The new year provides an incredible opportunity to refine one’s philosophy on the study and practice of medicine, which for me aligns as closely as possible with the principles that guide my everyday life. Endeavoring to foster the overall unity within my community, I strive to measure every action I take alongside four simple principles. Are my actions/behaviors serving to enhance my life and or my community? If not, I hope that my community and I would equally hold me accountable for my deeds.
The very first word that comes to mind when I consider this practice is encouragement. Regardless of the application of our healing practices, encouragement is the underlying principle and goal – encouraging our patients to grow, aspire, and participate in their continued wellness journey through maintenance of the shared therapeutic alliance; encouraging the Vis to adapt, restore, and regain balance by means of the myriad modalities/techniques that we sought to develop over time; and encouraging communities of which we are a part of to adopt a communally healthier lifestyle through inspired education and continual open and multi-directional communication within our circle of influence.
Throughout the past several years of my undergraduate and medical school education at Bastyr University (San Diego, CA), I learned that we are simply facilitators, mediators, and encouragers, of the healing process overall; however, let us not fall into the trap of thinking that we are less than optimally suited to fulfill this more than vital role in society. As we ought to know quite well, now more than ever our world hungers and thirsts for that fundamental core principle of our medicine – optimization of wellness above and beyond inhibition of disease.
The second concept is similar to the notion of encouragement, but it takes the idea slightly further. I propose the notion of continual edification to be central to our practice. Both essential and critical to the continued development and maturation of our profession is the principle of Docere, “Doctor as Teacher.” This means that we not only seek to educate and enlighten our patients and communities, but also ourselves and one another. Often this quality of teaching ourselves and one another comes in the form of attending the minimal amount of Continuing Education sessions, seminars, and conferences as required by law. However, I profess that in my experience there is nothing quite like teaching others for the sake of personal learning. I encourage you all to take this message to heart as you venture forth in preparing to spread the principles of Naturopathic Medicine beyond the walls of your educational institution.
The third notion comes as a direct extension of the second, which is to equip. Not only are we called as physicians to encourage our patients throughout their healing journeys, while edifying our community in leading by example; we are called to give our patients the tools to carry out healthy changes in their lives. These could be resources as complex as a patented detoxification program with supplementation and reference materials, to resources as simple as a link to an incredible cookbook or a copy of your prized, time-honored recipe of fire cider. These can serve to reframe one’s entire perspective on food and catalyze that shift to viewing food as medicine. In so doing, you are providing your patients with the resources they need, desire, and crave to transform their lives from the inside out. Beyond the tangible content of these tools, you are channeling this point of Docere as you have encouraged them to be capable of real transformation and redemption of their health, edified them in the right course of action for their individualized healthcare trajectory, and now equipped them with the tools, resources, and mentality, that is required prior to embarking on the next step.
It is my sincerest hope that this next step does not come as a shock to you – it should ultimately be our goal as healers and physicians to empower our patients to then venture onward from our care to develop their own personal healing journey and continually practice wellness in their lives. In so doing, our patients become agents of change in the lives of those beyond our circle of influence. Having journeyed with our patients for a period in their healing process, we may empower them to teach others those difficult lessons they have learned on their path to healing. In turn, they can direct other afflicted individuals outside of our personal reach toward physicians that possess the heart of a teacher and will perpetuate this redemptive cycle over again with the next generation of patients.
We live our daily lives in a broken and fallen world wherein illness and dis-ease unfortunately abound. We as the next generation of holistic healers possess the unique opportunity to strive toward the redemption of this universal affliction. We attain this most lofty aspiration by the way we surround our patients with the compassionate encouragement and empathetic edification that many of us require to truly equip ourselves with the resources necessary to empower one and all toward the goal of becoming the agents of transformation and healing that our communities and the world desperately need.
Michael Lehman – Bastyr California, NMSA Chapter President