At the end of February 2012 more than forty students, young physicians and teachers gathered at the Abode of the Message in New Lebanon, NY for this year's Spirituality in Medicine - Leadership Training Institute. This was the largest turnout to date in the 7 year history since the inception of the SIM retreats in 2006.
Participants hailed from over two dozen different medical schools, academic medical centers and hospitals. Largely comprised of medical students they came from as far away as Missouri via Florida, and Cardiff, Wales via Vancouver, Canada and Burlington, Vermont. This was an enthusiastic and soulful crew of inquisitive, insightful and deeply caring young physicians, and one Critical Care nurse who joined us from Washington, DC's Washington Adventist Hospital.
The theme for this year's conference was Unlocking the Heart of Healing in Medicine and our faculty mentors presented on related topics.
Rabbi Cherie Koller-Fox a hospital chaplain in practice in the Boston area spoke to the spiritual dimensions of how chaplains play a role in the health care team and explored the role of a patient's extended family and the role of spirituality in the process of illness and death. Rabbi Cherie also took time to address questions regarding diverse aspects of spirituality in medical training and practice that participants submitted before the start of the conference. After a year of illness ten years ago, Cherie began working for The Jewish Chaplaincy Association. This led to CPE courses and a new appreciation for health and healing. She has worked in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, rehab hospitals and acute care hospitals. She has also served as the rabbi at Congregation Eitz Chayim in Cambridge MA for 25 years.
Misha Kogan, MD Medical Director of George Washington Center for Integrative Medicine examined data showing how heart rate variability can act as a predictor of mortality and morbidity, and can also be used to foster self awareness and auto-regulation by patients. Dr. Kogan specializes in treating patients with complex medical problems. Dr Kogan is also involved in several research projects studying effects of Reiki and Yoga. In addition he is an editor of Spirituality and Health Online Education and Resource Center at George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health, GWISH.
Steven F. Horowitz, MD currently Chief of Cardiology at Stamford Hospital in Connecticut, and Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, led a group seminar on the growing awareness of the role of humanism and spirituality in conventional hospital based Western medicine. He also shared his gradual awakening to the healing power inherent in the doctor-patient relationship that grows from respectful engaged listening. While a medical resident, Dr. Horowitz wrote a coming of age book about his training experiences that later served as the basis for the movie "Bad Medicine". Dr. Horowitz was Chief of Cardiology at Beth Israel from 1988-2002. In 2007, he received a lifetime achievement award from the Planetree organization as a "Pioneer in Patient-Centered Care". In 2008, he created the Center for Integrative Medicine and Wellness in Stamford. Dr. Horowitz is and has taught medical students continuously throughout his career.
Larry Palevsky, MD, a pediatrician who teaches holistic integrative pediatric & adolescent medicine to parents, and medical and allied health professionals and practices a holistic approach to children's wellness and illness led a workshop exploring the interaction between meditation, stillness and the autonomic nervous system and their effect on heart rate. He also spoke about how attuning to our autonomic nervous system through stillness and breathing can produce awareness of events in our local environment that we don't ordinarily perceive. Dr. Palevsky's clinical experience includes working in pediatric emergency and intensive care medicine, in-patient and out-patient pediatric medicine, neonatal intensive care medicine, newborn and delivery room medicine, and conventional, holistic and integrative pediatric private practice at the Center for Health & Healing an integrative and complementary care medical facility affiliated with the Beth Israel Medical Center in NYC. Dr. Palevsky is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a diplomate of the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine, and Pastâ€“President of the American Holistic Medical Association.
Marianna (Borkovskaya) Shimelfarb, MD an integrative family physician shared her longstanding interest and involvement in multidimensional, integrative approaches to patient care and medical education. As a medical student, she conducted her research thesis on piloting Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in freshman medical students at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. While in residency, Marianna pioneered curriculum on residency wellness that became part of the residency training. Currently a faculty member for the Community Integrative Medicine Fellowship at the Continuum Center for Health and Healing in New York City, Dr. Shimmelfarb co-led work shop on how to cultivate and foster awareness of complementary and alternative medicine at your academic medical center, medial school or residency program. This workshop was co-led by Ellen Tattelman, MD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Family and Social Medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and in the Montefiore Residency Program in Social Medicine... At Albert Einstein she works to integrate the philosophy and practice of complementary and alternative medicine into all four years of the medical school curriculum in an evidence-based way. She also organizes the complementary medicine teaching curriculum at the residency program.
In her family medicine practice at a community health center in the Bronx, Dr. Tattelman works to integrate these approaches into conventional patient care, bringing multiple modalities of healing to patients that may not have experienced these possibilities. She continues to learn from her patients the forces that help them heal physically, spiritually, and emotionally within the context of their family, culture and broader socio-political circumstances. Dr. Tattelman is especially committed to the integrated care of the underserved, and these principles guide her teaching of medical students, residents, and other health care professionals.
Other Spirituality in Medicine-Leadership Training Institute activities included morning yoga sessions led by Jessica Ridgeley, MD a graduate of the US Naval Academy, and an osteopathic physician and a family medicine resident in training. Also, a workshop on goal setting and intention led by Santi Tanikella, MD a pediatric resident at Montefiore Medical Center who served as the chair of this year's conference planning committee, and has also been active in planning previous year's conferences, and an Interfaith musical offering, sing-along led by Francisco Giral Irby, MD a family medicine resident in training. The conference closed on Sunday with a circle talk where participants shared what they wished to leave as an offering to the group, and what they wanted to take with them on their journey. This was preceded by a workshop on planning next year's conference led by previous planners, Santi Tanikella, Jessica Ridgley, Misha Kogan, Ilana Seidel, Ellie Wiener, and Vandita Bautista.