DR. KENNETH RIFF
University of Minnesota medical students Kari Thompson, left, Lindsay Darrah, Brad Kuzol and Ben Baechler listen to kumu lomi Dane Silva.
Visiting students look at
different ways to heal
Lomi lomi, Qi Gong, acupuncture
and Reiki are among therapies examined
Four University of Minnesota fourth-year medical students gained a different perspective on healing after three weeks at the North Hawaii Community Hospital on the Big Island.
They visited physicians and practitioners with 10 or 12 different types of healing methods, including acupuncture, Chinese medicine, Reiki, Qi Gong, healing touch, heartmath, meditation, homeopathy, naturopathy and Hawaiian lomi lomi.
Brad Kuzol, going into orthopedics, said he was impressed with how well the hospital practiced integrative medicine, combining multiple approaches including western medicine and other healing traditions.
He said the students worked with all kinds of healers and talked a lot about "positive intention." Like healing touch, he said, "it is a way of transmitting healing energy.
"Nowadays we have patients and tell them all things that can go wrong with a procedure. We let them sit and stew about it before surgery when we could give them guided imagery and get their mind prepared for surgery."
Kuzol said he hopes some day to have an integrated muscular skeletal care clinic using multiple techniques, as well as orthopedic surgery if necessary. He believes malpractice suits would decrease substantially with an integrated clinic and it would attract more patients.
The students, two men and two women, were from the University of Minnesota Medical School's Center for Spirituality and Healing, a national leader in complementary therapies and healing practices.
They took an elective course offered by North Hawaii Community Hospital through the center to train them in blended medicine.
The students also met Minnesota-born Earl Bakken and heard his vision for the future, said Benjamin Baechler, planning to go into internal medicine and specialize in cardiology.
Bakken invented the first human heart pacemaker, co-founded Medtronic Inc., which develops therapeutic devices and pioneered a unique integrated healing program at the small North Hawaii hospital.
His vision is to address spiritual and emotional needs of patients, as well as physical, and to create a healing environment, Baechler said. "Not a hospital that's a sterile, sedentary place but a vibrant place where patient healing can take place."
Dr. Ken Riff, course director, chairman of North Hawaii's Integrative Healing Committee and director of the hospital's Hawaii Heart-Brain Center, said the program was designed to give students practical experience and "open their minds to all the different ways that people are attempting to do healing.
"The whole idea is that different healing traditions have different strengths and weaknesses," Riff pointed out.
"If you have a heart attack, you want to be in an intensive care unit getting high-tech medicine. But if you're in chronic pain, western medicine doesn't do well with it. They end up throwing pills at people.
"Some other traditions, such as acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, medical massage and yoga, do a pretty good job with chronic pain."
Riff said the students are told: "Don't just think you have one set of tools to offer patients. Know these (other approaches) and know how to put them together so you can offer all ways to patients."
Other students in the course were Lindsey Darrah, going into obstetrics/gynecology; and Kari Thompson, taking a surgical residency. Baechler said he learned the importance of not only taking into account the pathology of disease in evaluating patients but also factors associated with lifestyle and diet.
"I'm excited about it," Baechler said. "This is taking medicine from where we exist today, incorporating a holistic approach to taking care of the patient."
Riff said North Hawaii sees the course "as a real validation of what we're doing" by a nationally known medical school. "It makes us feel we're really on the right path, even though we're a small hospital out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and it's something the community can feel good about, too."