Medicine: In Need of Change
Have any of you wondered about this column’s title, The Paradigm Shift in Medicine Today? What is the paradigm shift it references? Why does this matter? And, why would this be important to me?
A paradigm shift is an expansion of perspective to include more information. The revelation that the world was round and not flat was a paradigm shift that changed science forever. Medicine is due for a similar seismic shift today.
The field of western medicine grew in the space between bold experimentation and meticulous adherence to protocol. Currently the forces within the field of medicine are focused on evidence-based interventions, predictable results and cost containment by efficiency. These goals are lofty and would seem helpful; however, what is missing in this approach? Is it adequate to create health in our country?
Many of us have experienced the deficits of our current system. The utilization of complementary medicine by one out of three of us at a cost of more than $30 billion each year attests to the inadequacy of the western medical model. Exploring a mash-up of new perspectives, eastern medicine, functional medicine, and integrative medicine along with western medicine is the purpose of this column.
Many of the amazing advances in arresting diseases have resulted from carefully studying the disease process and tailoring a protocol to halt the disease at specific steps in its progression. In order to have the same success as the originator of the protocol, subsequent doctors and patients must follow the same steps in the same way if they expect the same results. While this seems logical, and is accepted as the norm, there are inherent dangers in this structure:
1) The protocol may not fit. There may be differences in the situation that we should notice, and there may need to be new protocols or ways of addressing the problem.
2) There may be errors or dangers in the original protocol. Science is an evolution not an end game. New information and better methods make our previous interventions obsolete. If we hang on to a “tried and true” method without seeking new information, we can propagate harm.
3) Greed and corruption come into play. There is no doubt that illness is major business. The motivation of those who profit from illness must always be questioned. When pressure to follow the majority drowns out the room for transparency and questioning, there is something wrong.
My purpose in writing this column is to open the discussion, create a dialogue, and expand what we believe is possible for our health.
I was fascinated recently by an interview with Ole Scheeren, a German architect whose apartment building, The Interlace, won World Building of the Year for 2015. Scheeren believes that “the people who live and work inside a building are as much a part of that building as concrete, steel and glass.” He asks, “Can architecture be about collaboration and storytelling instead of the isolation and hierarchy of a typical skyscraper?” He has often been critiqued for “coloring outside the lines” in his field, but his statement that caught me and focused my own purpose was this: “Artists who create anything that is not the status quo will create controversy. We seek that controversy as an opportunity to have a dialogue. We seek the dialogue. It is in that place that we may open up the future.”
Our work in this community, in this publication, and in our larger world rests on this same principle. We are each “artists” in our own story and have the opportunity to create outside the status quo and “open up the future.” Health care needs this dialogue. I have seen the profound effect of other major hospital systems, for instance, starting a yoga program, or creating farm-to-table food service programs. The permission to create and expand wellness programs within my workplace has been granted on the shoulders “of those who have gone before.”
In the simplest of ways, our daily choices impact the world. People around us are influenced by what we do. Research has shown that we become most like the people with whom we associate. It is always fascinating to me to watch the effect of choices…when I order a healthy meal, the person with me is more likely to do the same. Conversely, when I choose an unhealthy option, I can often predict that the person with me will join me. From these small choices to the larger decisions we make, our choices make a difference. We are the architects of our own lives. Let’s create the future!
“Every human being is the author of his own health or disease.” – Swami Sivananda
Dr. Brossfield is the medical director at the Eisenhower Wellness Institute and can be reached at (760) 610.7360.