Ommani Center Blog

The Dark Side of Healthcare

Most people don’t realize what it is like to maintain a private practice in today’s health care climate.  I applaud and honor any physician who has the courage and audacity to do so.  As a private practitioner myself, I know and love the challenges of growing and maintaining a medical practice.  I know what it takes to swim upstream and settle for a fraction of what employed physicians get paid.  The trade-off they make is a large salary with little to no freedom to work from the soul.  They work for a system that is heartless and expects them to meet quarterly projections.  Many physicians feel trapped by the organizational limitations placed upon them, but have difficulty leaving to work independently.

It would be accurate to say that private practitioners belong to a sacred tribe, one that is preserving the heart and soul of Medicine.  I have experienced being an employed physician long enough to know that the heart and soul of medicine are absent in corporate health care.  After 6 years of practicing in that setting, I left that system and have never looked back.  I remember the immense initial adjustment this took. I had to rearrange my definition of success and put meaning in the forefront.  I remember feeling the tension between the financial freedom that being an employed physician offered versus the financial stresses of being in private practice. I also remembered the tension between what the ‘system’ expected of me –patient numbers- and my longing to be able to truly connect with my patients – a sense of meaning.  I opted for the latter, sacrificing the former.  The payoff was priceless.  15 years later, I can’t imagine working any other way.  My life is simple and sustainable.  My medical practice also operates from a model of sustainability.  Most importantly, I don’t work for the medical system’s financial projections.  I work to serve my patients, the vocation of medicine and the health of my community.

Two decades ago, our medical system embodied the scientific method, valued the doctor-patient relationship and practiced from soul.  Today, money and profit is what health care is serving.  Neither health nor care is its goal.  It is a ‘sick care’ system that manages symptoms in the ‘name of health care’.  The scientific method has fallen by the wayside.  Health care today has become a ‘closed system’ where even scientific evidence of harm is sidestepped in the name of profit.  Preventive medicine is a conflict of interest for this model.  Symptom management does not involve patient education, lifestyle change, patient responsibility or healing.  It involves using prescription drugs to manage symptoms.

Today’s health care consumer is waking up to the reality of this dark side of health care.  When people experience the lack of care from their physician who practices under pressure within a corporate health care system, they look elsewhere for a doctor who can take the time to problem solve with them.  Many people want more than what the current distortion of healthcare is offering. They want to learn what made them sick, how to heal, how to stay healthy and how to live consciously.  This is what patients, the consumers of health care, deserve.

One of the biggest crises in America today is the contamination of our food supply by the food industry.  We are all discovering that the large corporations running our food industry are no different than the pharmaceutical industry.  Our food supply is contaminated with hybridized plants, chemicals, pesticides and additives. If food is medicine, eating these foods is making us sick.  The incidence of food related illnesses in our country has skyrocketed.  The medical systems answer to this is pharmaceutical management.  Today’s medical paradigm still does not see the connection between food and health.  One broken system supports another.

The solution to this seemingly insurmountable problem is already underway.  A critical mass of people is formed and demanding change.  They are simplifying their diets.  They are eliminating chemicals and processed foods from their grocery lists.  They are eating clean, organic and local foods. They are living more in harmony with nature.  They are making choices to promote health.  They are discovering that many of their diseases are diseases of lifestyle; that the body is more resilient and regenerative than they have been led to believe.

Healing and transformation require work.  As adults, we must recognize that our choices will determine the kind of world in which our children will live.  We must do the good and hard work of creating a shift in our current societal paradigm.  Society and all of its systems are currently broken.  They have gotten so far off course that the lack of soul is palpable within them.  But I and many others, who refuse to compromise health and meaning in favor of money, are changing the organizational sickness by serving what is important and real.  I encourage all of you to see through the illusion of our health care system, demand the kind of care that you rightfully deserve and do the hard work required to restore the soul of our world by making personal choices for health and healing without compromise.  It is the only solution for correcting our collective course and restoring wholeness to our personal and collective lives.

As Margaret Meade said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

We are those people.  This is our time.

The Need to Transform the Existing System of Healthcare

There is a movement underfoot in our country that is provocative and exposing. Our shadow is up and it is unraveling itself in all of our institutions. When I left the medical system at age 36, I did so because the corporate intent that I was expected to enable – sick care, felt ‘unethical’ to me. Sick care was not what I was trained to serve. It was not what my heart and soul went into medicine for. But it was required of me by the medical system to generate profit. I was required to keep people sick in order to keep my job.

Deep inside, I knew I was a problem solver. This is what I loved about Internal Medicine. I wanted to uncover the causes of symptoms and ease suffering by working with people to figure out the causes for their illness and how to tap into it to find solutions with them. If our premise is that life is full of precision, then we should be able to figure out the purpose and meaning behind our symptoms and suffering. Our suffering can also help us become real. It has an alchemical effect on our ego that strips it from being ‘all knowing’ to becoming a student of life.

I love medicine. It excites me and it stimulates my thinking at many levels. As physicians, we need to use our knowledge from a context that serves the vocation of medicine.  We also need to use it responsibly and humanistically. This is what we have lost and must regain in health care today. We must open the currently closed system of medicine while maintaining a high standard-of-care. An open system grows and evolves.  A closed system stays stagnant and is based in fear.  Today’s health care system uses fear to keep patients coming.  Its revenue depends on this.

An open system will of medicine is cost effective and patient centered. Its context examines what is wrong but also “what is right about what is wrong”. When we explore symptoms and illness from this framework, we can heal our patients at causal levels. We can use the pathological model within the larger context of a healing model, seeing pathology as a symptom rather than an end.

This context is transforming medicine and evoking health at The Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine. This is a prototype of an ‘open system’.  This was a way I could make medicine REAL and restore and reclaim its SOUL. Becoming Real is the calling of our time. This is our collective path. This can transform our medical system and restore it to what it was originally intended to be.  This will involve physicians who are open to working from this context and patients who expect it.