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Donna Karan Event and the Future of Integrated Care: Conversation with Robert Duggan PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Weeks   

Donna Karan's New York City Event and the Future of Integrated Care: Conversation with Robert Duggan

Summary: When one thinks of the power centers in the United States, one thinks of government, finance and, well, show business. Integrated care was had seminal events associated with these centers. The Institute of Medicine and White House Commission reports. The formation of the Bravewell Collaborative of philanthropists. This past month, the show business power center brought us a unique, invitational 10-day event. It was organized by Donna Karan as part of her Urban Zen Initiative. This article explores some ideas and directions engaged there, through an interview with participant Robert Duggan. Duggan is a co-founder of Tai Sophia and is respected as both pioneer and an out-of-the-box thinker who keeps his eye on the prize of health creation. This article is planned as a precursor to an interview with Karan on why she created the event and where the work may be headed.
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Image
Event visionary Donna Karan
If there is one ingredient sure to spice up the life of the average soul in the United States, it is glamour. Whether one seeks it or not. Those without the slightest interest in the barrage of faces and lives pummeling us daily from magazines, TVs and the web, seem to number at roughly that of surviving airitarians. I proved myself at home among these multitudes a couple weeks back when I got news that fashion maven Donna Karan had assembled a powerful array of my favorite glam-types (Susan Sarandon, Uma Thurman, Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed, plus) to support an Urban Zen Initiative which would explore integrative medicine as a transformative agent. My leash was tugged.

I quickly tucked away my wounded pride at not having been invited, and wrote up a brief Integrator article (The Healing Power of Glamour) on the unusual 10-day event. I got in touch with Karan's people to set an interview. What did the event intend to accomplish? Was it successful? That interview will, hopefully, be forthcoming next week.

Meantime, I contacted a long-time colleague who I learned had attended, Robert Duggan. Duggan is the co-founder of Tai Sophia, a multidisciplinary wellness institution in Maryland which began as one of the first acupuncture training schools in the United States. The school now offers multiple graduate degree programs.
Image
Karan event partcipant Robert Duggan, president, Tai Sophia
Duggan is known for thinking out of the box. I have found him particularly valuable for his ability to keep his eye on healing and health creation, rather than on the more sectarian interests that tend to shape the lives of healthcare professions. Duggan shared his sense of the themes from his two days at the event.

Integrator
: Give us a feel for the event. I gather it was held in Karan's husband's studio.

Duggan: I sampled the first two days of a 10 day event. Each day had a different focus, a different conversation, which was designed to surface distinct issues about a particular dimension about the work of changing health care. They used open space technology to allow the entire audience to bring issues to the surface.

Integrator: No power point presentations, then?

Duggan: No. There were 8 or 9 people on a dais being interviewed on each theme, but no talking heads. There were about 200 people in the room divided into 16 conversation groups. They used electronic voting to harvest  responses to the themes.

Integrator: So who was present?

Duggan: The participants were a wonderful mix from hospice nurses and unit nurses to medical and nursing students to many patients to hospital presidents and college deans and NIH representatives. There was a focus on the health systems, people from New York Beth Israel and Memorial Sloan Kettering. And the Urban Zen Initiative had a real focus on a yoga training to bring yoga and breathing and focusing into these hospitals.

IntegratorSo what was new? What struck you especially in your two days?

Duggan: I think of comments of six people that struck a theme for me. There was an Indian physician who studied in many countries, including Russia, who has a large integrated medicine center in London, Dr. Mosaraf Ali. He kept talking about how important it is to "do your  own M.O.T." In England, the Ministry of Transport (M.O.T.) requires regular auto inspections. Dr. Ali uses this phrase to remind people to do their own personal daily MOT test: check your sleep, exercise, hunger, pulse, tongue, etc. "If you don't do this you'll end up in the sick care system." To the extent that the public doesn't have its own MOT kit, we have a breakdown.

IntegratorSo, health care reform by staying out of the system.

  
 

"If we don't re-think

death and suffering
and money, it will all
go on the way it is,
the same old same old."


- Duggan on
comments of
Urban Zen presenter

Robert Thurman

Duggan: A quite wonderful Buddhist scholar, Bob Thurman spoke ...

Integrator:  From Columbia University, Uma's Dad ...

Duggan: Yes. He's been doing this work for a long, long time, since before Uma. He spoke at Tai Sophia in 1982. He said that we have to deal with death and the acceptance of suffering. He said that we have to get money out of our relationships to death and suffering. If we don't re-think death and suffering and money, it will all go on the way it is, the same old same old.

Integrator:  Any hints on how to get money out of it?

Duggan:  That wasn't what he was there for. He did speak again later in the week which I did not hear. He was just laying it out, that we need to deal with these things differently than we do. I would think that he would say that a relationship-based world is different than a transactional world and we benefit from moving toward a relationship-based world.

Integrator: Who else?

ImageDuggan: Donna acknowledged what a critical piece in her own healing Tony Robbins played. He spoke powerfully both days I was there and did a meditation in Donna's apartment (where part of the event was held). He talked about how it doesn't matter what techniques you use, if an individual doesn't take charge of their own motivation, nothing shifts. A person needs to grab meaning and understanding.

Integrator: I do think that many natural health practitioners, while they speak strongly about the importance of empowering patients, that the focus is on modalities and they fall back onto their modalities and therapies and the empowerment focus can slide away.

Duggan: What Robbins was saying reaffirms a study Claire Cassidy did here years ago. When you deeply interview consumers of complementary medicine what you find is that what they are buying is meaning. The high satisfaction is from their gaining meaning in process with their providers. It's not about the modalities so much as we think. It's a meaning shift they seek.

Another theme that was strong through the event was the morning training of yoga teachers by Rodney Yi. They plan to teach yoga in hospitals. While the conference was going on, this group of individuals were being given a training which will allow them to go into hospitals and teach people to empty the mind, and to breathe.

  

"Changing the system
through getting people
out of it.

"That was the central
theme."

- Duggan


Integrator: So there was a practical focus on making a difference there, on the ground, in New York. Great.

Duggan:  Another interesting comment was made by Frank Lipman, responding to a conversation about various models and systems, talking about functional medicine,  about yoga, a third system about something else.
Healers are caught with models and systems. These are all boats, he said, to get people to the other side where they can do their own M.O.T. and stay out of the system.

Integrator: Anything more?

Duggan:  In one of my discussion groups a nurse manager from a New York hospital described putting in place a ritual at the start of every shift ---- a ritual that reminds everyone that they are a team, helping each other to serve the patients --- and to share any needs or concerns. She said that this ten minutes each day has totally transformed the work on her unit. I was impressed with hearing so many people describing seemingly little interventions that have wide impact.

There was so much richness.
Another speaker was Christiane Northrup. She is always wonderful and her theme was central. She said that she most helps by keeping her and her family well and out of the sick care system. Changing the system through getting people out of it. That was the central theme.

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for inclusion in a future Your Comments article.


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