Excerpt from Chapter One: Death by Modern Medicine
If the third-year medical students that interviewed me when I applied for medicine 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 former medical practice, and continue to be priceless in my consulting, herbal research, and writing careers. If I had not gone to medical school I would never have developed an understanding of how traditional medicine and allopathic medicine work and I would never have written this and a dozen other books.
At Dalhousie Medical School, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, third-year medical students were part of the interview process for accepting 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. A week later I called in for an appointment with the Dean of Students, Dr. Fraser Nicholson. He told me the third-year interview did not go well. The interviewers thought I would not make a good doctor. They felt I was naïve and had a Pollyanna approach to medicine because I thought I could help people. 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 – an no place to get healed!
Prior to meeting with the medical students, I had already been interviewed by Dr. Nicholson who seemed to think 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 medical school.
That interview was in 1973, and idealism in medicine was a rare commodity. Also on the endangered list were: nutrition, natural medicine, spirituality, 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- 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 in front of my class for the recipe!
The three main battles I had in medicine were the “boys club”, lack of ethics training, lack of nutrition education.
The Naughty Boys Club
In the very first week of medical school, one of the introductory instructors peppered and spiced up his talk with slides of nude females from “Playboy”. 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 the men just laughed.
I didn’t know anyone in the class yet. In applying for medical school I had learned that usually one quarter of the 100 medical students were women. Our class was going to beat 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. I bought a copy at the local drug store amidst the stares. I only had two days before that lecturer was back and I worked 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 room and the class went hysterical. The women hooted, the men howled. The class immediately bonded, men and women laughed together as the fumbling professor tried to regain his composure and his slides. We actually never saw him or 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.