Integrative Medicine: The Return of the Soul to Health Care is an introduction to the field of integrative medicine. Based on both her extensive research and personal experience as a practitioner and recipient of allopathic medicine, oriental medicine, functional medicine, energy medicine, and counseling, Dr. Bonnie McLean offers a user-friendly overview of integrative medicine with resources for further exploration by the reader.
From childhood to her current practice in oriental medicine, Dr. McLean has spent her life immersed in medicine. Raised by a physician father and nurse mother, she spent the first twenty years of her adulthood as an RN. After witnessing what she calls a loss of soul in contemporary medicine, she spent the next thirty years in a search of the soul in medicine. She explored natural medicine, Chinese medicine, psychology, energy medicine, and shamanic healing.
With the advent of integrative medicine, she strongly believes that the soul of medicine is returning. The best of both worlds (science of medical technology and the art of healing, contemporary knowledge and ancient wisdom, East and West) are beginning to work hand in hand under the umbrella of integrative medicine. Integrative medicine is the wave of the future!
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My Search for the Soul of Medicine
MY PARENTS WERE early into their careers in medicine and nursing when they met in a hospital during World War II just before Dad was deployed as an army physician to the Pacific. He returned with a traumatic brain injury and missing an eardrum. He was plagued with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), deafness, vertigo, and tinnitus the rest of his life. Despite his handicaps he managed to practice as a urologist and surgeon until his early fifties.
I adored my father. I respected him, as did our community. He was a brilliant doctor, considered in the top of his field. One year he was featured in Post magazine for his research on kidney and bladder stones. We rarely saw him, though, as he was always at the hospital, seeing patients at his office, or making house calls. When he was at home he was usually asleep. I treasured the rare times he paid attention to his three children. He would practice his lectures with my brother, sister, me, and whatever friends we could rustle up. We would sit perched on the living room sofa and pretend we could understand what he was saying as he pointed at the slides on his screen. Sunday mornings were particularly special. He would let me curl up next to him while he read the Wall Street Journal and absentmindedly played with my hair.
When it came to "street smarts," though, Dad was like an absent- minded professor. Mother had to make sure he was wearing his white coat when he walked out the door, or he would forget it. Not only did she take care of him at home, but as his nurse, she also took care of him at the office. Dad and Mother were both heavy drinkers and smokers, as were many of their colleagues. I suspect this was not uncommon in post-World War II America. We always had a pill available for any ailment. In fact, when I went to nursing school, I took a shoebox of medications with me. I self- medicated and medicated my fellow nursing students.
Dad was a surgeon, but he also was interested in unorthodox treatments for illness. In the 1950s he flew to Japan for acupuncture treatments for his vertigo and tinnitus. In the front of one of his books on kidney stones, there are three pages about acupuncture. He used to drive me to a clinic in Biloxi, Mississippi, where I was given minute doses of arsenic for my asthma. I quit having asthma attacks, so the treatment either worked or I simply outgrew the attacks. In acupuncture college, I learned that the homeopathic remedy for asthma is made from arsenic. It is called arsenicum album.
Despite some of my parents' unhealthy lifestyle habits, we were raised in a basically healthy way. Mother was an excellent cook. She had grown up on a farm and was used to fresh food. We had to drink a teaspoon of cod liver oil, chased by orange juice, every morning. We played outside for most of the year and spent our summers on the Pensacola beaches or at our grandparents' farm in South Carolina, where we drank fresh milk and ate food grown in the garden.
I knew I wanted to be a healer at a very early age. I had two inspirations: Dr. Albert Schweitzer, the Swiss physician who dedicated his life to treating people in Africa, and Dr. Tom Dooley, an American doctor who treated patients in the prewar years of Vietnam. I went into nursing school with the intention of joining Dr. Schweitzer in his jungle hospital. I enjoyed nursing school. We were trained to become supervisors and administrators; nevertheless, we were taught how to give a bed bath and back rub. We even soaked our patients' feet.
Dr. Schweitzer died while I was still in training, so my plan of going to Africa never materialized. I did make it to Dr. Schweitzer's country of origin and nursed in a Swiss hospital the year after my graduation. I worked in an intensive care unit where we bathed, fed, and even cooked for the patients. Fresh air and sunshine were considered important, so the windows were opened no matter what time of year it was. Patients who could be moved spent a few hours a day in the solarium. Hospices were homes where dying patients and their families could stay together in a comfortable environment that was also supportive to their needs. My next nineteen years were spent mostly in California, experiencing various kinds of nursing. It was always hands-on. Even though we were trained at Duke to become supervisors and educators, I never became either.
I loved being a nurse. I enjoyed my patients, and I loved feeling that I was helping people. In the beginning, I felt I had the opportunity to connect with my patients on the personal basis I enjoyed. But I started noticing that medicine was changing. Hospitals seemed to be morphing into big businesses rather than a service to patients. The use of technology was increasing, and the opportunity for nurses to do hands-on work with patients was decreasing.
I was changing too. I was beginning to feel that nursing was more of a job than a calling. I especially felt this way when I was working on an intensive care unit. I was beginning to see my patients more as extensions of the machines they were hooked up to than as people suffering with pain and illness. I realized how much I had become hardened when I was taking care of a woman who was being sent back to surgery. It wasn't visiting hours, but we allowed her husband to stay. I caught him giving her some sips of water. I pointed to the sign by her bed that read NPO (nothing by mouth), scolded him, and sent him out. His last words were, "She's my wife, you know." She died on the operating table. It was then I realized how much I had changed — and not in a good way.
I left intensive care, which seemed to help for a while, but burnout had begun. I would change the kind of nursing I was doing when I began to feel tired and irritable. I practiced different kinds of floor nursing (orthopedics was my favorite), and I also worked in obstetrics, home health, psychiatry, and drug rehabilitation.
One patient I still vividly remember was an elderly woman who talked about feeling ready to leave this world. She said she felt very peaceful because all of her loved ones were on the other side, and she was eager to join them. I had orders to get her out of bed and have her sit in the hall in a wheelchair. She begged me not to make her get up. She was clear and rational. I listened and didn't force her. I put on my report that the patient had refused to get out of bed.
A few days later I was working on another unit when a doctor approached me to say this woman had been discharged. He announced — in a room full of people — that he wanted me know this because I had wanted her to die. Several weeks later I heard that she had been readmitted, placed in intensive care, and was on life support. She died the following week. I felt really sad to think of this woman suffering and not being allowed to die in the dignified manner she had said she wanted. I think that was a turning point for me regarding my profession as a nurse.
By the early 1970s I was married with two small sons and living in Southern California. I began to have my own health problems, having episodes of rapid and irregular heartbeats. I felt depressed and seemed to stay exhausted. I was definitely experiencing burn- out. My doctor ran some tests on my heart and concluded I had something called paroxysmal atrial tachycardia, induced by stress. The only option was to go on a medication that I would probably have to take for the rest of my life. I started seeing a counselor and went to seminars on holistic medicine. I studied nutrition, yoga, meditation, imagery, massage, and acupressure. My symptoms disappeared, and I became really excited about learning things I could do to get and stay healthy.
I loved Delores Krieger's pioneering work on the healing power of touch. To me, this was the healing aspect (the soul) of medicine. I was turning my own health around but couldn't incorporate these things into my work as a hospital nurse. I finally made the decision to change careers. Nursing was no longer the profession that I had entered with so much eagerness. Hospitals were no longer an environment in which I wanted to work.
I felt the counseling I was receiving was giving me some new perspectives on myself, my relationships, and my life. I decided to study psychotherapy. I went back to school and obtained a master's degree in counseling. I changed, and as I changed, so did my marriage. By the late 1970s I found myself a divorced single mother. With my priorities refocused on supporting my sons, I returned to nursing. I spent several years working as an office nurse for MD's who were using nutritional therapies for patients who were not responding to conventional medical treatments. I witnessed patients turning around health conditions that I had thought were incurable. My own health also improved. This experience enabled me to see the power of self-healing that is innate in each of us. I was beginning to reconnect with my own soul.
Another turning point in my search for the soul of medicine came in 1980. I fell in love with an acupuncturist who also was on the board of a local acupuncture college. President Nixon's historic visit to China had opened the doors of this country to acupuncture. John encouraged me to study Chinese medicine, which was new to the United States. Once again I loved my studies and was eager to use this new healing modality to help others. After three years I obtained my license to practice acupuncture. Then I spent two more years in graduate studies and obtained my oriental medical doctorate. I loved seeing patients and finally felt that I was doing the kind of healing work I had originally gone into nursing to do.
My search for the soul continued. I had begun to connect with my inner self through my experiences in psychology and continued to learn about myself throughout my studies in Chinese medicine and philosophy. Although we were taught quite a bit about how to support the body to self-heal, we did not address the emotions or the spirit in the depth I had hoped it would. Acupuncture colleges in the States have evolved since those early days and now do address much more of the mental and emotional body as well as the spirit.
Over the next thirty years I continued to explore ways of working with the mind, emotions, and spirit. My studies in energy medicine gave me a greater understanding of how and why acupuncture and other energy approaches are able to provide deep healing work on the body and mind. My studies in hypnosis and imagery gave me wonderful tools for working on the subconscious level, which I believe is where transformation can happen.
My studies in shamanic healing gave me a huge piece of knowledge for working with patients on a deep level. This path also provided the most profound healing of my own wounds as a child of alcoholic parents. I felt that this was the healing that helped me the most in retrieving the fragments of my own soul, which seemed to have disappeared for so long.
With the advent of integrative medicine, I realized that this search for the soul in medicine has not been mine alone. I am one of a vast number of practitioners and patients who have been pulling the fragments of soul back into the body of our contemporary medicine.
Trip to Duke-Coming Full Circle
My first "aha" moment of realization of the presence of integrative medicine in the States came when I attended my forty-fifth class reunion at Duke. My years at Duke had been some of the happiest of my life. I went to see my fellow nurse colleagues and my beloved ATO (Alpha Tau Omega) brothers. But the impact of this trip ended up being even more profound-life-changing actually. Not only did I realize that many years of my healing careers in nursing and Chinese medicine had come full circle, but the feelings of going it alone with the holistic medicine I had chosen to practice were gone. No longer was I plodding alone, determined to march to my own drummer, whatever the professional and financial consequences. I realized that I was part of a growing movement of medicine in our country — integrative medicine.
This trip was also a catalyst for what turned out to be a more than five-year journey of research on integrative medicine-past, present, and future. I ended up traveling back to Duke three more times. I also went on a holistic health cruise where I met the man who had inspired me since I had heard him speak in the 1970s, Dr. Norm Shealy. I joined podcasts and websites of a number of experts in integrative medicine. I interviewed patients, practitioners, and educators. I added to my already extensive library of books and articles on health and healing, information on such topics as neurophysiology, energy psychology, functional medicine, and the history of medicine of the West.
Maybe I didn't remember what I was taught in nursing school about the history of our contemporary medicine (it was the mid- 1960s), but I recently learned some fascinating bits about the roots of Western medicine — that the extensive use of collaborative medicine has been commonly practiced in many parts of the world throughout history. I developed a deep appreciation of great pioneers in medicine, especially Hippocrates and Florence Nightingale. I was thrilled to be back at Duke. For the first time I understood why these weekends are called "Homecoming." I did feel like I was coming home, not only to Duke but to my own career in health and healing.
Over the reunion weekend we were offered a number of tours and presentations. I chose two. The first was a tour of the Duke Integrative Medical Center. The Center was several miles from the Duke Medical Center and the main university campus. Despite all of the growth in Durham since I was there in the '60s, the Duke forest looked the same. Driving my rental car through the trees brought back memories of my public health rotation. This time I had a GPS, but I doubt if one would have done any good back then. Our directions usually were "Drive south on Highway 74 until you come to a row of mailboxes on the right. Turn right and drive down that dirt road through the creek [hopefully it was not rainy or snow season]. Then look for the wooden house with the tin roof on the left."
About a mile or so from Hanes House, the nursing dorm that had been my home for four years, I found the Integrative Medicine Center. It's an incredibly beautiful building nestled in the Duke forest and landscaped with lawns, gardens, walkways, and ponds. As I walked into the vaulted hall of the front entryway to join my tour, I was met by friendly smiles. This was a lovely, peaceful place. I could feel my body already begin to relax.
Our guide explained that the building had been built with the emphasis on environmental stewardship and on the principle that surroundings can influence our health. This visit to the Duke Integrative Medicine Center was only the beginning of more exploration into this healing sanctuary that I believe is an example of the future of medicine in this country. To discover it almost fifty years later in the same institution where I had birthed my career of twenty years as an RN was mind-boggling! It struck me that during all those years of feeling like I was alone in my search for healing within our medical system, I had not been alone at all.
The second event that had a big impact on me that weekend was a talk on the history of Western medicine. Map in hand, I found the Duke library. I remembered the main part of the library; it still looked the same. I remembered many a night when I studied in that library, trying to focus on my books instead of a cute guy sitting at the end of my table.
"Can you tell me where the Rare Book Room is?" I asked a young girl who looked more to me like she was in junior high school than college. I remembered all the times I too had been treated like I was much younger than I was. Patients would ask me if I was old enough to take care of them. "Yes, I am. I'm twenty-one," I would reply indignantly. I don't think I realized how young I was, especially to have the responsibilities that were thrust upon us as nursing students and then as newly graduated nurses.
Duke Library is huge, but I finally found the Rare Book Room where the talk on the history of Western medicine was being given. I took my place with a group of my own contemporaries, people between the ages of fifty and seventy, mostly doctors with their wives or husbands. The lecture was given in what I thought was an appropriate spot — the room looked like something from a 1930's movie. The drapes were heavy brocade with orange and green flowers. A faded carpet of orange, blue, and black covered the floor. The ceiling was off-white and engraved in raised elaborate patterns. Over a fireplace was a portrait of a woman, whom I assumed was from the Duke family. The walls were lined with shelves of old books behind screens of black metal mesh. The lighting was subdued. I felt transported into another time.
Excerpted from "Integrative Medicine"
Copyright © 2015 Bonnie McLean O.M.D..
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 My Search for the Soul of Medicine, 1,
Chapter 2 History of Western Medicine, 11,
Chapter 3 Miracles of Medical Technology in Western Medicine, 29,
Chapter 4 The Birth of Holistic Medicine in the United States, 42,
Chapter 5 Medicine from the East, 54,
Chapter 6 The Healing Power of Natural Medicine, 88,
Chapter 7 Quantum (Energy) Medicine, 97,
Chapter 8 How Stress Can Make Us Ill, 121,
Chapter 9 Healing the Healer, 149,
Chapter 10 Spiritual and Shamanic Healing, 164,
Chapter 11 The Art of Self-Care, 176,
Chapter 12 Sacred Medicine, 197,
Chapter 13 Integrative Medicine in the United States, 211,
Chapter 14 Integrative Medicine in Action, 233,
References and Resources, 283,