||Foreword to the Book:
by Lewis Mehl-Madrona
In the Prologue to Coyote Medicine: Lessons in Native American Healing, Lewis Mehl-Madrona writes that he "became convinced years ago that the ancient and modern approaches to illness can and should be integrated in a way that offers patients the benefit of both." He was way ahead of his time. Integration of "conventional" and "alternative" medicine is now much in fashion, but this is a very recent change, forced upon the medical profession by powerful economic forces. Our health care system is in total economic collapse, the logical result of medicine's decision in the early part of this century to wed itself to technology. Now, as the century closes, high-tech treatments are simply too expensive to deliver to people who need them. No one can pay the bills, and hospitals all over the country are facing bankruptcy.
At the same time a vast and powerful consumers' movement has developed away from conventional practice and towards alternative medicine. Recent surveys show that as many as one in three American patients are now going to alternative providers; significantly, most of then do not tell their doctors they are doing so. What patients want is doctors who will take the time to listen to their stories and explain their treatment options, who will not just offer drugs, who are conversant with nutritional influences on health, who can make intelligent recommendations about the use of dietary supplements, who will not ridicule herbal medicine, Chinese medicine, homeopathy, and other unorthodox therapies, who re sensitive to mind/body interactions. They want doctors who will look at them as more than just physical bodies. Obviously, our medical schools are not turning out graduates who can meet these demands.
Out of desperation about the economic catastrophe befalling it, the medical profession is at last opening up to new ideas and practices. About twenty medical schools in the United States now offer elective courses in alternative medicine, a few have centers for the study of complementary therapies, and my own institution, the University of Arizona, has started a Program in Integrative Medicine that will soon begin training doctors to combine the best ideas and practices of conventional and alternative medicine. These developments would have been unthinkable even five years ago.
Integration has become a rallying cry of those urging on this reformation. For too long, they say, doctors have regarded patients only as physical bodies, ignoring their minds and their spirits. As a result of popular books and television programs, the public has become very enthusiastic about mind/body medicine, not realizing how little of it has penetrated the conventional system. I can see endless possibilities for teaching, research, and practice that take account of emotional and psychological influences on health and illness; in these areas our work is cut out for us.
But what would it mean to try to incorporate a spiritual perspective into medicine? If doctors routinely ignore the mental/emotional components of human beings, they regard spirituality as completely beyond the pale of scientific medicine.
Throughout the 1970s I travelled around the world looking at healing practices of other cultures. During that time I visited many Native American practitioners in North and South America. Always I was struck by the fact that when Indians talk about medicine men and medicine women, their use of the word "medicine" means more than our use of it. In the Native American conception, Medicine (I will always us a capital M here) includes not only our medicine (with a small m) but also much of what we call religion and magic. In the ancient world, medicine, religion, and magic were not separate; on our world, they have fallen apart, which is our loss.
Good doctoring requires all the wisdom of religion, all the techniques of magic, and all the knowledge of small-m medicine to be most effective. One way to bring that perspective back into our health care institutions is to look to look to Native American Medicine as a resource. Lewis Mehl-Madrona has much to offer here, since he combines the heritage and experience of a Native American healer with very thorough training in allopathic medicine. On top of that, he has great passion about replacing the reigning biomedical model with a new paradigm, and he is a good writer.
Coyote Medicine is not a medicine of the past, of cultures that are fading. It is also medicine of the future that must be taught in medical schools, practiced in clinics, and brought to all those who seek true health.
Notes: Andrew Weil, who received an A.B. degree in Biology (Botany) from Harvard and an M.D. from Harvard Medical School, is director of the new Program in Integrative Medicine of the College of Medicine, University of Arizona, where he teaches about alternative medicine, mind-body interactions, and medical botany. Dr. Weil has traveled widely in North and South America and in Africa, collecting information on drug use in other cultures, medicinal plants and alternative healing. The founder of the Center for Integrative Medicine in Tucson, Arizona, and the author of numerous books, including Natural Health, Natural Medicine and Spontaneous Healing, Dr. Weil is a frequent lecturer and guest on talk shows and an internationally recognized expert on addiction, altered states of consciousness, medicinal plants, and holistic medicine. He lives near Tucson, where has a general practice that focuses on natural and preventative medicine.