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The Doctor-Patient Relationship: Part Three

Lissa Rankin's picture

broken health care

Awhile back I wrote an article about how medicine is a spiritual practice, and in response, I received an email from a surgery resident at Columbia University that left me in tears and inspired me to share it.

Those of you who have been following my story know it’s been quite the journey for me to heal my relationship with the medical community. At one point, I wrote about how I was pissed at doctors, but even then, I knew that if I ever wanted to help heal my profession, I’d have to release the anger I felt against the medical profession, heal the post-traumatic stress I suffered from abuse at the hands of doctors, forgive those who hurt me, and open my heart. I knew I was healing when I was able to write this love letter to doctors.

Then, when I got this letter, I felt my heart just melt.

A Letter From A Surgeon

Just wanted to drop you a line and let you know I really enjoyed your article I saw on Dr. Frank Lipman's website.  I am a surgery resident at Columbia, and I have similar frustrations with our health care system.  I know you say that the heart of medicine is broken.  I would argue in many respects that it's completely gone.  Or at least lost or ignored.  The beeping IV's, respiratory monitors, the drone of the dialysis machine, and the extensive lines and drains that unnaturally sprout from our patients all work in unison to creat a barrier between us and our patients.  As our western knowledge expands at an exponential rate and we become more and more technologically advanced we continue to build the wall higher brick by brick further sealing off the humanity of the patient on the other side. 

We spend hours upon hours intellectualizing our patient's disease processes.  Breaking them down layer upon layer into organ system, lab values, vital signs, ins and outs and we do little to recognize the very thing that makes them human - the very thing that gives them life and individuality.  We limit too much our own definition of "health".  We narrow it to something too simple, such as a rhythm strip or a pulse; to something that denies the vitality that should exist in the definition. 

Life and health shouldn't be just a beating heart, working lungs, liver or kidney, but a whole story. A story of love and passion and spirituality and belief and uniqueness.  And we do a disservice to all of our patients when we forget it.  They can feel this.  You can see the dissatisfaction on their face as we deny them this and separate it from their physical disease.  We are in dire need of a change in paradigm.  What will it take for us to reevaluate?  To realize that it's broken.  The conversation has to start changing somewhere.  Thank you for being a spark.

Be The Change

How does epic change happen? (I wrote some thoughts about it here). But essentially, it happens when the consciousness of the collective recognizes the error in how it operates and begins to shift. How can we fix our broken health care system? The surgeon is right. We - both health care providers and patients - must first acknowledge that the current system isn’t working and demand changes that will align us with the truth of how people heal.

It’s time to face the truth and take health care back into our own hands.

What Can You Do?

Start by joining the movement. Sign up in the database I’m collecting of those who want to be part of the change here.  When it’s time to take action, we’ll rally.

Print out the Doctor-Patient agreement found by signing up for the database above and invite your doctor to partner with you.

Recognize that, at least a percentage of the time, you can heal yourself. Start making your body your business, rather than handing over 100% responsibility for your health to someone else.

Tap into your Inner Pilot Light. Listen to the messages your body gives you and ask yourself what your body needs in order to heal. (For help connecting with your Inner Pilot Light, sign up for the free Daily Flame.) Once you know what’s best for you and your body, be brave enough to speak and live your truth.

Support laws that will reduce the cost of health care in the US. How broken will our health care system have to get before we recognize this? (I speculate about the answer here). The US spends more than any other country on health care but only has the 8th highest life expectancy. Rising costs of health care have forced doctors to cram 40+ patients into their schedule, and it’s severing the precious doctor-patient relationship. We must reduce the cost of delivering health care by disarming Big Pharma, limiting greedy ambulance chasing lawyers, making health insurance not-for-profit or instituting universal health care, and turning to natural and preventative solutions when possible, rather than going high tech (and high expense) at every turn.

Open your heart. Making change will require all of us to open our hearts, to forgive those who have hurt us, to focus on what is in the highest good, not just for ourselves, but for the collective.

What Will You Do?

Share your thoughts. Tell us how you’re taking action or tell us your story here.

With hope,


Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of OwningPink.comPink Medicine Revolutionarymotivational speaker, and author of What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.



Michelle Medina's picture

I just had to post, every

I just had to post, every time someone else recognizes how broken and yes, perhaps EVEN GONE the HEART of medicine is I'm Greatful!
Believe it or not, I'd love to give that resident a hug just as I had the honor of giving you and say: "THANK YOU!!!"
You already know my story but every time someone acknowledges the plight of our healthcare system it's like a doctor or nurse or med/pre-med student hugging me and saying: "I'm sorry. I SEE YOU! I have an idea of your suffering and though I did not cause it I would like to recognize it, bear witness to it and acknowledge YOU as a human being."
That's all I personally need.
So thank you again Lissa!!! Thank you for talking about this, for recognizing the need and stepping up to the plate!!
You rock!!!

Lissa Rankin's picture

Bob, you're SO speaking my language!

Especially about letting your freak fly!

I'm so glad you're one of the leaders of this tribe- and yes, as Larry Dossey recently told me, the time IS now. Let's do this!

Much love

Bob Uslander's picture

Is the tide coming in?


Such a well articulated and passionate message!

As a physician and human being committed to helping people experience their best life possible, I completely resonate with you.

Isn't the time for us to rally to action now? What are we waiting for? Like we discussed, the tribe exists out there already and is eagerly waiting for something and someone to bring them together for meaningful action. This "tribe" includes everyone who is passionate about changing the way all people are being treated in the existing health care model (all people- not just the patients.) The tribe is made up of doctors, patients, nurses, therapists, technicians, family members, administrators, consultants, writers, film makers, etc.-- virtually anyone who knows there's a better way and is dedicated to becoming a part of the solution.

I believe the first steps we need to take are personal-commit to being authentic to who we really are (and letting your freak fly,) and to treating every person in our lives with respect and compassion, regardless of their position.

The next steps involve creating communities where people can share their experiences and connect on a human-to-human level, not doctor-to-patient or doctor-to-nurse, etc. Coming together to know each other and commit to following a path with heart.

We all seem to have unmet needs. I see our greatest collective need as creating consensus among us that meeting everyone's needs trumps meeting our own individual needs.

I look forward to being a part of the movement with you. Thank you for the passion and conviction you bring to the world. You are truly a gift!


Lissa Rankin's picture

Ken, I love you

I'm so glad you're part of the tribe helping heal health care. Keep shouting from the mountaintops, my dear!
Much love

Ken Jaques's picture

It is time


It is so refreshing to read your posts about changing the healthcare system. Thank you so much for "waving your freak flag" on this topic and being "unapologetically you". I'm reminded of this quote that feels so relevant now:

“In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and change the existing and problematic model. You create a new model and make the old one obsolete.” R. Buckminster Fuller

Your blog closes asking the question how we're taking action. As a person diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, I have spent the last two years getting to understand the root cause of many autoimmune diseases (conditions?) and strongly believe that it has a lot more to do with our belief systems and how we subconsciously "beat ourselves up" until a physical condition manifests itself. And I also believe we can reverse this in many cases. Well to use one of your favorite phrases, I personally feel that we are so close to the 51% (from I Am, the Film) needed to make change happen. So many people are thinking the same way as I am and you are. I've spoken to my doctor and other CAM health care practitioners that I see, and they're all on board. I have conversations with people virtually every day. Yup, they're on board too.

As well as speaking to people daily, I am blogging regularly on my web site about the subtle things that we can learn to realize and accept about ourselves to put our self-deprecating thoughts aside and start loving and accepting ourselves for the perfect people that we are right now. I also recently was on a radio program talking about my belief systems and how we really can make a difference, and I believe we can virtually eradicate disease. Personally, I no longer feel that i am too small to make a difference.

And regarding the subject line of my message, I think it really is time. It's time for more people to shout from the rooftops and mountain tops, and I look forward to whatever presents itself for all of us to join together and finish the job.I look forward to making the old model obsolete.

Namaste, and "unapologetically me",

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