Dr. Carolyn Dean, MD, ND
February 28, 2010
Career choices are often based on guidance counseling in high school and can affect your whole life. According to my Miss Elliot, my guidance counselor, my aptitude tests determined that I would make a wonderful nurse or executive secretary. I always got top marks, was vice president of the student council, a lead in the drama and dance club and on just about every other committee in the school. But, don’t forget, this was the early 60’s in Nova Scotia and I was a girl and girls didn’t become doctors. I didn’t even think about becoming a doctor.
I did go to university on a scholarship to take BA Secretarial Science and only stayed long enough to learn typing and shorthand that have always served me well. Then I traveled for several years before going back home to Nova Scotia. I went back to university in honors biology and wondered about a career in ecology. I was dissuaded because on a summer job with the department of the environment because I realized they didn’t seem very focused on saving anything. A breakthrough came the day two friends in biology said they just got accepted into medicine. These two younger guys thought I was in premed and I realized that’s exactly what I should be doing. I applied immediately.
At Dalhousie Medical School, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, third—year medical students are part of the interviewing process to accept new medical students. During my interview, I was asked if I thought I could make a difference in medicine. I said that I suspected I could and said I was interested in nutrition and lifestyle changes to help patients. A week later I was called in for an appointment with the Dean of Students, Dr. Fraser Nicholson, an open-mined psychiatrist and a true gentleman. He told me my third—year interview did not go well. The interviewers thought I would not make a good doctor. They felt I was naïve with a Pollyanna approach to medicine because I thought I could help people. Dr. Nicholson and I laughed!
If the third—year medical students that interviewed me had their way, I would never have set foot into medical school. I would probably never have trained in naturopathy, acupuncture, homeopathy, herbalism, nutrition, and Chinese medicine, all of which were invaluable tools in my medical practice, and continue to be priceless in my consulting and writing. I would never have developed an understanding of how natural medicine and allopathic medicine work and I would never have written a current total of eighteen books and developed a 48-week online wellness program called Future Health Now!
I realized later, as I went through the agonizing grind of medical school, that by third year, medical students are so beaten down by the system and have seen so many sick people in hospital—based settings, none of whom seemed to be getting "cured," that they know medicine is no place for a healer — and no place to get healed!
Fortunately, Dr. Nicholson said I had a good head on my shoulders, a sparkle in my eye, and a sharp wit, all of which would make me a very fine doctor. We both agreed that the third-year students had gotten it all wrong. Thankfully, their negative opinion of me was tossed out the window and didn't factor into my application or my acceptance into med school. And, as the fates would have it, Miss Elliot was now working in the Dean of Medicine’s office and she was also on the medical acceptance committee! She realized she had guided me in the wrong direction and became a big fan of me getting into medicine.
That interview was in 1973, and idealism in medicine was a rare commodity. Also on the endangered list were nutrition, natural medicine, equality and ethics. I entered medicine with a view to educating people about nutrition and lifestyle but what I found was a pervasive indoctrination against anything not drug—oriented and surgery—oriented.
In my first days of medical school we were repeatedly warned against chiropractors, herbalists, and health faddists. Making my own yogurt and eating it during breaks made me a subject of derision among my classmates, which only ended when Dr. Nicholson asked me for my recipe in front of my class!
The three main battles I had in medicine were the "boys club," lack of ethics training and lack of nutrition education and here’s how I overcame them.
The Naughty Boys Club
In the very first week of medical school, one of the introductory instructors spiced up his talk with slides of nude females from Playboy Magazine. It was obvious this was 'standard operating procedure' at Dalhousie and I was shocked and outraged. I could see that the other women in the class were similarly horrified. What could we do? We muttered under our breaths and most of the men just laughed, albeit somewhat nervously.
I didn't know anyone in the class yet. When I applied for medical school I learned that Dalhousie usually admitted twenty—five women in a class of 100. My class overcame that barrier by accepting thirty—three women. Even so, we were outnumbered but I knew something had to be done.
Playgirl Magazine had just hit the stands in 1973. I bought the latest copy at the local drug store amidst the stares. I only had two days before that lecturer was back and I had to work fast. I convinced a medical professor friend to make me some nude male slides at the university. Miraculously, he got them back to me the next day. He had a wicked sense of humor and I think he wanted to see the proverbial dung hit the fan.
Telling no one my plan, minutes before class, I inserted the nude slides in the chauvinist lecturer's slide carousel and waited for the explosion. My heart was pounding from the excitement and anticipation. The lights went down, a gorgeous hunk in his birthday suit filled up the screen and the class went hysterical. The women hooted, the men howled. We laughed together and we all bonded as the fumbling professor tried to regain his composure and his slides as he unceremoniously exited the class.
We actually never saw him again and we never saw another nude female slide from anyone else the whole year. I was told that similarly "insensitive" pictures were immediately taken down all over the medical campus. That one simple act leveled the playing field with no protests, no whining and complaining, no letters of protest to the school medical board, no hunger strikes and no marches. Just Direct Action.
Lack of Ethics Training in Medicine
A fellow medical student and I recognized a huge gap in our education and we started an Ethics Club. Inconceivably, there were no ethics courses in our medical education program. Young medical students, some as young as 19, with only two years of undergraduate training, are thrown into the world of life and death medicine without any survival skills for themselves or for their future patients. They live a very abnormal life of massive stress and study for six to eight years after which they are expected to go out into the world and act as if they know all there is to know about the human body, mind, and spirit. In fact, we were told many times that if we didn't learn it in medical school it must be quackery! So, we were expected to know it all.
Instead of asking the administration to organize an ethics course, which we knew would take years to implement, we started renting mail-order ethics films to be shown once a week. At our noon—hour ethics meetings we viewed and then discussed life and death questions facing burn victims, cancer survivors, and depressed patients. Our ethics club, besides helping students cope, had another welcome outcome. It embarrassed the administration into forming an ethics course in the following years.
Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine
This was not something I was able to influence in medical school. However, I’ve spent the last 30 years developing a way to get this information to the public in a usable form.
There are no nutrition classes in school there is no nutrition training given to doctors. Where are people supposed to obtain this vital information? Certainly they aren’t getting it from the TV ads that promote highly processed synthetic food and reinforce television and computer culture. Even the current trend toward what I call “celebrity” supplements doesn’t emphasize diet, exercise and lifestyle. Unless someone is making money on a product, you’ll never see the promotion of basic healthy habits in our society.
Subscribe to the NewsWithViews Daily News Alerts!
That’s why I persisted in my study of natural medicine and in 2009 produced a 48-week online wellness program called Future Health Now! My gift to you is a free first week module. I encourage you to become a member and get healthy. Health happens to people who make the choice to be healthy and I’ve got the tools for you.
*This article appeared in a chapter of The Power of Persistence by Justin Sacks.
Meet The Doctor of the Future: Dr. Dean is a medical doctor, naturopath, herbalist and acupuncturist. She’s authored and co-authored 19 books including the Magnesium Miracle, The Yeast Connection and Women’s Health, IBS for Dummies and IBS Cookbook for Dummies. She's also the medical director of the Nutritional Magnesium Association. You’re invited to sign up for her free newsletter/blog at www.drcarolyndean.com. You can also join her 48-week online wellness program Future Health Now! Receive the first module free and a free subscription to her Doctor of the Future newsletter.
© 2010 Dr. Carolyn Dean MD - All Rights Reserved
Meet The Doctor of the Future: Thomas Edison said, “The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest her or his patients in the care of the human frame, in a proper diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.” Dr. Dean is The Doctor of The Future. She’s a medical doctor, naturopath, herbalist and acupuncturist. She’s authored 18 books including The Yeast Connection and Women’s Health, IBS for Dummies and the Magnesium Miracle. Radio, TV and magazines interview her regularly — including ABC, NBC and CBS. She's also the medical advisor for the Nutritional Magnesium Association. You’re invited to join her online wellness program Future Health Now! plus receive a free subscription to her Doctor of the Future blog.
subscribe or find out more go to:
Follow Dr. Dean on Twitter: http://twitter.com/DrCarolynDean