Big Turnout at Holistic Health Conference
Around 500 people attended to learn about the future of health care
April 10, 2006 12:40 PM
Grammy-nominated and multi-platinum selling artist, Peter Kater, walked across the stage, sat down in front of a piano and began to play.
Kater's performance kicked off the start of The Future of Health Care Conference 2006: Reinventing Medicine and Integrating Health Care Alternatives, which attracted around 500 people to Jack Adams Hall at 9:30 a.m., including California State Assembly Speaker pro Tempore Leland Yee, who served as host.
Organized by the Institute for Holistic Healing Studies at SF State, the conference examined how alternative medicine is changing the face of health care, and its effects on the public.
The event included various workshops which were all located within the Cesar Chavez Student Center. Workshop titles included: Integrated Medicine – Training, Environment and Practice; Herbs, Nutrition and Natural Pharmacy; Biofeedback, Bodywork and Somatic Therapies; Holistic Nursing and Midwifery - Issues and Education; Environmental Health and Community Based Health Care; and Art and Spirituality in Health and Healing.
In one workshop, Michael Samuels, founder and director of, Art as a Healing Force, spoke more about the healing power of the mind, and said that a pivotal moment was occurring as a result of the convergence of medicine, art and spirituality.
“The fundamental revolution is a recognition that we are more than our bodies,” he said. “The medicine of the future will use spiritual techniques to cure.”
Keynote speaker, Larry Dossey, M.D., and former executive editor of, "Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine," also spoke about the power of spirituality and positive imagery in medicine.
“The bottom line happens to be that optimists simply live longer,” he said. “And they have a lower instance of just about every disease you want to look at.”
Dossey said that since 1998, all graduating M.D.’s in the United States are required to be able to take a spiritual history from their patients.
“We are involved in a very awkward transitional phase in scientific medicine,” he said. “I don’t know where the future of medicine is headed … but one thing is going to happen in the future, we are going to restore consciousness to its rightful place as a factor of preeminence in medicine.”
Saybrook psychology professor Stanley Krippner discussed shamanism and myth and the technique of allopathy – a practice that combats disease by using remedies that produce effects different from or incompatible with those produced by the disease treated.
“From a psychological perspective, myths are statements as stories that address existential human concerns and have behavioral consequences,” Krippner said.
The World Health Organization estimated that only 20 percent of the people in the world were being serviced by allopathic biomedicine, the other 80 percent got traditional medicine, Krippner added.
Massage therapy was offered in a small room around the corner from Jack Adams Hall, and featured acupressure, shiatsu, and Chinese massage.
“There’s so much pressure and stress in so many people’s lives," said Michael Reed Gach, director of the Acupressure Institute in Berkeley, adding that acupressure releases "stress and tension, and promotes greater circulation and healing.”
Gach said that he was pleased to see so many different non-traditional healing practices represented at the conference.
“This is a fantastic event because it brings together so many different spokes of the wheel,” he said.
Another keynote speaker, Wayne Jonas, M.D., discussed what he called the "optimal healing environment," and the use of biomedicine – a branch dealing with humans’ ability to tolerate environmental stresses and variations.
“Biomedicine works, there’s no question about it,” said Jonas, who is the founding director of the Samueli Institute for Information Biology. “Perhaps, the healing environment actually contributes the most to recovery and repair, and the medication should be on the other side (in terms of importance).”
He said that modern knowledge indicates there are not individual causes for most diseases, but multiple agents including spiritual, psychological, social, behavioral, physical and environmental. “The mind, the spirit and the body are one unit, and they react as a unit," he added.
Kenn Burrows, one of the event organizers, presented Assemblyman Yee with an award for his support of the holistic health movement. Yee thanked the crowd and spoke briefly about such techniques as biofeedback – a training technique that allows a person some element of voluntary control over autonomic body functions.
“Biofeedback ... said there are things that are happening to you that you don’t necessarily have to see, but it’s still real,” Yee said. “Through biofeedback, we started to develop technology and strategies and techniques, whereby you can change things even though you may not be able to see them.”
A panel discussion exploring complementary and alternative approaches to cancer outlined some of the problems with traditional treatments.
“The biggest problem with conventional medicine is the side-effects, and the cure rates aren’t getting any better,” said Paul Reilly, founding staff physician of the Seattle Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center. “It doesn’t do any good to cure a person of cancer if you haven’t changed what caused them to get cancer in the first place.”
Reilly said that it’s crucial to look at environmental issues since there are many factors that are essentially poisoning our genes.
“Cancer is a systemic and cellular problem, and if you don’t address the issues that permit it to grow, it’s going to be more difficult to treat and more likely to reoccur," he added.
Burrows added that one goal is establishing a society where cancer is not so dominant.
“We, as a culture, basically lead the world in cancer causes and cancer cases,” said Burrows, who is a lecturer from the Institute for Holistic Healing Studies at SF State.
The goal for some of the guests at the event was to learn more about holistic healing.
“I was interested in getting some questions answered about alternative health and how they practically fit it into local healthcare,” said Benjamin Liu, a solar electric systems project organizer, who attended the conference to learn more about the feasibility of non-traditional medicine.
Student volunteer Amanda Fay, 24, said that growing up in the Big Sur area, she had always been familiar with holistic healing and enjoyed the event thoroughly.
“My major is accounting, so I decided that I was going to do a minor in holistic medicine to try and balance it out and find a happy medium between the two," she said.
Kater’s piano stylings marked the end of the conference shortly after 5 p.m., followed by a public reception at 5:30 p.m.
For more information, contact the SF State Holistic Health Learning Center, located in HSS 329, or call, (415) 338-641.
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