More: What have you learned through your PhD studies of the 12th century nun Hildegard of Bingen and her approach to medicine? How has it informed your own practices?
VS: In addition to being a nun, she was also a medical practitioner. Her medicine was based on a completely different model of the body than the mechanical model that we use today. The model we have today looks at the body as a machine made up of parts that are all connected. When someone’s sick, I ask myself what’s broken so that I can fix it. Hildegard’s model said that the body was more like a plant. Someone has to fix a broken machine, but a plant heals itself. She thought that, at its maximum, everybody’s body has the ability to heal itself.
I learned to do this at Laguna Honda. When patients weren’t doing well, I assumed they had the ability to heal themselves if there wasn’t something in the way. Then I’d try to figure out what was in the way of their healing power and move it so it could heal on its own. And it takes time to move those things. They could be too many medications, the wrong food, anxiety, depression, old tissue or a foreign body. Once they are moved, the healing power of body takes time.
More: How did you change as a doctor from working at Laguna Honda?
VS: As a doctor I do a lot less to patients than I used to do. I’m much more confident in my sense of who I think is sick and who I think is fundamentally well. I’m more inclined to sit and hang out with patients, absorb where they’re coming from and use that as a diagnostic clue. I much more consciously enjoy being a doctor.
To read more about Victoria Sweet's experiences at Laguna Honda, purchase God's Hotel HERE
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