Recent Podcasts & Articles

I’ve been doing a few podcasts lately – which is always a fun chance to talk about some of the work I have been doing. I’ll include a few photos from the past year to remind us of the world within which we all live & work.

Yellow Warbler in crab apple tree, Seattle, WA

I spoke with Andrea Nakayama on her 15-Minute Matrix Podcast on “Mapping the Costs of Caring,” looking at burnout, compassion fatigue, moral injury, and soul loss in health care workers. Here is an excerpt speaking about the similarities of burnout and soul loss:

The soul is the thing that makes us alive and vital and engaged and connected around the world. When we lose that, we lose all those kinds of things that connect us to ourselves and to others…How do we bring the soul back? It would be what things make the soul happy, what kinds of things bring you joy? And so how can you build this into your life? I think the distinction is you could start with self-care to support the ego, in the sense of your personality, but I think of the healer, the role of the healers, to be honest with delving into what can be the breakdown of the ego, and then the rebuilding back as a healer.

Yellow-Rumped Warbler in crab apple tree, Seattle, WA

I had a very nice dialogue with Lewis Mehl-Madrona and Glenn Aparicio Parry on his Circle of Original Thinking Podcast, “Integrating Healing Traditions with Lewis Mehl-Madrona and David Kopacz.” Definitely check this out, such an honor to have a generous time to speak with Lewis & Glenn. Check out their great books as well!

The print edition of Parabola Magazine, Fall 2023 featured “This Vibrating Land,” an excerpt from an interview that I did with Glenn Aparicio Parry that we featured on The POV interview website.

I also had a book review “Lessons from A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit on CLOSLER as well as an essay “Building Cultures of Caring.” Here’s an excerpt:

Perhaps burnout is a symptom of a larger problem. Perhaps we’ve cut ourselves off from a root of support in our work, we have lost touch with a spiritual and humanistic dimension of who we are and that when one suffers, all suffer. We have lost touch with our interconnection, our non-duality. What did Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. draw upon when working with the immense suffering in the world? Gandhi spoke of satyagraha as “the Force which is born of Truth and Love,” and Dr. King, spoke of this as “soul force.” Perhaps we should consider developing some kind of non-dual medicine, some kind of practice of non-separation in our healing work.  

Whiskey Creek, Washington

A longer interview and dialogue was an invitation to speak on The Soul Space, entitled “Hero’s Journey & Resilience in the Face of Suffering,” (7/1/22).

Last, but not least – I had a chance to catch up with former Seattle VA Primary Care Mental Health Integration teammate Dr. Nicola De Paul on “Burnout, Moral Injury, and Radical Caring” on her Menders: Love & Leadership in Health Systems Podcast. Check out our dialogue as well Nicola’s discussions with other great thinkers working to bring Love & Leadership into Health Systems!

If you have some down time, please check out any of these articles and podcasts that may be of interest to you, as well as look up some of the other great interviews on these podcasts!

Pacific Coast, Washington State

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)

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.

Yoga is Good Medicine – new post @ CLOSLER!

CLOSLER just published a new essay of mine, “Yoga is Good Medicine,” this is an excerpt I re-worked from the section “The Yoga of Burnout” that is part of J. Greg Serpa’s and my chapter on “Clinician Resilience” in the forthcoming 5th Edition of Dave Rakel’s Integrative Medicine text.

“In this way joy isn’t the opposite of burnout, but arises out of connecting (yoking) mind, body, and soul, deeply feeling the experience of being fully human. By rejoining our feeling soul with our functioning body, we can experience joy even in the midst of suffering.”

You can read the whole essay, here, and below is the full painting that the detail in the banner was taken from: 

Enlightenment, D. Kopacz (2015)

Staying Connected Inside & Out During the Pandemic – New Post on CLOSLER

I have a new post on CLOSLER: Moving Us Closer to Osler, a Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative of Johns Hopkins – “Staying Connected Inside and Out During the Pandemic.”

Shamanic Vision, D. Kopacz, 2016 (published in Becoming Medicine)

“Our primary public health measure at this time is not getting too physically close to one another. However, we know from research that socialization has a positive effect and isolation a negative effect on our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. What we need right now, for our personal and collective health, is not social distancing, but physical distancing. We need to find ways of being social and connecting without physically touching or being in close physical proximity. We need to find ways of staying connected, inside and out.”

To read the full post, follow the link, thanks CLOSLER for all the great work you are doing on clinician wellness during these times.

Circle Medicine Series on CLOSLER

Thanks CLOSLER for publishing a series of 5 short articles on Circle Medicine!

Out of One, Many – David Kopacz, 2018

I have been working on this concept of Circle Medicine since I had the realization that a number of different holistic models I was working with all included circles: the Hero’s Journey, the Medicine Wheel, the Circle of Re-humanizing Medicine, the Circle of Health, and Circle Medicine: the circle of circles.

In our forthcoming book, Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into A Living Spirituality, we have a table comparing Circle Medicine with Linear Medicine. Linear medicine is the predominant, biomedical approach in contemporary medical practice, however it misses crucial aspects of human being that are only found in holistic, circular models of medicine.

Linear Medicine Circular Medicine
Pathological Process Natural Process
Treatment          Transformation
Elimination of symptoms Acceptance of symptoms
Restoring old state    Achieving new state
Disease-based Health-based
Biomedical Model Holistic Model
Evidence-Based Medicine Human-Based Medicine
Hierarchical        Collaborative
Can Foster Dependency     Empowering

Here are links to each of the short articles:

CIRCLE MEDICINE: A HOLISTIC APPROACH TO HEALTH FOR CLINICIANS AND PATIENTS

THE HEALING CIRCLE AS A HOLISTIC FRAMEWORK

THE CIRCLE OF RE-HUMANIZING MEDICINE

THE CIRCLE OF WHOLE HEALTH

CIRCLE MEDICINE

Rainbow Medicine Wheel, David Kopacz, 2017

The Circle of Re-humanizing Medicine – new guest post at CLOSLER

Thanks again to the folks at CLOSLER for the next in a series of guest post on various forms of Circle Medicine & Circle Healing. This week’s post is titled, “The Circle of Re-humanizing Medicine.”

Here is the Takeaway summary:

We need human-based medicine in conjunction with evidence-based medicine. If we only identify as scientists and not as healers, we risk dehumanizing our patients and ourselves.

They also included the Circle of Caring for Self & Others that my sister, Karen Kopacz, designed for use with the workbook of that same name that I have been developing with Laura Merritt. It is based on my 2014 book, Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine.

Caring for Self & Other Circle

Next week is the last in my series of guest posts at CLOSLER, please check it out. It is on the VA Circle of Health, another holistic model of Circle Medicine.

CIRCLE MEDICINE: A HOLISTIC APPROACH TO HEALTH FOR CLINICIANS AND PATIENTS

New Zealand Landscape, 2, David Kopacz, 2011, featured in the article

It can be helpful to see the circle path of the hero’s journey as the healer’s journey, the path that we take through our lifelong medical education. For the true healer, this is not a journey we make just once, but periodically we embark on exploring new depths of the suffering of the world, reaching deep into ourselves to find new resources for healing to bring into our work and world.

Thanks to the team at CLOSLER from Johns Hopkins for publishing the first of a series of my posts on Circle Medicine! Here is a link to the full article.

Burnout as part of the healer’s journey: I have been thinking of burnout in this way. Maybe burnout is a necessary step for us to grow as healers. There are intrinsic elements in our work that change us, working with illness and death. When we get “infected” by our work, we incubate until we can find a cure and healing path. There are also extrinsic elements of burnout, such as institutional pathologies and frameworks. In modern times, healing has been regulated and institutionalized, and institutional economic and organizational demands are sometimes at odds with the demands of healing. We must continually work to reconcile the essence of our work as healers with the daily reality of the institution.”

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