I got called out today. I needed it. I accepted it. And I hope I can be better for it.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Why am I here?
In December of 2010 I took to twitter as a chronic disease patient that had benefited greatly from the care I had received from my healthcare team comprised of professionals in both Conventional Medicine and Integrative Medicine. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to use my experiences as well as the experiences of others to improve healthcare and empower people to live life to the fullest. I was going to do it through collaboration, mutual respect, and nuanced discussions.
In many cases I have been very successful. In others, not so much. I have participated in Twitter wars. In some cases, I’ve been the target. In other cases, I’ve participated as part of the attacking crew. I’ve contributed to the polarization. I wasn’t remembering why I started.
I’ve actually been called out quite a lot lately. I've had several good people tell me that they've stopped following me because there's too much back and forth between me and others on social media. I need to improve. I hope I can. I need to focus a lot more on what’s right and a lot less on what’s wrong. I need to encourage collaboration and mutual respect.
First an Apology
Let me begin with an apology. From Day One, my intentions have been positive and sincere. My actions may or may not have reflected my intentions. We have all said and tweeted things we may regret and are unkind. To those who have seen my efforts as polarizing, I apologize. For those who have seen my efforts as too combative, I apologize. If my actions have caused pain, I apologize. For any past transgressions, I apologize. I hope you can accept my sincere apology, but even if you can't I hope that my apology can guide your future actions.
Followed by A Peace Offering
Where are we now? At the moment, there seems to be a massive chasm that is sowing distrust in science & medicine and fueling polarization. There is a lot of misinformation on social media. Let me state that I fully support the debunking of misinformation that truly is misinformation. A lot of people do this very well. Secondly, let me state that I categorically disagree with the broad brush approach that gets used to discredit ANY form of medicine that is truly helping patients. This is only adding to the polarization and further fueling distrust in science and medicine. This is EXACTLY where we need collaboration, mutual respect, and nuanced discussion. It will take sincere, respectful effort to lessen the polarization and make an impact on the chronic disease and mental illness epidemics. There may be “sides” in these nuanced discussions, but they should be focused on the same common goal – to improve healthcare and empower people to live life to the fullest.
We can use social media to seek to connect us as community, or we can further fuel polarization. We each have a choice.
Every. Single. Day.
Every. Single. Post.
When it comes to discussion regarding health and health outcomes, a few terms are triggering and lead to polarization. Amongst these are "Integrative Medicine", "evidence-based medicine" and "whole patient care/holistic health". Each of these have well-meaning definitions, yet each is hijacked in order to strengthen one's position. While these terms have pretty good definitions, the misrepresentation associated with the use of the terms has become a lightning rod of divisiveness -- and they have further contributed to polarization. Maybe we need to move beyond these terms. If we move beyond the polarization and dig a bit deeper, there is little need for these terms to be polarizing. Pause. Breathe. Continue.
Keeping It Real
Respecting the previous point, most will agree that "Conventional Medicine" works quite well for acute conditions. This is NOT where the debate is happening. This is NOT where the polarization is occurring. But for chronic disease and mental illness, Conventional Medicine is not working very well. Over 60% of the U.S. population (assume somewhat similar in Canada) is diagnosed with a chronic illness (includes obesity). Mental illness has similar statistics. The numbers are not improving in any significant manner. The Conventional Medicine (and also Psychiatry) system has very much become a “diagnose and treat” model and this is not having an impact to lessen the chronic disease and mental illness epidemics. There are many reasons for this, including lack of time with patients, and not focusing on the “whole” person. There is no reason for this assertion to be polarizing. Period. Full stop.
This is where "Integrative Medicine" enters the picture. Again, no reason for polarization. Generally speaking, more time is spent with the patient, and much of the patient’s lifestyle circumstances are considered. There are a lot of success stories where patient’s quality (and quantity) of life has improved (sometimes significantly) while working with good Integrative Medicine practitioners. But there’s a BUT to this side of healthcare as well. BUT ... there are folks who take advantage of the concepts behind Integrative Medicine and use them in a, shall we say “less than intended”, manner. There are many charlatans and lots of profiteering taking place in the Integrative Medicine space as well. This is where the debate is happening. This is where the polarization is occurring.
It is good to call out charlatans and profiteers. It is good to call out what is truly misinformation. It is good to call out bad practices. It is good to call out bad science. This benefits patients. This does not fuel distrust in science and medicine. This does not add to polarization.
But calling out ALL of Conventional Medicine (and Psychiatry) for not being very good at improving chronic disease and mental illness diagnoses or calling out ALL of Integrative Medicine because of people abusing the intent and ignoring the benefits and results that have been achieved is a problem. This DOES NOT benefit patients. This DOES fuel distrust in science and medicine. This DOES add to polarization. It DOES NOT contribute to collaboration, mutual respect and nuanced discussions. And it DOES provide an environment that can be leveraged in new ways by those seeking to exploit our differences for their gain.
So pause for a minute. Recognize the terms that are leading to polarization. Find other ways to engage.
What if we focused on seeking collaboration, mutual respect and nuanced discussions?
What if we focused on using social media almost strictly to bring us together, to connect us to communities, friends and families? What if we used it to focus on the “good” and lessened our focus on the “evil”? What would the chronic disease and mental health epidemics look like if we ALL did that? What if we ALL use whatever influence we have to actually improve our healthcare system? Maybe we can get durable treatment for autoimmune disease, we can increase the emphasis on prevention or understanding cause. Maybe research funding in Canada and elsewhere can increase significantly. Maybe we can improve healthcare and empower people to live life to the fullest.
Will this fall on deaf ears?
This message is not directed at anyone who is seeking to further polarize. It is not trying to shift those who are building a brand by sowing divisiveness, by fame trolling, or by outrage mining. This is not trying to get you to be part of the solution. This is directed at anyone, make that ANYONE, that is seeking to improve healthcare and empower people to live life to the fullest. It is directed at anyone seeking to become part of the solution trough collaboration, mutual respect and nuanced discussions.
The best way for this message to fall on deaf ears is for people to do nothing. Don't let that happen. If this resonates, then share it. Be part of the discussion. Encourage others to do the same.
None of us will be perfect, but maybe ... just maybe ... if we start with accepting the peace offering it will be a step in the right direction.
P.S. I'm wide open to respectful conversation regarding this thread. I hope that it's met with the intent to bring us together rather than to further tear us apart.