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Stories from Our Founder

Do you know how to Dance?

ceremonial dance

Last issue, I wrote an article entitled “House Calls.” The article included a picture of my dad’s old medical bag. Dad’s bag holds its sacred position in my office next to a sculpture of a medicine man. The two objects on display could be conceived as polar opposites. Eastern versus Western methods of health care.

Recently, Saint George has seen an influx of health care providers. Each provider carries his or her own methods and practices of healing. Have you ever wondered who to see or what to do for your health issue? For example: Who should I see or what should I do for my nagging neck and back pain? The options can seem overwhelming. Perhaps I should see neurology, sports medicine, family practice, physical therapy, chiropractic, or pain management. Or maybe my enormous gut is pulling on my back and I am just too fat? Should I see a trainer or nutritionist? What can I do? Should I join a gym? A massage sure sounds good! Should an acupuncturist stick a needle in it? Should I rub some oil on it? Is it a mind thing? Am I too stressed out and my back is letting me know? Do I need a counselor? How, what, and who can heal me? Seemingly, the conflict of providers and treatment options can seem overwhelming.

Or is it?

Dr. Carl Hammerschlag, M.D., is a Yale-trained psychiatrist who tells the story of working with a Native American who challenged his medical school assumptions. He was working as a family physician in a Native American hospital in the Southwest and was introduced to a patient named Santiago, a Pueblo priest and clan chief, who asked him where he had learned how to heal. Hammerschlag responded by rattling off his medical education, internship and certification.

The old man replied, “Do you know how to dance? You must be able to dance if you are to heal people.” he admonished the young doctor. “I can teach you my steps, but you will have to hear your own music.”

So many providers and methodologies to choose from can be overwhelming, like all the choices of keys on a piano. Pounding on the same key at the same pace is irritating at best. However, when one of the masters begins to play, we hear the music.

Throughout my career, it has been my privilege to hear the music of providers and patients alike. In some cases, Western influence came to the rescue of a lifeless child or adult. In other cases, both cultures assisted to overcome cancer and other invaders. I have also witnessed both Western and Eastern practices working harmoniously to help restore a sad, weak drug dependent couple to become happy, strong and independent.

In every successful case, the patient and the provider(s) could hear the music. They danced.

Do you know how to dance?

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