Jamie Kantola: David O. Hough, MD Endowed Memorial Award Essay

by Jamie Kantola - The Spirit of a Healer

Namaste is a customary greeting of the Hindu people in India and around the world. The word is derived from ancient Sanskrit and translates simply to “I bow to the divine in to you”. The greeting often comes with a gesture, placing your hands together in front of your face and bowing your head, followed by bringing the hands down in front of your heart. Namaste represents the acknowledgment that there is sacredness and equality in everyone, allowing us to look beyond the surface of others, and regard each person as an extension of ourselves.  Namaste is a symbol of mutual gratitude and respect. I believe the concept of Namaste is what takes place between a patient and a Healer.

In order for a doctor to be considered a Healer, a spirit must exist inside her. Acquiring this spirit is one step beyond the medical knowledge required of a doctor. The “spirit of a healer” will allow an ordinary physician to transcend the barriers placed upon her by ego, fear, and selfdoubt. Healers are able to care for themselves, because, as Namaste suggests, respect of oneself reflects the respect of others. The spirit of a healer will allow their patients to confide in them, without shame or embarrassment because they acknowledge the equality that exists between them. A healer knows disease doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and can acknowledge parts of wellness that exist outside of a traditional medical realm. Healers let themselves communicate more freely with patients, without the fear of appearing incompetent, resulting in a deeper understanding of patients’ needs, and a greater learning experience for the physician. 

Adhering to the concept of Namaste when interacting with patients is an idealization of the physician we should all strive to be. Obtaining the spirit of a healer is not an end goal, but a
continuous journey. It begins with the very act of aspiring to become a healer. For myself, the idea is refreshing in the sense that I know it is not simply another exam to be studied for and passed. Obtaining a spirit is a choice. It is a willingness to transcend the traditional authoritative role of “doctor”, and prepare myself to learn from, respect, and become partners with my patients. There is no greater reward for someone who wishes to make an impact on the world, than obtaining the spirit of a healer.