Field Notes: USC Institute for Integrative Health Conference

"The practice of medicine is an art, not a trade; a calling, not a business; a calling in which
your heart will be exercised equally with your head." - William Osler

We've all seen the term Mind-Body-Spirit used as a touchstone for lifestyle and health awareness. Though the world of conventional medicine has begun to embrace the concepts of Mind-Body now more than ever, the idea of Spirit in healthcare is still not well understood. So, I was excited to receive an invitation to attend an event hosted by the USC Keck School of Medicine's Institute for Integrative Health, with the title “Revisioning Healthcare: Reclaim the Soul of Medicine." The objectives were to discuss how spirituality and health are connected, and offer an opportunity for medical professionals to evaluate their relationship with the soulful art of healing. The conference featured a line up of speakers well versed in the “spirit” side of mind-body medicine, to help participants gain new awareness and tools for their practices.

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The conference was an enlivening day of presentations by experts in the fields of Ayurveda, acupuncture and herbal medicine, as well as key energy modalities including Tibetan singing bowls, guided imagery, meditation – even the idea of "clowning" as a way to ease suffering through hope and humor.

Dr. Carl Hammerschlag, MD, a leading authority on Pscyhoneuroimmunology, gave the opening keynote. His inspirational work, alongside the celebrated Dr. Patch Adams, is based in the practice of "clown medicine," bringing joy, laughter and mental healthcare to disaster areas, refugee camps and institutions all over the world. The picture to the right shows him in his iconic red clown nose, the screen image is from a humanitarian trip to Peru - pink tutu and all!

Another notable presenter was Tobi Fishel, PhD, speaking about the science of connection and meaning in healthcare. The twelve breakout sessions were fascinating as well, and were mostly filled to capacity. The day closed with a drum circle facilitated by the effervescent Giavanni Washington, where we experienced her unique “drum medicine” to shift limiting thoughts and raise gratitude.

For me, a main highlight of every conference is meeting attendees. I spoke with MDs, RNs, mental health professionals, and Complementary and Alternative practitioners. Everyone expressed a desire to offer something more to their patients, and acknowledged the missing element of “spirit” in their practices. The conference intention to reclaim the soulful perspective that compelled them to become healers in the first place seemed to speak deeply to everyone. Kudos to USC Institute for Integrative Health for taking on this topic fearlessly, and creating an enlightening experience for all.

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Until next time - stay inspired!