Archive for the ‘Systems Medicine’ category

Knowing Enough About Systems to be Dangerous

May 30th, 2008

From the age of about eight until 20 years ago, my entire life was immersed in music, education, the arts and, in a very pure way, people in general.  It was a complex world that required a deep, intuitive understanding of the human condition on multiple levels.  In a very general way, that life, (pre-health care management) was all about systems.  

Obviously, it was never just about one or two individuals, and it was not about life and death, but it was magnificently complex in its own way. It involved working with  people to do something that was extremely challenging, that required incredible hand/eye co-ordination, and an ensemble mindset of co-operativeness that was paramount to success.  Most importantly, it required them to listen intently to each other so as to find the perfect balance, blend and intonation. 

The nuances of taking a systemic approach to the creation of music through the efforts of an ensemble in many ways have escaped our world of healing, at least until now. 

At a recent visit to my dentist, he and his hygienist were talking about the fact that the doc had just taken a continuing medical education course.  When he was asked if anything new had evolved from his class, he smiled and said, "Well, for the first time in 28 years of practice, they admitted that the mouth is connected to the body."  He went on to elaborate about the fact that each and every day he sees the destruction caused by inflammatory disease of the gums, and then told me about his attempts to communicate that information to a physician friend several years ago.  "It just didn't register," he said. 

What little we know about inflammatory disease has us dutifully brushing our dog's teeth to prevent a heart condition, yet we still do not have direct lines of communication between our primary or cardiac physicians and the the dentists who see these problems as they manifest themselves in our body.  

Someone once told me that Descartes' Treatise of Man played a major role in the imposed medical and emotional separation of the brain from the body, as it clearly took the stand that "Hospitals and physicians should take care of the body while the church takes care of the mind and the soul."

One of our scientific collaborators, Dr. Lee Hood, is famous for his work in Systems Biology.  Another collaborator, Georgetown University, is involved in the creation of a medical school program revolving around Systems Medicine, and finally, our Optimal Healing Environment collaborator, the Samueli Institute, is focused on Systems Wellness.  In spite of these wonderful leaps into what would have to be considered common sense approaches to health and life, we still sometimes miss the ensemble approach.

My recommendation? 

Maybe it would help our healers to take their place on the podium, look at every one of the 30 plus lines of music on the score, raise the baton and begin to direct their way through every nuance, inflection, and harmonious signature present in a score of music with the appropriate rhythm, intonation and accents just to remind themselves that; we human beings are basically all made up of systems as well, and those systems will not function smoothly if one is completely out of sync with the other." 

This is something that we all know intuitively.  Maybe immersing ourselves in that world for a while will help bring that concept totally back into focus.  It's all about harmony, balance and nature's perfection, and a disjointed approach to health is as potentially harmful as a disjointed approach to life.   

Share