Bravewell Pioneers: “Ye Shoulders of Giants”

I was thrilled to attend the “Inaugural Bravewell Pioneers of Integrative Medicine Award Event” on Thursday. The Bravewell Collaborative and the Pioneers (Larry Dossey, James Gordon, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dean Ornish, Rachel Remen, and Andrew Weil) are to be congratulated on their vision and leadership.

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While the evening was a grand celebration, the day featured talks by each of the six figures mentioned above – in essence, they told stories. Stories about where they’ve been, what they’re doing now and where they see the field of integrative medicine going. It was truly a day of hope. To a person, all noted that the spirit and practice of integrative medicine is alive and well. Most echoed Jon Kabat-Zinn’s statement that “the heart of integrative medicine is relationality”; not any specific modality or therapy but rather the emphasis on relationship between healer and patient. While they did not specifically address pediatrics per se, many touched on issues of childhood and parenting. Dean Ornish mentioned that he believed parenthood was one of the best times to motivate people to change lifestyle behaviors. Rachel Naomi Remen is a pediatrician by training, and though her current work at Commonweal is focused mostly on adults with cancer, her “Healer’s Art” curriculum for medical schools should be required for all pediatricians-in-training. The others have indeed influenced many in the pediatric field (myself included) through their writings (Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn’s Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, for example) and teachings (Weil’s fellowship program in Arizona has graduated several leaders in the integrative pediatrics movement). Thank you to Bravewell for allowing us the opportunity to celebrate the lives and influence of these visionaries and to dream about a vision for a New Medicine, building on their legacy.

“If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants.”

– Sir Isaac Newton (Letter to Robert Hooke, 15 February 1676)

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