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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

Fashion and Compassion

Published October 1, 2009 8:35 AM by Rebecca Mayer


Beth Israel Medical Center (BIMC) in New York City has been named the beneficiary of an initiative set in motion by world renowned designer, Donna Karan. When her husband, Stephan Weiss, lost his battle with cancer just over eight years ago, Karan was moved to take action.

"I am determined to do what I can to create a new model for wellness and patient care, and to address the needs of patients' loved ones and the staff who are on the journey with them," Karan shared.

Through her own foundation, Urban Zen Foundation, Karan has teamed up with the Department of Integrative Medicine and the Division of Medical Oncology at BIMC to create a unique pilot program that will enhance the care of hospitalized cancer patients. The vision includes:

  • the introduction of yoga therapists on the floor to deliver bedside care
  • a full-time staff member to help cancer patients access all levels of care
  • training of nursing staff in holistic practices to encourage optimal healing
  • an extensive research program, and
  • physical renovations to Beth Israel's inpatient cancer unit

"Our goal is to treat the whole patient through techniques of eastern healing, yoga and meditation that is combined with the very best in western medicine," Karan expressed.

In your opinion, does alternative medicine have a place in hospitals and medical centers?


posted by Rebecca Mayer



Of all the things you've listed that will be implemented at BIMC, only one could be considered "alternative". There is nothing alternative about a full time staff member to assist patients in access to care. There has been a significant amount of publicity given lately to "transition coaches" in the professional and lay press. They are necessary to navigate our increasingly complex health care system so that patients don't fall through the cracks. It is also well documented that most rehospitalizations occur within 30 days of discharge for that very reason. As for research, nothing alternative about that. Holistic nursing? After working in training of nursing staff for nearly 2 years, I can tell you that is a concept taught to them in nursing school and is encouraged throughout their career. Having had friends and clients at BIMC when I worked in New York, physical renovations to the facility are much needed. So that leaves Yoga. Does yoga address the cancer itself? I sure don't know. But I can tell you that after having a close friend undergo cancer treatment just uptown at Sloane Kettering Cancer Center this summer, he was welcome to any diversion from constantly thinking about his cancer. He often said that the diversions of bingo, movie nights, and other activities kept him sane enough to stay and endure the required treatment of the cancer.

When it comes to our treatment facilities, are we only treating a diagnosis or are we treating people with a diagnosis?

Dean Metz, Intermediate Care - Senior PT, NHS of UK October 6, 2009 5:11 AM

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