By Sera Kirk
All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Then it is violently opposed. Finally, it is accepted as self-evident. – Arthur Schopenhauer
Dr. Rogers Prize for Excellence in Complementary and Alternative Medicine
In 1865, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian physician, died in an insane asylum, where he had been committed for claiming that washing one’s hands between conducting autopsies and delivering babies could save thousands of lives. Unable to prove his theory, he merely succeeded in offending doctors with the implication that they had dirty hands.
Though Western medicine discourages non-standard treatment approaches, at least it does not lock up those with new approaches to medical treatment or label them insane. At the other end of the spectrum, some alternative health practitioners also feel threatened by those MDs who combine standard Western medicine with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).
But luckily some people recognize and celebrate the contributions and achievements of those who combine the two approaches to provide their patients with the optimal care possible. In 2007, the Lotte & John Hecht Memorial Foundation endowed the first Dr. Rogers Prize for Excellence in Complementary and Alternative Medicine in honour of Dr. Roger Rogers, an Order of British Columbia recipient in 2001 for his pioneering work in alternative and complementary cancer care.
Representatives from Neurokinetics attended the 2011 Dr. Rogers Prize Award Gala. NeuroKinetics attendees included Philippe A. Souvestre MD (France), President and Founder, Diana Pederson, Director of Project Development, and Reiner Rothe, a company advisor, who cured his mother’s ‘terminal’ stage 4 cancer using alternative approaches.
Philippe was delighted to see Dr. Wayne Jonas again and hear him speak. They had previously met at Dr. Jonas’ American East Coast home base, the Samueli Institute, which promotes and funds research in complementary medicine.
Dr. Jonas spoke about the open-minded and varied background in which he grew up and the challenges this presented when he became a standard Western medical practitioner, as his colleagues viewed much of what he considered normal as unacceptably radical. CAM is often defined as those treatment modalities that are not included in Western medicine. In British Columbia, CAM is not covered by the Medical Services Plan nor provided in hospitals or standard medical clinics.
The winner of this year’s $250,000 prize was the University of Calgary’s Dr. Marja Verhoef, the only Canadian Research Chair in Complementary Medicine and the first President of the International Society of Complementary Medicine Research.
She has established several Canadian networks connecting those interested in complementary, alternative, and integrative medicine, such as the IN-CAM network, a virtual collaborating organization for CAM researchers and practitioners in Canada, North America, and the world. A tireless advocate of appropriate research methods for multiple and varied CAM approaches, she has inspired and mentored many working in these fields.
The Fairmont Waterfront Hotel served a dinner that included delectable salmon and a decadent chocolate dessert, and was clearly constructed on the notion that food should bring joy to the senses and the soul.
But the best nourishment of the evening was for the soul alone. Philippe felt inspired by the company of so many like-minded colleagues active in CAM and seeing so much strong support for this approach in treating illness and injury. He particularly enjoyed meeting Barb Fehlau, MD, a Director of the Association of Complementary and Integrative Physicians of BC, a network of medical doctors who practise both CAM as well as standard Western medicine.
Philippe Souvestre commented:
This is what medicine should be: a spirit of embracing the effective new, doctors integrating standard knowledge with additional medical approaches. Too many patients who come to our clinic have been told that there is no hope; to go home and learn to accept and manage their condition. For many, this is unbearable. They must then fight on their own to learn everything possible about their medical condition, wading through a sea of alternative medical choices by themselves.
The approach of Western medical community at large appears to be “if it is not proven by evidence-based medicine, then it is not effective; so don’t consider it.” Yet, there has demonstrated to be considerable value in both [Western, and CAM] medical approaches. I would love to see more emphasis on finding ways to invite the scientific evaluation and integration of complementary medicine rather than using the cry of evidence-based medicine to close doors and antagonize the underfunded efforts by CAM providers who do strive for quality and science in medicine.
It is just so much better for patients to have a knowledgeable guide to support and assist them with every possible approach. The bottom line is the health and wellbeing of the patients, who are all of us.
The greatest mistake in the treatment of diseases is that there are physicians for the body and physicians for the soul, although the two cannot be separated. – Plato