicate our very human feelings is both dangerous and unfulfilling.

Traditional medical thinking is still archaic in its approach to our emotional and mental health. Physicians rarely make the correlations described above or take the time to understand why their patients feel what they do. They are quick to prescribe anti-depressants, the majority of which are unnecessary. It requires discernment to bring awareness to what is a normal emotion and what requires treatment. The medical system has still not normalized the impact that lifestyle can have on mood, despite the strong evidence showing a direct correlation. We must widen the context from which we understand mental and emotional health, and practice courage in exercising our choices for self-care that support it.

In the long run, nurturing, authentic relationships, acknowledging and accepting our emotional sensitivity, and living a lifestyle that optimally supports and optimizes our biology are some of the most effective ways to heal depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders that plague our society.

Ultimately, how we love and treat each other is the most powerful medicine of all.

This article was written in memory of Robin Williams, who brought joy and laughter to so many. He compensated for his depression with his gift of comedy. In death, he awakened us to the importance of honest, self-awareness of our emotional world.

May he find peace as he returns to the Light.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"Sensitives" Belong to Their Tribe

The more I read about Robin Williams, listen to his voice expressing his deepest feelings, the more I feel his 'sensitive' nature.

I am a sensitive also.

So are 90% of my patients.

I have felt a deep loneliness all of my life, a disconnect from Earth systems. I don't adapt well to people and systems that lack integrity or are fear, greed and power driven (like many of our systems today including the health care system).

I didn't 'fit in' with the broken health care system, I didn't fit in with the 'club' mentality in Medicine. I had no desire to adapt to a lifestyle that was promoted by the physician collective - the mcmansion, the fast car, the fat paycheck, the power trip or even the white coat. I felt suffocated in it. It disconnected me with my beloved patients so I left it hanging on a hanger in my office. I don't even know what happened to it. One day it just disappeared!

When I left the 'system' to create my own, my beloved Ommani Center, I didn't think twice. I mortgaged my house and took a big plunge. The lien on my house still stands. My business loan would have been long paid off by now, but a very expensive divorce got in the way. It was worth every penny to revive my sovereignty, restore the integrity of Ommani's vision and support the sacred 'system' I created to unfold health care in the direction I am taking it along with my patients - the direction of it being an educational and empowerment healing model, one based on integrity and sustainability.

As sensitives, we have difficult journeys because we feel so deeply. The majority of us do not subscribe to or connect with worldly attitudes or ways of living. They feel empty. We feel happier with simplicity and meaning and are fulfilled by being around people like us - our tribe.

For a long time I thought that I could make a difference on Earth in the collective consciousness. I don't think I can any more. Most 'Earthers' don't want change. They fight to maintain status quo. They don't want true health. They just want quick fixes and band-aids. They are caught up in the collective definitions of 'success' and 'progress'. They subscribe to the collective.

Who I feel I serve are the 'sensitves' . They are my tribe and they struggle between the way they were conditioned to adapt and what their Soul frequency resonates with. I feel that my deepest and most sacred work is to empower them to dismantle their conditioned thinking and live in harmony with their Soul frequency - to Become Real.

I feel that if enough of us support each other in this way, we will create a vortex, a critical mass that will hold the energy for shifting the paradigm. When this happens, the people on Earth will have no choice but to shift. Entrainment is a powerful force, especially when it is centered in heart and feelings.

Remember, WE are the change.

Are you a sensitive? If so, know that there are enough of us here to make a difference.

You are seen and witnessed.

My heart is with you.

We BELONG to each other.

You are not alone.

So Robin Williams, wherever you are, be at peace knowing that we see you and feel you for who you REALLY were.

You made a BIG difference on Earth even in death.

We will carry the Light.

We belong to your tribe


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Bringing Peace on Earth

Yesterday a friend of mine told me that she was gracious to 3 people in her bank who in turn were gracious to her.
"How can something so small make a difference? Change the fighting in the Gaza strip?" "I feel so helpless" she said. "This is my little world, removed from the horrors of war and terror. I don't think my little act of kindness can help a warring world."

Years ago, I had read a book titled, "The Cultural Creatives. How 50 million people are changing the world". The message of this book is: the 'critical mass' required to shift a paradigm is 50 million people. If 50 million people make conscious choices, it will create an 'energy' large enough to bring harmony and shift the collective thinking on earth.

I told her to imagine 50 million people being gracious to 3 people and them being gracious back. That can create such a vortex that the paradigm will start shifting away from war.


Take the time to be gracious to at least 3 people today...
Focus on how your heart feels.
Receive their positive energy back.

WE are the cultural creatives.

We can shift this paradigm of war by being kind in our 'small' communities. Strung together, these communities make up the world.

We all breathe the same air.

Seeds of graciousness emitted in the air have greater power than seeds of war.

This is what we can do to bring peace on Earth.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Can we Change the Course of Cancer by treating our Patients with Love?

I recently had a heart expanding moment.  In that moment, I felt a deep and wide sensation of energy radiating from the center of my chest.  I would call this a “vertical moment” one that feels powerful in its quantum nature.  Its memory has lingered and inspired me to reflect on the power that love can have on the course of an illness. As a physician, it made me wonder, “what if we engaged our love when we delivered a diagnosis?  What if we offered hope rather than fear? What if we loved our patients more?  What if we engaged wonder and mystery rather than statistical predictions?”
We were at a small café in Madison, WI for Saturday breakfast.  The middle aged couple at the table next to us was leaving as we arrived.  The wife clearly had cancer.  She had a makeshift turban over her bald head and her skin looked pale and flat, like the skin of many patients undergoing chemotherapy.

I watched their interactions as she fumbled to stand up after her meal.  Her husband’s kindness was palpable.  He offered her support with his strong arms and loving words. He knew she was too weak to stand up by herself.  His voice was filled with love and resounded like a melody through my heart.   It was one of those numinous moments where my heart melted and I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time.  I was reminded of the depth of loving kindness that people are capable of showing each other.  I surmised many theories about their life during this sacred moment – “he was in it with her for the long haul; he loved her unconditionally; she had learned to receive his love and support; she was weakened by her treatment; she was working extra hard to stay positive.”

Many people going through a cancer journey share similar challenges.  Traditional medicine fails them in its chosen ignorance of process.  Loved one’s who care for family members with cancer go unnoticed and unacknowledged by many in health care, especially physicians.  A cancer diagnosis also affects a patient’s larger community.  This is their lifeline that carries the task of empowering and caregiving over the long haul.  They are presented with the monumental task of transcending the fear that is mindlessly handed to the patient during the delivery of the cancer diagnosis.  This fear is the shadow companion that consumes vital energy during the cancer journey.

Fear is the often handed to the patient alongside a diagnosis of cancer. Is the “fear” part of the hand out really necessary? Or has our society just normalized it?  Why haven’t we normalized love, hope, reclamation, possibility or even opportunity?  I feel that it is finally time to reframe our perceptions of cancer or any illness, so those affected can be seen as the shamans that they are, bearers of deep and sacred wisdom.  They have faced the possibility of death and chosen to live.  They are powerful alchemists.  We must be open to learning from them as we also honor their process.

Of all diseases, cancer is one that can suddenly call us to transform.  It can be seen as a sudden wake up call, one that contains “awful grace”. It can force us to reevaluate our perceptions of the world, what we eat, how we behave, how we express feelings, and how we practice self-care.  I would call these reevaluations, a kind of “medicine” that cancer carries in its powerful and tight grip.  This medicine must be uncovered and released in order for one to truly achieve wholeness.  The causes of cancer are often hidden and only present at unconscious and unseen levels.  Wouldn’t it be meaningful to explore these levels, to make them conscious for clarity and healing, so we can be guided into becoming larger versions of ourselves than before the cancer occurred?

One would think this could and should be the normalized approach in cancer, from the moment of diagnosis through recovery.  If we only view cancer as the monster we need to attack, how can we learn what it is here to teach us?  How can we reclaim our life from what we feel may be its many causes?  These are the nuggets of learning that carry the capacity for us all to free ourselves from its threat and restore wholeness during our journey. How can we awaken the alchemist within us and transform every atom in our cells into luminosity and light?  As we seek its elusive and often hidden “medicine”, we may even learn to live in a way that makes us “bad hosts” for it, to prevent it from resurfacing.  This is the framework that must accompany the diagnosis of cancer to offer patients the best outcome.

When fear is handed to patients in the exam room, a cascade of events occurs.  First, they dissociate to enable them to actually “take in” the diagnosis.  A part of them becomes paralyzed as their limbic system engages for survival.  This is the part of the brain that is activated for fight-or-flight.  Trauma enters the emotional body, disrupting their electrical system, creating an unsettled, chaotic feeling of shock that remains present for months and sometimes years.  Many describe this as a feeling of “static in their field”.  Patients have a hard time feeling settled and empowered.  They find it difficult to engage their imagination where they can access solutions and become seekers.  This is where they can also gain access to their inner wisdom, instinct and insight and the healing power of Sophia, the Divine Feminine, whose power and capacity lays dormant, waiting for connection.  Cancer or any disease carries the potential for activating this.  The fear handed out subverts their connection with this intrinsic power which regulates their inner pharmacy, capable of more healing we can imagine, more than even the medical system can understand.  It subverts their access to the ‘stuff of soul’ where quantum healing awaits.

The physiology of the stress response and the impact of chronic stress on the body/mind is well known throughout the scientific literature.  Its impact on the endocrine system is erosive and thwarts the regenerative power of cells.  Cell to cell communication is impaired and growth hormone in the pituitary gland is suppressed.  Insulin receptors malfunction and the adrenals wear out.  The entire delicate web of hormonal and endocrine communication is harmed.  Under stress, the tapestry of these delicately woven systems unravels and its threads begin to fray and tear.  Under stress, the very molecules of the body degenerate denying access to the luminous.  We become uncreative and unimaginative.  We lose faith in possibility and our lens of perception turns negative.  We risk feeling like ‘victims, waiting to be rescued’.

Cancer has been normalized by society as a terminal disease, one that leaves little hope for recovery.  Recovery is termed ‘survivorship’ and the adopted identity of ‘cancer survivor’ becomes a badge that defines the end of the battle.  Meanwhile, the energy of cancer alongside fear hangs in the rafters, waiting.  Fear is intricately linked with ‘survivorship’.  It lies huddled in the background, surfacing with the slightest symptom.  Fear ultimately causes chronic stress.  The immune system feels its cold claws, as they scrape even lightly upon the psyche and imagination.

Creating a new framework to support patients with cancer has the potential to change its face and its course.  The negative thought forms where fear and death are kept at bay, can be transmuted into opportunities for seeking the growth and healing this diagnosis evokes.  Such an approach has the potential to change its course and significantly improve its outcomes. I believe this is truly possible but will take an effort on all our parts to reframe what we accept.  Our greatest effort will be to embody the awareness that is required to shift the traction from fear that has been normalized that ultimately predicts and defines the course of cancer or any illness.

Medicine is at a crossroads, a gateway, where it needs to transform into a system that offers more love, and hope, and where exploration and education are honored as core values.  As a practicing physician, I have carried this framework alongside my expertise and have learned to love deeply and widely along the way. I have felt my heart expand and my wisdom grow, but most of all, I have grown to honor the sacred contract with my patients and their loved ones, who have chosen me as their companion, and walk with them through sickness into health and often into a transformed life.  For this, I am profoundly humbled and deeply grateful.

And regarding the couple in the café, in that moment of witnessing their love, my heart leapt towards them with a loving and supportive embrace as they left to continue their courageous journey through the hills and valleys ahead.   Their very presence was a gift and an inspiration to me as a physician and a person who feels deeply. Even though they may never read this article or know how deeply they touched my heart, somewhere in the tapestry of the Universe that weaves us all together, I hope they do.  I want them to know that their love, kindness, and courage was witnessed, and deepened many around them in more ways than they could have imagined.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

An EPIC Degree of Soul Loss

The practice of medicine has undergone yet another change. Over the past several years, it has gone electronic. Those of you who have experienced electronically recorded medicine have had to adapt to the profound change that this brought to the physician visit. Physicians, already stressed from adapting to the corporatization of medicine, now have to adapt to data entry during their time with their patients. I, for one, resisted this as long as I was able.  I intuitively knew what this would do to the sacred essence of the physician-patient encounter.  Last year, I was forced to succumb.  I was not really given a choice. Implementing the electronic medical record (EMR) in my practice was not only extremely expensive for a primary care physician in private practice, it was extremely stressful for one who practices “patient centered” medicine. For a physician who relishes spending time with my patients, listening for clues in their stories to help them problem solve and heal, this was deeply intrusive.

When I used paper charts to record patient encounters, I was able to look at my patients, be in their presence and receive their stories while using my technical and intuitive skills. Most importantly, I could hold sacred space for every patient who I promised to help and heal.

After the electronic medical record became a part of my practice, I grieved the presence of a machine in my exam room that interfered with this connection. Surprisingly, I found myself in constant heart ache struggling through the day to try and capture the sacred essence of my beloved patient encounter. I realized the “mill” medicine had now become was a data collecting one that no longer valued humanistic listening and caring.  I had to learn how to enter patient data quickly and efficiently in order to maintain connection with my patients, so vital for their healing.

Given the level of my grief, I was curious if other physicians felt like I did. I explored internet conversations and blogs about how others felt since this implementation. One physician accounted that the stress of implementing EMR caused him to suffer a heart attack.  Could this be symbolic of his heart break from not being able to engage with his patients like he used to, combined with the stress of learning this heartless system of data entry?  It is certainly a cause for wonder.

Our current corporate system of medicine has been in crisis for nearly two decades. Patients and physicians are disillusioned by what today’s health care system has become. It is obvious that it suffers from a great degree of “soul-loss.” Rather than finding ways to fix and heal it to improve patient care, I believe the implementation of the EMR has furthered its dis-ease.

We were told that this method of documentation would make health care seamless, more collaborative and save paper and time. It has done the opposite. Different health care systems are not able to access the records of shared patients; it has created more paper waste and has taken up more physician time. Physicians who are unable to balance the EMR with patient contact opt to complete their charting after work into the late hours of the night. This compromises their work-life balance, adding to their stress and rendering them vulnerable to mental and physical illness.  We have all heard of numerous

physicians who opted to retire before their intended time when EMR was implemented. They were unwilling to compromise the art of healing for data entry.

Many patients do not realize that physicians had no say in this decision to implement EMR. They were merely required to adapt to this mandate.

As a patient, when you visit your private practitioner who is now electronically linked, please have patience. And physicians, please know you are not alone in your frustration with yet another intrusion in the exam room, our sacred sanctum. We will have to adapt in a way that preserves the sanctity of our vocation, despite the stress this has created for us.

Our precious field of medicine cannot continue to lose its soul in the many ways it already has. At some point it will have to transform and reclaim its true purpose and restore the sacred contract between physician and patient.

Till then, as physicians, we must carry the flame of healing in our hearts for our patients with continued love for our craft, and patients must carry patience in their hearts for their beloved physicians who struggle to remain connected with their heart and feelings while trying to adjust to the presence of the EMR.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Chana Dal Curry Soup

For dinner tonight, I had an organic green salad with cucumbers and carrots, Chana dal (yellow lentils) and organic Jasmine rice.
Chana Dal is a lentil from India that has a low glycemic index and tastes incredible as a curry.

Chana Dal Curry Soup

1 cup of chana dal (available at any Indian grocery store - it probably won't be organic)
3 cups of water
1 whole finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 inch ginger root, minced
2 tsp of ghee or clarified butter
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp of tumeric powder
1 tsp of coriander powder
1/2 tsp of cumin powder
1/4 tsp cayenne powder
1 tablespoon curry leaves
1/4 tsp asafoetida powder
1 tablespoon powdered coconut or 1 tablespoon of coconut milk
juice of half a lemon
cilantro leaves to garnish if desired

Heat ghee in a saucepan and add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, asafoetida, curry leaves, garlic and ginger till mustard seeds begin to pop and turn gray. Then add onion and fry for 2 to 3 minutes. You may need a bit more ghee to coat this onion/spice mixture. Add washed chana lentils, the coriander, cumin and cayenne powder, salt and water and boil till soft (about 20 minutes). Add powdered coconut. Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves and a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve with rice and enjoy!

A prepared cup of this exotic and delicious lentil soup with half a cup of rice makes a filling and nourishing meal especially when accompanied with stir fried chopped kale or collards. It has great cancer fighting and antioxidant properties as well.

Asafoetida is an anti-flatulant, digestive aid and anti-inflammatory. It is used in Indian curries and settles the stomach especially if the curries are spicy. It has a smoky flavor and can overpower a dish so only a pinch fried in oil is needed to flavor a dish.

Many of these ingredients are available at your neighborhood organic grocery store or an Indian grocery store.

Friday, May 30, 2014

What Are The Odds?

I love The Bay Area in California. Even though I now live in Wisconsin, I am still drawn to the beauty of the sun and the warmth with the smell of eucalyptus and the misty feeling of the ocean on my face. I used to run the hills of SF at 4:30 am during my internship and residency and felt the full sensation of the natural beauty of that beautiful place.

I was also in the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1990.

Today, I was talking about how beautiful the sun felt to Jeannie at the pet store in Pewaukee this morning where I was getting cat food for my cat. It reminded me of the way the sun shined in the Bay Area. Jeannie told me that she too lived in the Bay area and she too was in the Loma Prieta earthquake, and yes, the sun today reminded her of when she lived there. At this point, another customer walked in to buy a dog cookie and heard our conversation. Turns out she was born and raised in the Bay Area and was also in the Loma Prieta earthquake!

So here we were, three women in Pewaukee, WI, who all shared a deep love the Bay Area and were all in the 1987 earthquake.

It was a surreal and magical moment. I didn't want it to end!  The numinosity was palpable.
What are the odds of us meeting in that moment in time in the middle of the midwest with our shared experiences from the same moment from our past in the Bay Area?

In any case, we parted ways intimately connected to each other through our love for San Francisco. Maybe we will get together periodically and share a cup of California coffee, tell stories, share memories and photographs of our home from the past far away from our home in Wisconsin...

I certainly hope so!

There must be a word in the English language to describe moments like these.

"Synchronicity" falls short of the magical precision that moments like these hold.

Isn't life amazing?


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Hope of Transforming Health Care

In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Of all forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.”

My past few articles have been on the unhealthy infrastructure in health care today and how it adversely affects patients as well as physicians, nurses and those who work within it to serve.
Over the past few weeks, I have seen an inordinate number of patients who are hurting because of the way they are treated by administrative practices within this system.  The patterns of conditioning through ‘learned helplessness’ are pervasive and worsening as the systems continue to compete with each other for market share out of greed. 

We all comprise their ‘market’.  What they forget is that money is not a substitute for care.  Care is a choice born of intent.  But when physicians and nurses are ‘boiling frogs’, they are unable to provide the care they intended to offer.  Their care cannot be limited to a 15 minute office visit done under pressure.  When physicians take longer to problem solve, they are reprimanded and punished as it reduces revenue and threatens quarterly profits. 

A ‘boiling frog’ is a frog who is heated in water till it dies.  The teaching point is - because the torture is started in cold water and heat is applied slowly, the frog does not realize it is being boiled alive.  Its senses are sensitized to greater levels of heat.  As morbid as this analogy is, this is used to describe how people adapt to abuse.  This is no different in health care. 

Today’s physicians are no longer seen as healers.  On the contrary, they are viewed as tools that serve health care administration in all its extractive methods, merely generators of revenue, likened to Pavlov’s dog.  Today’s physicians have lost heart and meaning.  The mandates that grind them down demoralize and wound them in deep ways. 

I left corporate health care 15 years ago when this behavior was escalating.  I was unable to live under patriarchal rules.  Today, this treatment is being normalized by ‘the powers that be’.  For me, this is unacceptable.  For others, adapting is their only hope. 

It is important to lift the veil, to view the shadow beneath the blanket of illusion projected in marketing ads, with terms like ‘health’ and ‘care’.  We must wake up to what is really happening.  This is a system that purports to serve.   It offers neither health nor care. 

When patients wake up and demand authentic care, and physicians gain the courage to speak their truth, transformation will be the inevitable outcome. 

“Health care needs to be examined from the inside out, from the top down and the bottom up. There must not be any stone left unturned. When physicians analyze the current system in ways in which they were trained to analyze the body, they will be able to identify the pathology that keeps it sick. They will have to reach deep inside and stand in the face of criticism and rejection, with courage and heart to transform their system that has lost its soul.”
                                                    ~Becoming Real, 2011, by Rose Kumar M.D.

Health care is in crises.  In Southeast Wisconsin, both patients and physicians are struggling to make sense of the lack of consciousness that has taken over the health care system.  Morale is at an all-time low. 

I implore you all to awaken to what the reality of today’s health care system.  Nothing can transform without holding the light to it, including the shadow.  It is the only way to transform this system into one that actually serves the mission of its vocation.  When a critical mass of conscious consumer’s expects real care, the system will be forced to deliver what is expected.   

 I believe this is the only hope we have to transform health care.  This is also how it will ultimately recover its soul.

Friday, January 24, 2014


Many of us are disheartened by the state of health care today.  The solutions being proposed to repair and reform it are not sustainable for physicians or patients.  Every system functions from operating principles that govern and direct its mission.  In order for us to understand why health care is dysfunctional, we need to analyze and understand its business model as it relates to is mission.

Nearly two decades ago, physicians delegated the business of health care to administrators and accounting experts to manage and run it.  Unfortunately, their mission was in conflict with that of the health care system. Theirs was profit centric rather than patient centric.  They believed that patient care interfered with generation of profit.  They began to see time spent with patients as a compromise of their mission.  They began to value numbers over people. Health care’s mission became disjointed when two contrasting missions were being served. Profit became the dominating mission for health care as business managers established control over physicians and regulated and limited their time with patients for maximal revenue.

When I worked in this system, I was unable to find meaning in my work.  I was also unable to sacrifice my mission as a physician for the mission of health care administrators.  I was told that my work in their health care system was a conflict of interest to their mission.  My patients were staying well and not generating enough hospital dollars.  I left traditional health care to create my own business model.  As a physician who remains devoted to my patients I wanted to create a model that generated value for both my patients and my business creatively.   I have never sacrificed mission for profit. I run my business with good business savvy, all the while devoted to my purpose as a physician.  A health care business model risks losing its way when it becomes profit centric.  For healthcare to be successful and sustainable, mission must never be compromised for profit. Our health care system has lost its way.

We have many examples of profit driven health care in our country today and especially in southeastern Wisconsin.  These systems purport to care about health, but on closer examination, we see otherwise – they rely on sick care.  Health care is a conflict of financial interest. Currently, the highest expense in health care are administrative costs.  Many layers deep, administrators manipulate and control physicians, nurses and employees  serve their mission of profit over health or care.  This has demoralized physicians and nurses and driven away patients. Moreover,  it has increased the incidence of medical errors, placing patients and physicians at risk. 

Author and president of Business Ethics Magazine, Marjorie Kelly, defines a business model that functions with this type of focus as ‘extractive.’  Its’ purpose is merely financial – maximization of profits.  Worth is extracted from workers to generate profit by layers of administrative hierarchy.  The extractive business model is prevalent in most corporations today.  Outsourcing work to Third World countries for cheap labor to increase profit-margin is extractive.  Extractive economics are bad for our country’s economy.  It displaces domestic workers and extracts as much work as it can from the remaining workforce to serve profit margin.  Extractive economics deplete meaning from work.  Employees find themselves working merely to pay the bills for survival.  They lose pride and meaning in their work. As a result their physical and mental health suffers.  We all pay the price for extractive economics.  The state of our country’s middle class is a result of extractive economics. 

The majority of health care systems function from this extractive model.  Health care employees are currently working merely to meet quarterly projections.  For health care to operate in this manner is unethical.  Health care’s mission is to serve and heal.  When the vulnerability of patients is used to generate profit, they are deeply harmed. The ‘care’ they receive is motivated by the drive to maximize testing and treatment.  Physicians are unable to diagnose and treat cost-effectively when working for an administrative system based on extractive economics.  They must follow the rules of the game to keep their jobs.  Patients are left with super-sized bills for mere symptom management.  Administrative bonuses depend on this.

A ‘generative’ business model provides services that generate value.  Health care based on generative economics focuses on health and healing rather than maximization of profit.  The focus shifts from one of greed to one of service. Patient care is not provided at the cost of profit, and there is a balance between both without compromising either.  A health care model based on generative economics operates from the principles of sustainability.  There is a fair exchange between doctor and patient. 

What this would look like in the health care system is already visible at The Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine.  Patient care as well as sound business principles are utilized to serve patients cost effectively.  In addition, the most cost-effective diagnostics available in the community are recommended to patients.  Small businesses in the community, such as organic grocers, complementary practitioners and businesses dedicated to health and sustainability that operate from a high standard-of-care, receive support and collaboration by practitioners through patient referrals.  Education and empowerment are of foremost value and achieving optimal health at all levels is served.  All retail profits are used to subsidize business overhead to keep health care visits affordable for patients.

Practitioners work collaboratively with patients to uncover the causes of illness and empower patient responsibility.  The mission of health care is served and all profits are reinvested to support the staff and employees of the Center.  The business is also dedicated to the health of the environment and recycles to reduce its carbon footprint. 

The Ommani Center is a generative business. 

Those who administer the business of traditional health care state that a mission centric model cannot succeed financially, that a generative business model is not profitable.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Shifting the focus of a business from profit to mission, from extractive to generative can actually draw in more revenue in service of its patients.  In addition, in a model like this, patients are truly served by physicians practicing from heart without the demoralization they currently experience within an extractive model of health care.

This is health care reform at the level of its core mission.

I believe this is one of the key solution’s to healing our broken system of health care.  This can also restore the soul of our sacred vocation.  

Monday, January 6, 2014

LOVE is here on Earth

LOVE is here on Earth

I have often felt that LOVE is what we are here to feel and give to each other.

Many share how I feel so why don’t we have stories of LOVE everywhere?

Ever since I was little, I felt it often and deeply.  It was inspiring and a bit frightening but warming, a bit overwhelming yet comforting.  I was raised to hold my feelings in, medical training tried reinforcing this, but that didn't work very well for me. I didn't adapt well and do as I was told. I felt LOVE every time I witnessed a simple act of kindness – you know, that sensation that wells up your tears and feelings. That is LOVE

LOVE makes us FEEL.

I feel it every day with my patients and staff, my dogs, my cat, my family and friends and even with total strangers - it is ever present and sustains life.  It awakens joy and the will to live.  It brings depth and meaning to the simple moments that make life worth living.

Last week when the snow fell heavy and deep, I was on the freeway on my way to work.  A snow plough entered the on ramp, ploughing and salting, clearing the path.  I was overcome with gratitude for the driver, a total stranger to me whose act of kindness saved us from skidding, who was up early, making it safe for us to go wherever we needed to go.  Yes, this was his job, but I chose to see it as an act of kindness.  I chose to see it directed at me and the others on the road at that moment in time. My heart felt warm, my tears welled. I was so thankful.  I saw his work also as an act of LOVE.

 Then, I stopped at the coffee shop and the owner had been there early on that cold morning making sure the hot coffee was ready and waiting, to warm me on my drive to work.  She was grateful for my presence and I was grateful for her efforts – again, LOVE. 

When I arrived at work, the sidewalk was already salted by a stranger who made sure I didn't fall on my way to the front door.  Yet, another act of LOVE and

As I walked in the door, I was greeted by my beloved patient who came early to fill out paperwork so we had our time together without it being cut short by protocol – an act of LOVE.

This was all on one day before 9.a.m.!

Before my day even started, I felt loved.  I felt that all the LOVE was directed at me.  I took it in and it filled me up.

If we remember to be grateful for the many ways we LOVE each other every day, and hold this sacred, our world will change.  What matters will be valued more than not mattering.

Think about this.  It can make all the difference in our experience on Earth.

LOVE is present everywhere we choose to see it.

Make sure your day is filled with gratitude for the many acts of LOVE that come your way that you may otherwise miss.