Old Concepts, New Medicine

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Just a reminder that The New Medicine airs on Wednesday evening (check your local PBS listings). Hosted by the late Dana Reeve, it’s of particular interest to those who embrace organic living, holistic healthcare and alternative therapies.

“When Bill Moyers’ series, Healing and the Mind, premiered on PBS more than 10 years ago, the emerging field of ‘mind-body medicine’ and a range of alternative therapies from acupuncture to meditation still lay on the fringes of the U.S. healthcare system,” says Catherine Allan of Twin Cities Public Television, the show’s executive producer. “Today, the field is exploding, driven by a growing body of hard research data, as well as consumer demand, and led by pioneering doctors who understand the significance of the mind-body connection.”


The New Medicine reveals that medical education is changing. The show takes us to Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, one of a growing number of medical schools where there’s renewed emphasis on teaching some of the skills of pre-modern medicine: the importance of listening, comforting and encouraging the body’s own healing abilities. The traditional doctor-patient relationship is undergoing a shift from paternalism to partnership, as practitioners and consumers have begun to promote a more holistic form of healthcare called integrative medicine, which seeks to heal the whole person, rather than simply cure a disease.

“We as a healthcare system have kind of lost our way a little bit over the last two decades by becoming so enamored of technology and specialization that we’ve lost sight of the individual as an individual, a very complex entity,” says Dr. Ralph Snyderman, chairman emeritus of Duke University. “We ought to understand that we are engaged in healing, and healing involves caring. And caring is at the root of the practice of medicine and at the root of the physician-patient relationship.”

“Some people might feel like, ‘Well, this is kind of the touchy-feely, soft side of medicine. Why pay attention when you know what’s important in getting the x-ray and giving the antibiotic?’ ” adds Dr. Arthur Kleinman of Harvard. But this attitude is dangerously shortsighted in his view. If you’re a doctor who fails to take the time to understand an individual’s personality, history, habits and fears, “you’re practicing veterinary medicine,” he says.

Be sure to check outThe New Medicine: Companion Book to the Public Television Series, with a forward by Dana Reeve. It includes in-depth interviews with physicians and research scientists featured in the program, as well as tips on how to choose the best doctor and how to get the most out of your visit.

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