voices in the family

Slow medicine

There’s a small trend afoot — a tendency toward slower, mindful, more meaningful living. Perhaps you’ve heard of slow travel, slow design, slow food. Well, how about slow medicine?

In her book God’s Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine, physician and historian Victoria Sweet reflects on two decades spent at the last almshouse in the country. There, she practiced medicine within a healing framework that embraced the notion of “the body as a garden to be tended…not a machine to be fixed.” Through the richness of human relationship, she meticulously cared for the fallen, their bodies and souls.

Dan Gottlieb discusses slow medicine—what it is and when it’s most advantageous–with Drs. Victoria Sweet and Dennis McCullough.

Victoria Sweet is an Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and a prize-winning historian. She’ll speak at Villanova University as part of the Vivian J. Lamb Lecture Series on April 18. Her book is now out in paperback.

She tells Voices in the Family: “The bottom line is a well trained physician who has enough time to see his patient is more efficient that anyone else. Every time I give a talk, one person says, ‘My doctor doesn’t look at me anymore. He looks at the computer.’ Studies show doctors have 3 minutes to be with a patient after taking down their information. You can barely unbutton your clothes in three minutes.”

Dennis McCullough has been a family physician and geriatrician for 30 years. He serves as a faculty member in the Department of Community and Family Medicine at Dartmouth Medical School and is the author of My Mother, Your Mother. He’ll deliver the keynote address at West Chester University’s Integrative Health Conference on April 20.

McCullough has a slightly different take on slow medicine which he applies within the field of geriatrics: “The practice of Slow Medicine has taught me that it is wise to slow down and moderate the urgent pressures of decision-making that are often pushed prematurely on elders by society, the medical profession, worried friends and family. Well-intentioned, we want to make good and humane choices for ourselves and for those we love.”

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  • gerridoc

    Thank you for this wonderful program. Slow Medicine embodies the ideals of medical practice at its best.

  • Mary Lee Barker

    I listened to the interview of Dennis McCullough this morning. I believe I heard something new and astoundingl but I want to verify: Did the speaker say that there is a new understanding of what happens to the brain in aging? That we all change in our personality but this is because the aging mind is becoming more complex rather than more simple?
    The person may or may not be able to articulate their greater complexity. With this Slow Medicine process, combined with this new way of understanding the aging mind, the family or health care person can look at the aging person with appreciative respect. And the aging person
    can see themselves with hope and compassion.
    Were these thoughts in any way on iis early morning show of Sunday April 14?
    Thank you, Mary Lee Barker (almost 80)

  • Lois

    In listening to the insights presented regarding slow medicine, I began to wonder if these same concepts could be applied to education. Instead of labeling students as ADHD or Learning Disabled, could we not slow down and just watch and listen to the students. So much in education has turned into test and prescribe instead of sit beside and listen. Perhaps this would help children if we could listen to their questions, watch them perform math problems and hear them read instead of getting the results of their multiple choice test questions.

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