By KEITH WOMMACK — Today, some health care providers are realizing there is more to medicine than, well, medicine.
For example, there is Mehmet Oz, best known as Dr. Oz. Oprah crowned him America’s doctor in 2004. He is a heart surgeon and the host of the weekday hit TV program, “The Dr. Oz Show.”
Oz entered medical school believing that traditional medicine had all the answers and he just needed to discover them. But the limits to this approach began to dawn on him while in medical school and as he began to talk with patients.
Michael Specter in a recent The New Yorker exposé on Dr. Oz, quotes Oz as stating, “Ultimately, if we want to fix American medicine we will need skeptical and smart patients to dominate. They will need to ask the hard questions, because much of medicine is just plain old logic. So I am out there trying to persuade people to be those patients. And that often means telling them what the establishment doesn’t want them to hear: that their answers are not the only answers, and their medicine is not the only medicine.”
Oz is bringing a much broader perspective on health to his viewers.
Yet, Dr. Oz and just about every practitioner trying to change perceptions have critics. Specter writes, “Much of the advice Oz offers is sensible, and is rooted solidly in scientific literature. …Oz is an experienced surgeon, yet almost daily he employs words that serious scientists shun, like ‘startling,’ ‘breakthrough,’ ‘radical,’ ‘revolutionary,’ and ‘miracle.’”
Oz tried to explain, “Medicine is a very religious experience. I have my religion and you have yours. It becomes difficult for us to agree on what we think works, since so much of it is in the eye of the beholder. Data is rarely clean. …You find the arguments that support your data, and it’s my fact versus your fact.”
Some critics say that those who suggest alternatives to traditional medicine are detached from reality. But, perhaps, those suggesting alternatives are gaining a connection to what is mostly unknown, therefore, unconsidered.
My day in a dental office might offer an insight into how a nontraditional method can have an effect.
My wife is a dental hygienist. Several years ago, she asked if I could do her and her employer, Dr. Steve, a favor. She explained that their receptionist, Annette, was sick and they needed someone to man the front desk the next day.
At first, I thought she was kidding. But, she wasn’t. They couldn’t find anyone else. I was their last resort.
I didn’t know how it was going to work, but I was willing to try. So, I agreed to help, but told them I’d need to be able to answer my own practice calls too.
Besides being a syndicated columnist, I am a Christian Science practitioner. I help people with mental and physical problems with prayerful, spiritual treatments. Most of my patients ask for treatment by phone and email.
Joanne assured me I’d run the front desk and be able to use back office for speaking to my patients.
My job at the dental office was to have scheduled patients sign in, answer the phone and get the name and number of patients waiting to schedule an appointment, and gather information on emergency patients that called or walked in. I didn’t have to answer any questions.
I arrived for work at 8 AM. I sat dutifully at the front desk. Scheduled patients arrived and waited for their appointments. Joanne or the assistant ushered patients to operatories to be treated. The patients received care and then left.
I took my calls and prayerfully treated my patients. But a funny thing happened. Or, I should say, didn’t happen. Dr. Steve’s office phones never rang. No new patients called. There were no emergency calls. Nobody called to schedule an appointment. Nothing. This had never happened before.
I’d discussed the mental and spiritual nature of healing physical troubles with Dr. Steve many times. He was always respectful of my work and I of his. Both of us wanted to alleviate and prevent the suffering of patients. Our approaches were just different.
Dr. Steve treated each problem as a physical one needing material adjustments. I approached each problem as having a mental/moral cause and a spiritual solution.
In my mental treatment, I attempted to see the present spiritual strength and health inherent in each patient. I connected them with the divine. This allowed what was spiritually true of them to remove what was offensive. I’d learned that seeing people in this Christly way made them feel physically better.
My spiritual approach was good for my healing practice, but, apparently, not so good for business at the dental office. Did my expectation of health keep prospective patients from needing the doctor’s care?
Dr. Steve recognized the effect on his balance sheet at the end of the day. He looked at me and, with a twinkle in his eye, asked, “Could you go stand in Annette’s front yard?”
The evidence or data was clear. No new appointments and no income from emergencies that normally walk in the door.
This type of data may never be peer reviewed by “serious scientists.” It will be considered anecdotal. Funny, the “anecdotes ”have a way of consistently appearing. Some experiences and cures through what are called alternative methods may even be deemed “startling,” “radical,” “revolutionary,” a “miracle.” Though, I believe they are quite natural, even scientific.
Perhaps, both Dr. Oz and Dr. Steve realize there is more to medicine than, well, medicine.
– Keith Wommack is a Syndicated Columnist, Christian Science practitioner and teacher, husband, and step-dad. He has been described as a spiritual spur (since every horse needs a little nudge now and then). Keith’s columns originate at: KeithWommack.com
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