Open To Alternatives ...
Medical Schools Start Teaching Treatments They Once Scorned
By HILARY WALDMAN
Hartford Courant Staff Writer
December 23, 2003 - Hartford Courant
In a darkened classroom generally reserved for the study of cell
biology, energy healer Tara Leary dangles a pendulum of purple beads above
Katy Carofino's prone body.
With Carofino on a massage table sandwiched between desks, Leary
measures her chakras, a Sanskrit word for the body's energy points, which
should be in balance for optimal health.
For Carofino, a third-year medical student, and her University of
Connecticut classmates sprawled around her, this lesson in complementary and
alternative medicine is a vast departure from the usual medical school
curriculum of disease and its management.
It also is an introduction to a field of healing about which patients
know more at the moment than their doctors.
Like medical schools across the country, UConn is beginning to address
that by introducing therapies such as acupuncture, energy healing,
herbal medicine, chiropractic, yoga, massage and nutrition to its more
traditional training in anatomy and biochemistry.
"It developed out of a recognition that the public was using therapies
that our physicians did not know about because they haven't been
taught," said Aviad Haramati, director of the physiology department at
Georgetown University School of Medicine.
Georgetown is one of 14 medical and nursing schools across the country
with National Institutes of Health grants to integrate alternative and
complementary techniques into their medical curriculums.
While UConn is not among them, the Farmington medical school has just
received NIH funds from the American Medical Student Association to
train its students in alternative therapies.
First-year students are offered an elective called "Mind-Body-Spirit
Medicine," in which they learn to use alternative therapies to improve
their own well-being. Third-year students spend a day dabbling in healing
arts, including touch therapy and acupuncture.
Bruce Koeppen, UConn's medical dean, said a committee is working on
recommendations that would add complementary and alternative therapies to
the medical school's required curriculum.
Now, only the University of Minnesota in Duluth has a required course
in complementary and alternative medicine, but 79 of the nation's 126
accredited M.D. programs include alternative therapies as a topic in one
or more required courses, according to the Association of American
Until last Thursday, Carofino's medical training had been confined to
operating and examination rooms. She said she did not know what to
expect when Leary measured her chakra. The 27-year-old student said her mind
felt a bit clearer and her body relaxed after Leary touched her head.
Nihar Desai, 23, by comparison, was an enthusiastic convert after Leary's energy
balancing treatment. The future heart or kidney specialist said he definitely saw a place
for complementary therapy in his medical practice.
"It's just so logical," Desai said. "Life entails the interplay of
energy, disease, spiritual things."
Dr. Karen Prestwood, an associate professor of medicine at UConn who
has several government grants to study complementary therapies, reminded
the students that they could begin to use their newfound knowledge
St. Francis and Hartford hospitals, where the students are trained,
offer therapies such as Reiki, massage and therapeutic touch to their
"Maybe there's something you can do for that surgical patient in
terrible pain whose morphine is cranked way up," Prestwood told the students.
Copyright 2003, Hartford Courant
Meditation seminar shows a way to slow life down
By John Zorabedian, Middletown Press Staff 09/17/2002
PORTLAND -- For most of us, it seems like we'll only take a rest when we're dead. But there are alternatives to the
hyper-paced mania of modern life, if you just stop and take a deep breath once in a while.
Such is the lesson of professional spiritual counselor Tara M. Leary, who gave a talk on the healing powers of
meditation Monday night at the Portland Library.
"We all lead such incredibly busy lives," says Leary. "Meditation [is about] connecting with self, bringing awareness to
your life, your body."
With a backdrop of soothing, new-age music, Leary uses a calm and deliberate voice to coach her pupils into a state of
"Feel yourself letting go of any tension, any tightness, any pain, any disease," she says.
After a deep-breathing exercise and a technique she calls "progressive relaxation," Leary instructed the small group of
novice meditators to find their personal "peaceful place."
"Use your imagination to create this place that is just for you," says Leary. "This is your peaceful, safe place that you will
be able to access whenever you feel stressed, or need a break."
Leary vouches for the effectiveness of meditation, and credits its practice with helping her to overcome a lengthy battle
with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome -- a rare degenerative disease that attacks ligaments and soft tissue.
"Meditation has been so helpful to me in my healing process," she says. "It heals me on an emotional level and, in many
ways, on a physical level."
After what she describes as a "rough childhood," growing up in Brooklyn, Leary underwent 17 operations as a young
adult, and spent two and-a-half years in a wheelchair. She suffered through many hospitalizations, depression, and a
loss of hope.
Upon discovering meditation, however, Leary found inner peace and was eventually able to walk again. Regular
meditation has also helped her to overcome asthma and high blood pressure, and she even sleeps better, she says.
While she insists that meditation can lead to happier, healthier living, Leary says it should not be regarded as a
replacement for medical science.
"It provides a balance, the other side of traditional medical treatment," she says.
After bringing the meditators back from their "peaceful place meditation," Leary invited them to join her to the free
meditation session she offers once a month at her Portland home, where she encourages her guests to "connect and
talk about [meditation]." She also teaches classes at the YMCA in East Hartford.
©The Middletown Press 2007
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