Physician Heal Thyself. ~ Dr. Satkirin Khalsa, MD.
Dr. Satkirin Khalsa, MD has developed an approved, accredited program for the medical community.
Satkirin is presenting a one of a kind Yoga/Wellness Festival in Copper Mountain, Colorado. It combines yoga, stress reduction and healthy life styles. She presents it in such a way that they don’t have to know what Yamas or Niyamas are. They don’t have to know Sanskrit or Patanjali’s Sutras. She focuses on her audience, on their comfort level. “Learning , observing, then feeling it. Then it resonates where it needs to, in the compartment of their brains, and they get it.
She has created this, in part, to answer: How can physicians be present, like Mother Teresa was, and give and care for our patient population, and do so as best as we can?
What does Mother Teresa and the medical community have in common? Read on, for a glimpse of Dr. Khalsa’s fascinating journey and how she is becoming a pioneer in the health field. Her message is clear and simple: Heal Thyself. Heal the World.
Dr. Satkirin Khalsa, MD, is a board-certified family physician practicing in Albuquerque, New Mexico was born in Berkeley, California and raised, along with her three brothers, in the Sikh religious tradition. Satkirin was brought up on yoga—her parents were, and still are, yoga teachers. Her mother was a school teacher, who has since received her PhD in Psychology, and her father, an Attorney, who has since retired and is now an EMT.
Satkirin had always practiced yoga, meditated, and knew chanting and breath from birth. Her parents, following the advice of their spiritual leader who suggested that all the children in the Sikh community attend a boarding school in northern India, around the age of eight. Satkirin did just that, and attended this boarding school for seven years.
While she was in boarding school, at the age of 12, she met Mother Teresa. This meeting proved to be a pivotal moment in Satkirin’s life. The day Mother Teresa was scheduled to visit a local orphanage, the students in the boarding school were encouraged to meet her, and offer her a food staple to bring to the children at the orphanage. Satkirin gave her a bag of red apples. It is interesting that she chose apples, considering the old adage, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Living in India, she never knew about that saying.
She saw what Mother Teresa brought with her, and that was her presence, compassion and heart. She allowed the space for people to heal. That’s when Satkirin knew she that she wanted to bridge eastern and western traditions. She wrote home and told her mother she wanted to be a nurse and do what Mother Teresa does.
Her mom reminded Satkirin that she didn’t like needles she encountered during her vaccines, and perhaps might reconsider this profession, since nurses “give a lot of shots.” She suggested, since, women can become whatever they want, even a “Doctor,” she could too. And with that, she sent her the biography of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female physician in America. So she made up her mind. She’d decided to forgo the needles, and become a doctor.
She became a yoga teacher, during the summer between undergrad and medical school. She’d been teaching before, but started teaching “with a certificate” to her classmates in med school, as they requested classes be held on the lawn in front of the University of New Mexico, medical school library, as they too were stressed from the demands of medical training. Satkirin understood that all health care providers are eager to be well themselves, as they care for so many others that are also seeking advice and guidance on wellness. Yoga and quiet contemplation, long deep breathing, and meditation are tools for healing oneself. These reduce stress and anxiety, and aid in healing.
Here, in Satkirin’s own words, she explains how this mission was manifested and most importantly why.
When I was out of residency I never thought I was going to be teaching my peers how to be well. I didn’t realize it was an issue. Not until I was out of residency training from the Mayo Clinic. About six months out in the “real world,” I saw an 80 year old couple in my private practice, each with their records of 30 years.
They had been with the same primary care physician for 30 years, and brought 30 years worth of records that their primary care physician had documented. It was their whole health history. They were grief stricken and horrified. I saw it in their expression and demeanor.
Here I am right out of residency, wondering why would they establish with a new physician. What happened? They informed me their physician had committed suicide. They felt abandoned and were completely fearful. They wondered who was going to take care of them for the rest of their lives? The grief and abandonment they were experiencing totally hit me. It was affecting their well-being. What could I do to prevent more patients from being affected by this tragedy?
Physicians need time-outs too. We need to take time to for care for ourselves, the caregivers.
I will create educational courses that focus on the health of the Providers, to give my peers the time, the information, the education to “Take time for you.”
It’s critical for physicians to get out of the clinic and to an educational event, an educational trip, and to bring the family! Sometimes these educational courses are the only way to get them out of the clinic, to leave without feeling like they’re not working or producing which adds to the stress and the anxiety levels.
As a physician, if I did not lend a helping hand out to my peers, what kind of a physician am I?
Being in an environment such as Copper Mountain Pose Medicine & Yoga Symposium, where everything is within the village and you’re surrounded by beauty, along with having jazz music & wine (and you know about the health benefits from jazz & wine). To bring the physicians out of their typical environment, away from their hometown, and not have to do a CME on the computer, to be amongst their peers. My peers and colleagues are not alone, and they realize this during events such as these, which bring them back to their medical community, but away from the clinic environment.
I want to create an environment where physicians feel comfortable, where they feel supported and know they are going to be okay. We can be here for each other, and we can come and learn from each other. This is what we need. We need one another and we all do better when we’re healthy and happy. Let’s not forget, we are in health care!
If we can all, as health care providers across the country, start this paradigm shift in getting back to health care, realizing that it starts with you, us. Heal thyself, heal the world. As Mahatma Gandhi’s stated: “You can’t change the world. The best thing you can do is change yourself.” If we all took that step we would all be so much better off for each other.
Sharing, caring, educating and being present for one another, for my patients and my peers. To me it’s the same because we are all patients. We are all going to perish. We are all the same. And that’s why taking the white coat off, taking the stethoscope, “the leash,” off is important. Come away from your computer, away from your clinic, and come learn for yourself.
When you learn for yourself you: read it, observe it, do it, teach it. That’s the motto in medicine If that’s how we learn how to put a chest tube in, that same motto can, and should, be applied to lifestyle and behavior. Learning about movement and nutrition: learn about it, observe it, simulate/experience it, teach it. Watch how you can move the diaphragm and watch the ribs open; see the lungs inflate, watch how blood pressure will go down, and understand the physiology behind it. See the how and why. Participants will watch it, feel it, and then go back into clinic and practice it, and hopefully, ultimately begin teaching it.
It would be a ground breaking operation to get five physicians to educate one patient a day. That would be huge. This is where the movement can start. Then we can get back to basics of health care. Disease management is not helping America. It’s not helping our economy. We spend far more dollars than any other country on our Health Care System, and we have no better outcomes to show for it.
If people stay on this trajectory, of obesity and medications, they won’t make it to see their grandchildren. The predicted life span will drop. We have to address this.
If you didn’t know how to change something, where would you learn how to make change?
What are we really telling patients when we tell them eat right and exercise? We’ve been saying that for more than two decades. Still, few are eating right or exercising. And we’re getting more overweight and more unhealthy as a nation. We’re destroying the potential for our children to make choices, like I was able to. Elizabeth Blackwell paved the way for females to do this profession at all. I’m here to give back.
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