Building a Different Way to Heal

holding hands

I have been a family physician for over 30 years. In my career, I have been a military physician, a medical school faculty member, a health policy advisor, a medical research training program director, and the director of the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Alternative Medicine, and a Director of a World Health Organization Traditional Medicine Center.

Over this period, I have learned about and investigated many of the world’s healing traditions many that are very different than the western medicine of my training.

During my time at NIH and working with WHO, one of the things that I observed was that the world’s healing traditions and our western healing methods, if you go back several hundred years, were not very different.

But in the last hundred years, ours western approach has radically changed—often for the good and sometimes for the bad. With my next few posts, I’d like to illustrate both sides of that coin: showing you the dilemma that we’re in in health care today and, I hope, the way out of that dilemma.

After my military service, I became the founding director of Samueli Institute, a non-profit medical research organization that focuses on finding the solutions to our health care problems. Our mission at the Institute is to seek ways to create a flourishing society—through the scientific exploration of wellness and whole-person healing.

We have discovered that there is a big difference between health care that focuses on healing and a medical care system that focuses on cure. We need both. We do not have both. And we do not integrate them.

The result is that patients and our economy suffer.

Healing occurs at the individual level, it occurs at the organizational level, and it occurs at the community level. Unless those levels work in concert, the benefit of healing and the huge healing capacity that all of us carry to achieve wellbeing cannot occur.

At the Institute we work to understand how healing processes work, how to integrate healing practices, and to how to help individuals, families, work places and organizations create optimal healing environments.

Samueli Institute works at a number of locations around the world. About 50 percent of what we do is for the benefit of the military and our veterans. Military and veteran leaders tell me that the health care system is not just unable to meet the needs of its patients. In fact, it is struggling and increasingly losing the war on illness, delivering care that is not optimized and costing more and more each year.

The U.S. military has served admirably through ten years of wars, which has also led to hundreds of thousands of individuals coming back with post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, and chronic pain. These are young people with families, with long futures in front of them.

Their care will cost our country $4 trillion in the next 30 years. If we can’t bend that cost curve, it will become the biggest threat to our national defense. It will consume the prosperity of the country.

Forget China, forget North Korea, forget the Middle East, and forget Russia. Four trillion dollars is more than we can afford.

We need to build a different way to heal. With my upcoming posts I hope I’ll lay the groundwork for that so we can move forward as individuals, as organizations and as a society.