The Art of Healing

The Art of Healing

W.H. Auden

(In Memoriam David Protetch, M.D.)

Most patients believe
dying is something they do,
not their physician,
that white-coated sage,
never to be imagined
naked or married.

Begotten by one,
I should know better. ‘Healing,’
Papa would tell me,
‘is not a science,
but the intuitive art
of wooing Nature.

Plants, beasts, may react
according to the common
whim of their species,
but all humans have
prejudices of their own
which can’t be foreseen.

To some, ill-health is
a way to be important,
others are stoics,
a few fanatics,
who won’t feel happy until
they are cut open.’

Warned by him to shun
the sadist, the nod-crafty,
and the fee-conscious,
I knew when we met,
I had found a consultant
who thought as he did,

yourself a victim
of medical engineers
and their arrogance,
when they atom-bombed
your sick pituitary
and over-killed it.

‘Every sickness
is a musical problem,’
so said Novalis,
‘and every cure
a musical solution’:
You knew that also.

Not that in my case
you heard any shattering
discords to resolve:
to date my organs
still seem pretty sure of their

For my small ailments
you, who were mortally sick,
prescribed with success:
my major vices,
my mad addictions, you left
to my own conscience.

Was it your very
predicament that made me
sure I could trust you,
if I were dying,
to say so, not insult me
with soothing fictions?

Must diabetics
all contend with a nisus
to self-destruction?
One day you told me:
‘It is only bad temper
that keeps me going.’

But neither anger
nor lust are omnipotent,
nor should we even
want our friends to be
superhuman. Dear David,
dead one, rest in peace,

having been what all
doctors should be, but few are,
and, even when most
difficult, condign
of our biassed affection
and objective praise.

~one of my favorite poems

~~ by my favorite poet




Building a Resilient Brain with Juna Bobby M.D.

We all know how challenging it is to keep up with BUSY college lifestyles. Balancing too many credits, internships, jobs, sports, homework, and somewhere in there a life, seems OVERWHELMING and sometimes unbearable. We’re “expected” to already have the skills necessary to handle IT ALL but the fact is we don’t. All too often we end up picking up some unhelpful habits that can stick with us for the rest of our professional lives.

You brain is just as important as any other organ in your body. At a time when you’re putting in SO MUCH EFFORT to expand your knowledge, a healthy MENTAL ENVIRONMENT that creates the world you live in is paramount. The great news is that resiliency is a skill and a skill is something that can be learned.

Join me as we welcome Dr. Juna Bobby, a graduate of NYU Medical School, as she introduces a 4 part series of workshops here at Barnard on MENTAL PLASTICITY and RESILIENCY. She merges her 20+ years of experience as a clinician with her background in neuroscience and positive psychology. She teaches workshops at many institutions including NYU School of Medicine, Columbia Law School, Columbia Business School, and Juilliard School. Please join me at this event so we can make a collective effort to actively TAKE CARE OF OUR MINDS and our bodies!

Information about our event can be found Here !

Follow Dr. Bobby on twitter Here !

Follow me on twitter Here !


…^thanks google^



Neuroscience of Consciousness

“Long excluded from serious consideration within psychology and the neuroscience” indeed, thank you Anil Seth, “Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience and Founding Co-Director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science at the University of Sussex” for creating this blog and bringing the topic of consciousness back to the center of neuroscientific discussion and discovery!


IT’S MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK EVERYONE! Remember to take care of your brain like you take care of your bod! Mental health requires equal physical and cognitive dedication to proper care, balance, and wellness. Pay attention to how BOTH your brain and your body responds to the world around you. The worst thing you can do for yourself is be too proud to seek help. Our physical bodies are disordered and imperfect. We ALL waver in emotions. It is our duty as human beings to experience the full range of human emotions, but to recognize when one is out of tune with the rest. Then, we go and seek readjustment. There is NO shame in that. Instead, there is great strength, respect, and resilience in being attuned to yourself. Your mind and brain create a sacred space. They project the world around you. Commit to making it a good place to be.

Advancemenst in Meditation Research 2015 at MSKCC

For the past day and a half, I attended the Advancements in Meditation Research hosted at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center here in NYC. I met wonderful people, had inspiring conversations and listened to tremendous research being done on the efficacy of contemplative practices being incorporated into the clinical setting. Here, I wanted to display some notes from important lectures that I attended, as food for thought:

  1. Keynote lecture by Robert Thurman, PhD and Professor at Columbia University 
    1. We are currently amidst a new scientific and a healthcare revolution
      1. It will involve the overthrow of scientism and materialistic reductionism in health care that is driven by the economization of our society; it will follow a recognition of age old natural medicines, mind-body remedies, and the legitimate training of physicians in compassion
      2. It will involve the de-commercialization of the medical industry
      3. It will involve an introduction of the mind as a force in nature without reverting to nonrational theism, incorporating first person anecdotal evidence in addition to quantitative evidence, through critical reasoning and introspection
    2. What is the importance of the conceptual mind?
      1. The modern ideologies of Darwin, Marx, and Freud inculcate helplessness –> Darwin, we are limited by our genes, Marx, we are limited by our society, Freud, we are limited by our repressed desires; the common consensual sense within our society is that we are just a collection of neurons; this = the religion of scientism (a very American perspective in fact)
      2. The essence of the conceptual mind and the practice of mindfulness however must be mobilized now within society to reduce the suffering we feel from our contemporary setting; by pursuing mindfulness we become more aware and more conscious of the unconscious so that we can fundamentally edit the thoughts that shape our reality
      3. The belief that your energy of continuum cannot continue is the most blind form of blind faith
  2. Lecture by Sat Bir Singh Khalsa, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School 
    1. We are facing an epidemic in lifestyle, of non-communicable diseases like diabetes and obesity
    2. There is a cumulative presence of 80% of DSM-4 conditions in our youth and adolescent populations, involving conditions of stress, attention deficits, mental health and physical health issues
    3. We are facing an inability of man to cope with modern stressors and we are not taught how to confront these stressors in our schools; we are lacking the introspective skillsets needed to address risk-factors of modern society, stemming from the over-economization of our value structure and social settings
    4. The implementation of contemplative practices like yoga and meditation are useful in making people more self-aware, so that they may develop the right kind of introspection, insight and foresight to make better decisions for themselves
  1. Lecture by Mahiuddin Ahmed, PhD, Assistant Attending for Immunotherapies at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
    1. Neuroblastomas are malignant form of cancer cells that form along the sympathetic nervous system. They grow rapidly and are often malignant. Fatality is near 50% and the average age of diagnosis is 18 months.
    2. [Long story short, to avoid the specifics behind the molecular biology of it (look into an antibody called 3F8 if you are curious)], treatments have been found so that survival rate is now near 80% for neuroblastomas. Unfortunately however, the new treatment also attacks the peripheral nervous system and causes patients tremendous pain and suffering.
    3. Ahmed considered that the power of mind can drastically affect disease outcome by following a simple rationale
      1. If meditation affects stress –> and stress effects immunity –> and immunity effects disease, then shouldn’t there be a link between meditation affecting disease?
      2. The research has been completed to help patients beat the cancer. Now he will embark on a research project to investigate the role of sound meditation, using mantra recitation and instruments, to inference physiological biomarkers that are prognostics for disease states (ie. EEG, EKG, DNA, RNA etc) and see how they alter the recovery process for patients, with the aim to ultimately minimize suffering.

4. Lecture by Bruce S. McEwen, Ph.D, Alfred E. Mirsky Professor at Rockefeller University

  1. Studies the dysregulation of homeostatic functions in the body due to unhealthy lifestyle habits, poor sleep, toxic chemicals which feed into the network of allostasis
    1. Choice of lifestyle can be the result of “being stressed out”; this can be caused by environmental stressors, trauma, major life’s events, abuse
    2. Your choice of lifestyle has direct effects on which segments of your DNA get transcribed out not. This idea is called Epigenetics:
      1. Epigenetics:
        1. “the emergence of individual/species characteristics during development = Waddington 1942
        2. “above the genome” – referring to the gene/environment interactions that bring about the phenotype of individuals
        3. epigenetics investigates the physical modifications of histones (little wrapped up pearls of DNA that help condense your biological blue print, your chromosomes), the opening and closing of these segments of DNA that occur temporally in response to your life’s experiences; this includes transcription factor functioning, miRNA functioning, RNAediting, transposons and retrotransposons
      2. Epigenetic modifications can extend into your next generation. Examples of this include obesity and parental behavior.
    3. Your gene expression profiles can change with experience
      1. Specifically looking at depression, depressed patients tend to have reduced neurogenesis in the hippocampus, the brain center for memory and recognition
      2. Chronic lack of neuronal growth that results many compounded factors in depression and can influence the genetic state of your DNA as well as the prolonged phenotypic expression that manifests from the physiological imbalance –> this has effects on your outward mental state and perception of the world around you (genes <–> environment???)
    4. What can we do to improve adverse life experiences?
      1. Engage in regular physical activity – helps increase blood flow to vital organs, especially the brain + harnessing the bodies natural endorphin rush post- exercise
      2. Engage in mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques – helps to develop a critical, logical, and rational sense of introspection and self-awareness that affords physical control over the body’s natural relaxation response
      3. Social support and integration
      4. Keep looking for meaning and purpose (eudomonia)

*key point from this lecture is that your DNA physically responds to nature and what you allow or chose for your body to be subjected to. It is therefore our individual duty to 1) treat our bodies well because it has direct effects on what our DNA is doing and 2) to recognize the wisdom and power of our bodies and use them, rather than relying one-sidedly on drugs and other agents to solve our problems