Nature, Medical Humanities & Medical Activism

Jonathan McFarland, President of Doctor as Humanist, and I recently had the honor of presenting at the University of Washington Nature & Health conference on Thursday, October 14th, 2021. Our overall talk was Nature, Medical Humanities, and Medical Activism. Jonathan presented on Nature & Medical Humanities and I presented on Nature & Medical Activism. Here is the powerpoint from my talk.

Thanks so much to Josh Lawler, Star Berry, and the whole conference team from the University of Washington Nature & Health program. It all ran very smoothly and professionally and brought together great speakers from around the globe. There is a groundswell of interest in looking at the bi-directional effects of Nature & Health – we, at Doctor as Humanist, are planning a free, virtual symposium next month. Register for free for our Nature & Medicine: Restoring the Balance Between Earth & Health – we hope to see you next month!

Nature & Medicine: Restoring the Balance Between Earth & Health – Nov 12 & 13

I am on the Doctor as Humanist’s conference planning committee for our free, virtual, international symposium – Nature & Medicine: Restoring the Balance Between Earth & Health on November 12 & 13, 2021. Register here.

We’ve got a great line up of speakers and round table panelists, including Bob Lawrence, one of the founders of Physicians for Human Rights and Center for a Livable Future Professor Emeritus in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the founding director of the Center for a Livable Future; Rachel Corby, author of ReWild Yourself: Becoming Nature; Julia Corbett, author of Out of the Woods: Seeing the Nature in the Everyday; Lewis Mehl-Madrona, author of Coyote Medicine and Narrative Medicine; Qing Li, author of Forest Bathing: How Trees can Help You Find Health & Happiness, amongst many others. Link to the program.

One of the projects we are doing as part of the symposium is the Tree of Medicine – a photomosaic on the Mosaically site. You can post on Instagram or Twitter with the hash tags: #NatureMed2021 and #DoctorHumanist and we’ll upload your photos into the Tree of Medicine. You can write a few words of why this photo is important to you and how it relates to Nature & Medicine. Here are a few of the photos I’ve posted.

An unexpected beautiful scene on a walk through Seattle – reminding me that Nature is here, now.
The face on this tree on San Juan Island’s Lime Kiln State Park reminds me of the sentience of nature.
Cannon Beach, Oregon, a breath-taking & invigorating view.

The idea behind this conference is to highlight the many benefits of nature & health while also expanding our idea of being a medical professional to including the health of the Earth. We are in a symbiotic relationship with Nature and cannot exist apart from Nature. In fact, we ourselves are nature, we are made up of nature, our backyards are nature. I’ll be giving a workshop on Saturday 11/13/21 with a focus on Nature is Here, Now. The care of Nature begins with the care of ourselves, the nature of our homes, the nature of our backyard, and breaks down the artificial separations of humans/nature and city/nature. I’ll be joined by a couple of great psychiatry residents I’ve been working with, Eunice Stallman, MD (who has been doing an elective on Narrative Medicine) and Lewis Kerwin, MD (who has been doing an elective on Nature, Health, and Design). We’ll be joined by my friend, photographer and author, John Riggs, author of Clear Cut – The Wages of Dominion. I wrote a review of his book on 5/8/20.

Each of us on the planning committee recorded a short video on the Tree of Medicine project and the Nature & Medicine: Restoring the Balance Between Earth & Health, here’s the link to my video.

We hope you join us!

Nature & Medicine: Restoring the Balance Between Earth & Health on November 12 & 13, 2021. Register here.

How are you doing…really?

How are you doing…really? New post on CLOSLER: Bringing Us Closer to Osler

This is a reflection piece on the challenge of answering this simple question, asked so many times a day, “How are you doing?” While this is usually asked in passing, the true answer to this question is increasingly complex for health care workers as the pandemic wears on.

You can read the essay, here, and some past essays published on CLOSLER, here. The piece features a detail of my painting, “Planting the Seed of the Heart,” which was published in Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD.

Thanks again, CLOSLER, for all that you do for person-centered care & provider well-being!

Planting the Seed of the Heart, D. Kopacz (2016)

Focus on What You CAN Do: Meaningful Engagement in Activities while Managing Chronic Pain

Very grateful to my good friend, Dr. Carol Bowman for this interview with me and lively discussion on “Focus on What You CAN Do: Meaningful Engagement in Activities while Managing Chronic Pain,” focusing on the Personal Development circle of the Circle of Health as part of the VA Whole Health initiative from the VA Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation. (Views are our own, although you can find it on the VA website).

My adaptation of the VA Circle of Health (I added the “We” to the center)

Carol and I have taught courses together as National Education Champions for the Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation. You can learn more about Whole Health through the VA Whole Health Home page. This interview & discussion is part of Carol’s Whole health for Chronic Pain podcast series and is available on the VA website, or at wherever you find podcasts.

We talk about finding a place for pain in your life when you are working with chronic pain and different ways of transforming pain into compassion and personal growth.

Video available from Toward a New Way of Being with Plants conference!

My sister, Karen, and I presented at last month’s Toward a New Way of Being with Plants conference.

The video of our presentation is available here.

Our overall presentation was called, “Remembering Our Living Relationship with Plants,” my talk was entitled “Toward an Ancient Way of Being with Plants,” and we also featured video that Karen created with Joseph Rael, “Becoming Medicine Initiation Ceremony,” and Karen’s talk was “Shifting Into a Relational Mindset With Nature.”

The conference was great! Very interesting, bringing together scientists, artists, poets, writers, and naturalists from around the world. There is a YouTube channel for the conference where you can watch the presentations.

Thanks to all the organizers and people who brought this great event together! It was very enjoyable, inspirational, and educational.

Making America Healthy Again: Indigenous Perspectives on Land & Health – new article About Place Journal

Making America Healthy Again: Indigenous Perspectives on Land & Health

By David R. Kopacz, MD & Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow)

About Place Journal from the Black Earth Institute

We have a new article published at About Place Journal for their Geographies of Justice Issue – Volume VI, Issue III, May 2021! We are very excited to be published in this excellent and important journal.

We look at the relationships between land and health, private land/private health, and public land/public health.

When I spoke with Joseph about the topic of Geographies of Justice he immediately resonated with it. “All humans are looking for that – some justice, a just place where we can feel adjusted and feel safe. A just place is where you are adjusted to justice,” he said. Here are a few excerpts of Joseph’s thoughts on Geographies of Justice:

There are a lot of resources on the land that we take care of and they take care of us.

We need to start with the origin of the land, the place before everything broke apart – Pangea. We start at 1 – that’s Pangea. Then the scientists say the continents broke apart, and then people came out of Africa, then the Indians walked across the Bering Strait into the Americas – that’s how the scientists tell it.

We can learn from our environment, from our geographies. We cannot have justice unless we learn from our geographies. Pangea was created and all around it was Panthalassa, the great ocean. Then Pangea spilt and you had the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans eventually, and the Americas, North, South, Central, and then you had all these tribes in North America, and you had tribes in South America. For all these tribes, their religion was based on geography. The Eskimos had igloos and they would have ceremonies that reflect where they live, all the tribes would have ceremonies that reflect where they live.

There are different areas of land. You become your place before you live in your Mom and Dad’s house because they come from the land and you come from them. They teach you about the weather. The ceremonies are related to the climate of their place. First there was Pangea, and then it split and you had Europeans and Americans, but we are all from Pangea, we are all related...”

Justice is right here in the room with me and it is right there in the room with you and it is right there in the room for all the people on the planet – it is here.

To read the whole article, follow this link to “Making America Healthy Again: Indigenous Perspectives on Land & Health” in About Place Journal.

The Social Determinants of Clinician Health – new post @ CLOSLER!

I have a new article posted, “The Social Determinants of Clinician Health,”

at CLOSLER: MOVING US CLOSER TO OSLER A MILLER COULSON ACADEMY OF CLINICAL EXCELLENCE INITIATIVE, Johns Hopkins.

Here are some opening quotes and the first paragraph…

“Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets,”—W. Edwards Deming

“An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.”—Victor Frankl

“Many believe burnout to be the result of individual weakness when, in fact, burnout is primarily the result of health care systems that take emotionally healthy, altruistic people and methodically squeeze the vitality and passion out of them.”— Swenson and Shanafelt, Mayo Clinic Strategies to Reduce Burnout: 12 Actions to Create the Ideal Workplace

If every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets, then many healthcare systems around the world are designed to create high levels of burnout and compassion fatigue in the people who work within them. Maybe burnout isn’t a lack of resilience or coping skills in clinicians, but an iatrogenic effect of modern healthcare.

Read the rest of the article at CLOSLER

Toward a New Way of Being with Plants Conference – June 17-18, 2021

I am very excited to announce that I will be speaking at the Toward a New Way of Being with Plants conference on June 18th! This is an online conference and registration is free.

I will be presenting along with my sister, Karen Kopacz. Our talk is called Remembering Our Living Relationship with Plants and is from 1:20 pm-2:05 pm US Central Time.

My part of the talk is called Toward an Ancient Way of Being with Plants and will review some of my work with Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow).

The center of our talk will feature a video of Joseph Rael Becoming Medicine Initiation Ceremony video (5:16) that we filmed and Karen produced.

Karen’s talk is called Shifting Into a Relational Mindset With Nature.”

You can check out the speakers, here, and the agenda, here. The conference is put on my a number of international partners, including the University of Minnesota.

Maybe we will see you there!

Also, I just had a post up on CLOSLER, “Making the Most of Your Daily Nervous Breakdown,” where I write about taking a mini-rest cure connecting back to nature.

Exploring Integrative & Holistic Healing at All Levels of Being with Dr. David Kopacz (Part 3 of 3) – Interview by Dr. Alice Lee

Listen to Part 3 of Alice’s interview with me on the Holistic Psychiatrist podcast. This segment shifts to looking at the importance of medical activism and our social responsibility for professionals.

Exploring integrative and holistic healing at all levels of being with Dr. David Kopacz (Part 2 of 3) – on the Holistic Psychiatrist Podcast with Dr. Alice Lee

The second part of Alice Lee’s interview of me is up on her Holistic Psychiatrist Podcast!

This second part covers transforming suffering, the Hero’s Journey, the movie Groundhog Day, Joseph Rael’s teachings on the Medicine Wheel, and a discussion of circular models of healing.

Part 1 is available through the same link.

Part 3 will air next week. While you are on the site you can check out some of Alice’s other podcast interviews!