Doctors should treat the ‘whole’ person – keeping the body, mind and spirit healthy – rather than a person for just their symptoms is the central theme at the Whole Person Medicine Conference being held from March 1-3 at the Aga Khan University.
Hectic routines, irregular eating habits, social and spiritual pressures are all challenges of the modern urban lifestyle which are taking their toll on the human body and spirit. Chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, are becoming more common the world over and traditional drug-based treatments at times are proving inadequate.
Whole person medicine represents a paradigm shift in the practice of medicine. It takes into consideration not only medical problems but the psychological, social and even spiritual needs of a person stressed Dr David Chaput de Saintonge, Director of Education, Partners in International Medical Education (PRIME). Today doctors practice based on the best of clinical and laboratory research. But there is an increasing understanding of the importance of involving the person, who has a disease, in both the diagnosis and management of their illness.
This means that medical education and training around the world would have to change. Presently the emphasis is on treating physical diseases with medicines explained Dr John Geater, International Director, PRIME. Students are taught the basic medical and clinical sciences and provided clinical practice in areas such as surgery and obstetrics. Communication skills and basic psychology are not included and little attention is given to considering the patient’s perspective, really listening to and understanding their desires, feelings and wishes, and involving them in their own care.
This means understanding the concept of emotional literacy said Dr Andrew R. Charley, Programme Director, PRIME, and the fundamental idea that a good doctor is one who understands his or her own emotions because it influences how they interact with their patients. This is crucial because otherwise doctors will undertreat and under-diagnose, and increase their workloads unnecessarily added Dr Charely.
The concept of whole person medicine is presently not a part of medical curriculum in Pakistan. It is critical to introduce this concept, to educate doctors who can provide patient-centred holistic care, to help to people maximise their health and happiness. Dr Marie Andrades, Associate Professor, Family Medicine, AKU shared the elements of a clinical practice model that can provide patients with such care: with the primary physician playing the central role in a team-based approach to health care.
Post-conference workshops have also been planned on topics ranging from incorporating spirituality in medical care, whole person care of diabetics to skills required for person-centred consultations.
Hassaan Akhter, Media Executive, Department of Public Affairs, Aga Khan University, Stadium Road, Karachi, on +92 21 3486 2927 or firstname.lastname@example.org