Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Dr. Adema Speaks....

Last night Dr. Donald Adema was our Featured Artist for our monthly Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council meeting. He spoke about how the old MCAT tests (medical entrance tests) had sections on art included so that serious students were making trips to art museums in order to do well on the test. Now, of course, the MCAT is geared toward science and math, and the human element has been removed. As an osteopathic physician and a compelling speaker, he talked about the components of wellness: spirtuality + mental health + physical health = wellness. Firstly, he cited studies by the "brontosaurus magazine" (The New England Journal of Medicine) that belief in God promotes healing, that prayer promotes healing, and that even distance prayer (prayer by others nowhere near the patient) promotes healing. Dr. Adema even found a main lecture at the annual Harvard Medical School review that was on the power of prayer in healing: a third of the doctors present listened in bemusement; a third were taking notes avidly, and a third walked out. Says a lot about our medical profession, doesn't it?

Secondly, the mental health component is very important, and this is where art comes in. With every patient, Dr. Adema asks about the person's artistic outlet. Creativity lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, and depression. In his blended practice, medications may be used to treat severe ailments, but then as overall health increases, the medications can be lowered and even removed from the patient's protocol. (That's what is finally happening with me: I'm slowly going off the pain patches onto an oral pain med, which I'll also reduce as I can.) He also spoke about kids on Ritalin -- how most (not all) of the kids who are diagnosed as ADD or ADHD need artistic outlets that help them to deal with their issues. When these kids are alowed to draw during lectures, they sit still and can also recall almost perfectly the information they've been taught. Plus, the two-dimensional world of TV and video games has contributed to ADD/ADHD, in his humble opinion.

Thirdly, the physical health dimension had been turned over to the pharmeceutical companies in the name of profit. But in a blended practice, drugs can be balanced with options such as exercise, nutrition, and other choices like acupuncture, massage, manipulation, etc. Pharmaceuticals have their place, but they aren't the be-all, end-all of medicine. Basically, there are three main issues: hypertension, high cholesterol, and depression -- almost all medical problems are slipped into these three areas. Listening is the most important thing a doctor can do -- and be observant. (Once Dr. Adema noticed my new toenail polish and deduced that the pain meds I just started were working because I couldn't touch my toes before then.)

Dr. Adema also discussed the relationship between autism and immunizations, and recommended a great book for all parents to read: Children with Starving Brains by Dr. McCandless. He also talked about how the use of birth control pills to help girls in their mid-teens with bad acne often results in infertility ten years later. There were some scary factors he discussed medically, but for the most part, he said that wellness relies on artistic expression. He cited some of his Alzheimer's patients who take up sewing or knitting or painting and can reduce their dementia meds after a little while. He works with a great number of hospice patients as well, and he talks about how artistic expression can help them through pain and suffering.

Dr. Adema also showed us his first watercolor painting which was of his daughter. He also talked about singing in the Point Loma Chorale and how that experience keeps him healthy and sane, and then extended the choir metaphor into wellness: all parts of the body need to work together as a choir does; if the tenor section is gone, then the choir limps along, unable to sing "The Messiah."

He gave us lots of food for thought, besides encouraging us to continue to pursue our artistic outlets. He was such a wonderful speaker that I completely forgot to take photos as I had planned on doing! I'm so glad to have him as our family doctor, and also as a friend and a brother in Christ. What a blessing he is to our backcountry area!

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