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MARCH 2014

Leslie Jaffe, M.D., College Physician, Director of Health Services

Click here to apply for this project:

For well over a century, Western allopathic medicine has prided itself on using state-of-the-art science to address the increasingly complex health issues of developed countries. Today, anti-viral and antibiotic medications are essential agents in treating life-threatening infections. Scientific advances in Western medicine have eradicated diseases, including smallpox and soon polio. Western medicine can now cure tuberculosis and prolong the lives of patients with cancer and HIV/AIDS. Yet, Western medicine is arguably less successful in addressing aliments resulting from the challenges of living in a modern society, including depression, anxiety, stress and sleep disturbances. Indeed, mounting evidence suggests that people with chronic pain and other common afflictions may not be well served by allopathic medical approaches.

Partly because of questions about the effectiveness of Western medical treatments in these areas, the last several decades have witnessed a dramatic rise in alternative medical approaches. Eastern medicine, with its emphasis on natural healing and the integration of mind and body, has had widespread and growing appeal in the West. Eastern-based strategies such as meditation and acupuncture have a powerful effect on a range of physiological conditions. What is more, these approaches avoid dangerous side effects or the potential for addiction or misuse of allopathic medications.

While Western patients are turning to Eastern medical approaches in larger numbers, there is still skepticism and concern among the Western medical establishment about their efficacy. These questions are both scientific and philosophical: What are the limitations of alternative approaches? How should insurance companies evaluate these claims? What is the line between the physiological and the psychological? Where does medicine end and religion begin?

This short-term Kahn project will examine these questions, and consider the relevancy of traditional Eastern medicine from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives. It seeks faculty from departments across all three divisions who have either a general or specific interest in the ways in which health impacts individuals, culture and society. Fellows will be joined in the project by Dr. Barry Kerzin. Dr. Kerzin, an American physician, is personal physcian to His Holiness The Dalai Lama. As one who makes use of both traditional Tibetan medicine (Sowa Rigpa) and allopathic medicine, he is uniquely able to speak to the relevancy of Eastern medicine from a Western perspective. Kerzin will open the colloquium with a public lecture on Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 7:00 pm in the Neilson Browsing Room, Neilson Library.


Thursday, March 27, 2014:

  • Public Lecture with Dr. Barry Kerzin, 7 pm, Neilson Browsing Room, Neilson Library

Friday, March 28, 2014:

  • Colloquium discussions with Dr. Kerzin, time TBA

Saturday, March 29, 2014:

  • Colloquium Discussions, with Dr. Kerzin, time TBA

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