Holistic Experience

The Westminster Experience is one in which we can term holistic.  Everything about Westminster-the small, close knit community, the liberal arts education, the quad as freshmen, Greek life, club and organization involvement, lecture series, honor societies, small classes, relationships among peers, faculty, and staff- encourages us to be well rounded and to give back to the community.  We grow and learn through these Westminster experiences and then recycle this energy, knowledge, and passion back into Westminster, Fulton, and the global community by serving others. 

This is what I hope to do with the rest of my life.  I’ve learned a tremendous amount of biology in my major courses; I’ve dissected cadavers, presented at conferences, and interacted with professionals in Biological fields.  I hope to be in this Biology World for the rest of my life continuing to learn and serve others.  I’ve learned the importance of history, art, literature, world relations, interpersonal relations, strong leadership, and positive representation of self.  I’ve had role models to look up to and now try to serve as a model for others as well. 

I’ve learned that everything in life is interconnected and interdependent.  Every experience is an opportunity to learn.  Every interaction is a reflection on yourself.  Every moment of life is valuable.  Life is good.  The little things should be appreciated.  You can’t compartmentalize yourself between classes, involvements, and relationships.  Every day is a blessing.  Every day Holistic.

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The Art of Healing

The Art of Healing

W.H. Auden

(In Memoriam David Protetch, M.D.)

Most patients believe
dying is something they do,
not their physician,
that white-coated sage,
never to be imagined
naked or married.

Begotten by one,
I should know better. ‘Healing,’
Papa would tell me,
‘is not a science,
but the intuitive art
of wooing Nature.

Plants, beasts, may react
according to the common
whim of their species,
but all humans have
prejudices of their own
which can’t be foreseen.

To some, ill-health is
a way to be important,
others are stoics,
a few fanatics,
who won’t feel happy until
they are cut open.’

Warned by him to shun
the sadist, the nod-crafty,
and the fee-conscious,
I knew when we met,
I had found a consultant
who thought as he did,

yourself a victim
of medical engineers
and their arrogance,
when they atom-bombed
your sick pituitary
and over-killed it.

‘Every sickness
is a musical problem,’
so said Novalis,
‘and every cure
a musical solution’:
You knew that also.

Not that in my case
you heard any shattering
discords to resolve:
to date my organs
still seem pretty sure of their
self-identity.

For my small ailments
you, who were mortally sick,
prescribed with success:
my major vices,
my mad addictions, you left
to my own conscience.

Was it your very
predicament that made me
sure I could trust you,
if I were dying,
to say so, not insult me
with soothing fictions?

Must diabetics
all contend with a nisus
to self-destruction?
One day you told me:
‘It is only bad temper
that keeps me going.’

But neither anger
nor lust are omnipotent,
nor should we even
want our friends to be
superhuman. Dear David,
dead one, rest in peace,

having been what all
doctors should be, but few are,
and, even when most
difficult, condign
of our biassed affection
and objective praise.

 

W. H. Auden wrote this poem as a memorial to his own physician, David Protetch, M.D.  I think it is worth noting that Auden refered to him as David, not Dr. Protetch.  Auden describes the relationship he had with David and the human characteristics of his doctor.  He points out that David had his own physical ailments and problems in life but that he was able to dissociate from these issues and play his role of healing others.  He was more than just a physician.  He was Auden’s consultant and confidant. 

Auden expresses that David was “what all doctors should be, but few are.”  So why is there a disconnect? Why can’t physicians be everything we want them to be.  Maybe that’s just it.  We expect so much out of our physicians-to spend nearly a decade of their lives learning everything there is about medicine, to recognize exactly what is wrong with us after a short meeting, to be compassionate and understanding, to love, to be passionate about medicine and healing, to give, to serve, to be ours.  While I agree with Auden that all physicians should possess these traits-passion and humane healing are not facultative- we must also recognize that physicians are just one of us as well.  We want them to show their human side in sympathy but to reject it in unflawed healing.  These disparities may cause tensions for the physicians. 

As an aspiring physician, I love the sciences, I’m passionate about healing, I’m willing to give of all of myself, I’m ready to serve.  I realize that this is a big undertaking, though.  There are high expectations for physicians but the reward and art of healing outweigh the sacrifices made.

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WHIP Discovery Excites Researchers

Researchers at the Stevens Institues of Technology discovered the Werner Helicase Interacting Protein 1 (WHIP) while performing genetic investigations of the cell cycle.  WHIP is linked to progeria, or disease of premature aging at a young age.  It is specifically associated with the Werner Syndrome progeria, an autosomal recessive trait which results in the appearance of old age by 30-40 years of age. Its physical characteristics may include short stature (common from childhood on) and other features usually developing during adulthood: wrinkled skin, baldness, cataracts, muscular atrophy and a tendency to diabetes mellitus, among others.

For more information on this protein and it’s role in aging see the Science Daily article at the following URL: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101116103628.htm

This article brought to mind Johnny Gunther in the novel Death Be Not Proud.  While Johnny was not affected by Werner Syndrome, he was forced to show strength in the face of adversity and resilience during his untimely illness.  Roughly 1/200,000 people at the age of 16 and 1/100 people in their 60-80’s suffer from cancer.  Johnny, only 17, suffered from glioblastoma multiforme (GBM).  Johnny’s 15 month struggle with brain cancer was memorialized in Death Be Not Proud, telling the poignant story of a young man of high intelligence and poise in the face of a devastating disease, painful treatments, and repeated setbacks.  Johnny communicated with the brightest physcians and scientists, including Penfield and Einstein, who instilled the belief in Johnny that “Scientists will save us all.”  This is a bold statement, however, with advancements such as the WHIP discovery we can trust in the constant evolution and refinements of modern day medicine to save us from specific ailments.

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Healing Energy

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First Patient

This poem was written by a medical school student in honor of the donor who provided her with much in her Human Gross Anatomy class.   It is a beautiful tribute to a supporter who often is recognized but unthanked.  These donors, as well as other mentors, provide much for students on their educational and lifelong journeys.  Through generosity of time, advising, interacting, encouraging, and supporting, mentors help to develop who we were into who we will become. 

This poem is written in voices, both of the donor and the student.  The voices in the poem alternate and occasionally speak together.  While it can be difficult to read, this poem is infused with real emotion and embodies an usual relationship. 

Learning Anatomy

(The Student)…………………………………………………….(The Body)
Between you and me
my fears and my hopes

Between you and me

my heart in your hands

 

I am young

I am old

I am living                                                                                              I have lived

The distance is wide

 Between you and me.

How does one person

come to understand

another?

 

You have touched every scar,

traced the stories they tell

on my body, but my spirit

you have not read

A jumble of words…………………………………..I have become

a specimen, a chore………………………………a jumble of words

an interesting case………………………………….a body, a case

 A jumble of words

A mumbling of rituals

 pacemaker……………………………………………….heart failure

mastectomy……………………………………………hysterectomy

hysterectomy……………………………………………..metastasis

metastasis………………………………………………nephrectomy

nephrectomy……………………………………………..pacemaker

heart failure……………………………………………..mastectomy

 My hands have trembled

holding the silence of your heart

 These hands

 They have wiped

the tears I have wept

Want to heal so many hurts

 Come together in prayer

 These hands

 They have clasped a dear one close

 Been a part of good laughter

 Been a part of much hurt

yet made wonderful things

 

Like music, and bread 

They have cleansed and rebuilt

Made the ordinary extraordinary

I have nourished and created

 I have suffered

 I have hoped

 How little we understand

 How little you have probed

 How wide is the distance

between you and me?

 Only as wide

as your gentleness 

I have never been as open as you

 This is the most intimate time of my life

My death

 To whom can I tell my stories?…………….To whom will you tell my stories?

 Your gaze is sharp

 Sharper than a surgeon’s blade

my imaginings about your life

 Have you ever nursed a child?

 Have you ever loved another?

 Have you known loneliness and joy?

 Have I really looked inside?…….Have you really looked inside me?

When you dance in a roomful of happy friends

 Watch the first snow fall

 Hold an infant

 Kiss an elder

 Think of me.

Has anyone given you such a gift? 

Have I ever given a gift such as this?

 I will not forget…………………………………………Do not forget

 This intimacy

 This fractured life

full of possibility

 You are so full of wonder

 I wonder sometimes

 Sometimes you laugh

when you’d rather weep

the folly of youth

 I long to be healed

 We are “wounded surgeons,” all;

with bleeding hands we ply our arts

and try to tie the frazzled ends

 

Of mysteries and fragile lives.

 We huddle close

 You stretch far across

and now

your gaze is sharper

you see

 

Despite my wounds

Despite my many wounds

and the worlds I have lost 

Despite all we have taken

away from you

we are yet not so powerful,

not so wise

 I am still a woman

I am still one to be reckoned with

We think we have power

You think you know me

 But you know the truth

We

are more helpless

and vulnerable

than you

Despite all we have taken

 

You could not take my soul

You have given so much

You have crossed the valley

of a shadow we don’t know

 

But I fear no evil

for it is you there beside me

Though the distance is wide

 

Between you and me

a heaven, an eternity

 You will stay with me always

 I will remember ……………………………….You will remember

to speak softly

to touch gently

to walk in kindness

 Never forget

 You are precious, beyond price

 Comfort me, then

for my dreams lie with you

my heart in your hands

 My self in your hands

between you and me

 The distance is wide

 But we have held hands across it.

 

This poem illustrates the connection one may feel with an anatomical donor.  This person has given their entire self in order to educate the youth.  What more can you give.  The amount of time, energy, and effort a gross anatomist invests in learning the complexities of the human body is intense.  Naturally, one would feel connected emotionally or psychologically to this atypical teacher.  At one point the donor voice mentions the separation of his/her soul from their body, while the donor has given her physical body her soul has moved from this world to another.  Just as Margaret Edson’s E.M. Ashford proclaimed in her dialogue with Vivian, death is but a breath that separates life from life everlasting.  Regardless of the differing views of afterlife, through anatomical donation one is able to become part of the educational process and is infused into the web of what is a physician’s medical knowledge.  This first patient teaches the physician what it is to heal. 

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Wit as a Disguise

The following is an excerpt from Margaret Edson’s award winning play, Wit:

Vivian Bearing: So we have another instance of John Donne’s agile wit at work: not so much resolving the issues of life and God as reveling in their complexity.

Student 2: But why?

Vivian: Why what?

Student 2: Why does Donne make everything so complicated? (The other students laugh in agreement). No, really, why?

Vivian: (To the audience) You know, someone asked me that every year.  And it was always one of the smart ones.  What could I say? (To Student 2) What do you think?

Student 2: I think it’s like he’s hiding.  I think he’s really confused, I don’t know, maybe he’s scared, so he hides behind all this complicated stuff, hides behind this wit.”

An interesting concept.  Hiding behind wit.  One armors themselves with jargon, practices, procedures, and knowledge specific to their perspective fields.  This knowledge sets them apart from others who are not involved in the same things.  It elevates you.  It empowers you. 

Not only can this student’s interpretation be applied to John Donne but also to Vivian Bearing, herself.  She was an esteemed professor of Literature equipped with a vocabulary unmatched by her peers.  She demanded perfection and provoked deep intellectual thought in her students and peers.  Unfortunately, her relationships and connections to others suffered throughout her drive to become the highest scholar.  She hid behind her intellect to avoid social discomforts.  As a student herself, her mentor E.M. Ashford advised Vivian on Gardner’s Holy Sonnets as well as life:

“And death shall be no more, comma, Death thou shalt die.” (As she recites this line, she makes a little gesture at the comma.)

Nothing but a breath-a comma- separates life from life everlasting.  It is very simple really.  With the original punctuation restored, death is no longer something to act out on a stage, with exclamation points.  It’s a comma, a pause. This way, the uncompromising way, one learns something from this poem, wouldn’t you say? Life, death. Soul, God.  Past, present. Not insuperable barriers, not semicolons, just a comma.

Vivian: Life, death… I see. (Standing) It’s a metaphysical conceit.  It’s wit! I’ll go back to the library and rewrite the paper-

E.M.: (Standing, emphatically) It is not wit, Miss Bearing. It is truth.  (Walking around the desk to her) The paper’s not the point.

Vivian: It isn’t?

E.M.: (Tenderly) Vivian.  You’re a bright young woman.  Use your intelligence.  Don’t go back to the library. Go out. Enjoy yourself with your friends. Hmm?”

While E.M. viewed the lines from the Holy Sonnets not as wit, this is the central concept for the entire play.  John Donne infuses wit into his lines in order to create confusion and stimulate higher thinking while he may be confused and lost, himself, as was proposed by student 2.  Vivian provokes her students to analyze the literature pieces and find the deeper meanings.  E.M. provided Vivian with wisdom not only on the meaning of the Holy Sonnets but also of the meaning of life.  E.M. encouraged Vivian to become involved in areas other than her studies, to become well rounded.  This idea of a well rounded individual is fundamental for aspiring physicians.  In order to truly be able to heal it is important to understand all facets of life, not solely the biological.  “Nothing but a breath-a comma- separates life from life everlasting.” In the same way these commas separate failures from successes, voidances from experiences, and solitude from relationships.  Reaching out to others, extending oneself to the needs of those around you, serving, and dedication to core values are attributes that promote reaching the other side of that comma.

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Art as Therapy

In the past few years, a new kind of therapy has come into fruition. Art Therapy.  There are a number of mediums, photographs, videos, music and singing, artwork, etc., that can be used as Art Therapy.  The concept behind Art Therapy is that in this fast paced life we all live what we really need when we’re ill is to take a step back, relax, and reflect.  Reflect on our lives but also on something unrelated to illness, like art, in order to stimulate other parts of ourselves and to be stimulated by the art.  The top art remedies offered by Talidari (a group of Art Therapy artists) are Stress Relief, Depression Treatment, Snore No More, Crime Cure, Insomnia Buster, and Antipoor-e-Cream.  As I read through this list I thought to myself “as a college student with many stresses maybe I should look at the Stress Relief remedy” and “my friend has an insomnia problem so maybe I should show this to her.”  I haven’t even looked through the proposed remedies and I’m already intrigued. 

Each section offers explanations for why these issues play prominent roles in our lives and gives non medicinal answers to each issue.  The Stress Relief section notes causes, triggers, physical, emotional, social, spiritual, mental and psychosocial responses, symptoms, and effects.  Solutions are then proposed for dealing with stress and avoiding it altogether.  There are art visualization solutions, nature walks as solutions, and relaxing music.  The visualizations of art contained warm hues of blue and turquoise.  This music clip was proposed for a stress buster and included low notes and repetitious tones. 

These solutions seem viable.  If one is able to relax and unwind, stresses should slip away.  I have never heard of “Art Therapy” but these methods for de-stressing (listening to music or walking through the park) are widely used.

This information was gathered from Talidari, Mulitimedia Art for Wellness.  Talidari is an organization of artists who collect art with fusions of heritage and innovation with the purpose of inspiring, entertaining, and healing. 

http://www.talidari.net/art-therapy-activities.html

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