Shaping Future Generations: Med Students Experience Mind-Body Therapies

Press Contact:Samueli InstituteSamueli

Alexandria, Va. - January  21, 2013

On December 7, 2012 Samueli Institute’s Senior Program Manager Dawn Wallerstedt asked dozens of fourth year medical students “Have you ever uttered the words ‘You’re going to feel pain now’?” When all of the students raised their hands she knew she had their attention as she explained those words are a direct hypnotic suggestion to induce pain. 

Wallerstedt partnered with Samueli Institute’s Program Manager Katherine Smith to offer a mind-body workshop for Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) medical students.  Spearheaded by Dr. Eric Schoomaker, Former Army Surgeon General, this was the first mandatory educational module for USUHS students in complementary and integrative medicine (CIM). Students were introduced to non-traditional methods of staying healthy, and managing stress and physical pain. Classes included interactive demonstrations in acupuncture, yoga, meditation and even self-hypnosis. 

“If these students are going to be competent and competitive physicians they have to know and be versed in these modalities,” said Smith who taught a class on guided imagery and mindfulness.

But the medical community has been slow to adopt these practices and so Smith and Wallerstedt approached their presentations methodically with a focus on physiology, research and science.

“It was not our intent to convert the students,” said Wallerstedt, “Our goal was lay out the science, give them hands-on experiences, and let them decide.” 

And according to a survey completed by students after the workshop, 88 percent of respondents agreed that their institution should more fully incorporate integrative medicine teaching modules into the medical school curriculum. Most of the respondents reported that they learned new skills (86 percent) and planned to use what they learned for their own self-care (79 percent) and the care of their patients (83 percent). Students some instructors feared may be skeptical were engaged and requested more information upon the workshop’s completion.

"I was the biggest skeptic,” one student said, “But that was amazing.”

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