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Focusing on the patient and the disease, as well as the physician

image: Departments headerWhite-walled and fluorescent-lit, seminar room 313 in the Donnelley Biological Sciences Learning Center feels like a hospital examining room, sans the smell of antiseptic. Over the course of ten minutes, about a dozen students in jeans and knit shirts filter into the room, taking seats around the rectangular table. They're joined by professor of medicine Lawrence Wood, who specializes in pulmonology and critical care, and assistant professor of clinical medicine Alex Lickerman, SB'88, MD'92.

"Hell is really the Buddhist equivalent
of major depression," Lickerman says, likening Buddhism to "the ultimate psychologist."

"Welcome, everybody. It's 2:05 and time to start our 2 o'clock seminar," announces Wood, a big man with white hair and beard. The faculty dean for medical education and a practicing Christian, Wood developed this course--Spirituality and Healing in Medicine--and is its director. An elective offered to medical-school students each spring on a pass/fail basis, the course is also open to undergraduates. Now in its fourth year, it runs from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. each Monday.

Wood opens the floor by asking if the week's reading, an article on the Ten Worlds of Buddhism, brought to mind any experiences from the students' medical education. The students keep journals in which they're to write thoughts and feelings inspired by the readings. Weekly topics range from alternative medicine to praying with patients.

No one responds to Wood's bid, so he starts the discussion by sharing something from his own journal. The day before, Easter Sunday, his sister called to tell him that their mother had been taken to the hospital. In addition to talking to Wood's sister, the doctor called Wood and made sure the cardiologist called too, impressing Wood: "This is a sensitive way to relate to patients that I would like to incorporate into my being as a physician." Lickerman, sitting to Wood's left at the head of the table, has a related story. During a recent visit to his parents, his mother developed chest pain, a rash, and swelling in her throat after taking a cold medicine. "I was astounded at how nervous I became. By the time you're an attending, you usually have an impenetrable shell," he says. "It was very difficult to play the roles of son and doctor."

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  JUNE 2000

  > > Volume 92, Number 5

  > >
Hyde Park revisited
  > >
Hugo Sonnenschein
  > >
Pan-Asian persuasion

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