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 Conversations with Leaders in Self-Care: Power to the Patient 
Interview with Lowell S. Levin EdD, MPH
   as interviewed by Tom Ferguson MD

I would think that an important part of the workshops you've described would be an opportunity for health workers to meet in open dialogue with their clients.

One of the great gains of self-care is going to be to let us see our doctors as people. If you scrape the money away, you can see that doctors are insecure, beset by self-doubts, and under a lot of pressure—just like all the rest of us. But their training and society's fantasies about their function have perpetuated a role in which they're not able to admit their feelings, their fears, their uncertainties.

It's encouraging to see that a great many medical students are excited about new career opportunities as educators.

Yes. I think that's going to be the biggest future role for primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, and physicians' associates. Health workers who are communicators and educators are going to be very much in demand. I think that the enthusiastic reception your magazine has received is a case in point.

I'll have to admit, I've been stunned by the way Medical Self-Care Magazine has been accepted by health workers and health workers' organizations. I got into this work very disillusioned with-conventional medicine, and I expected to be considered a real rebel, attacked by the AMA, the whole bit. It's been absolutely the contrary. In fact, I've just been invited to speak to the AMA's Annual Rural Health Conference.

It's at these conferences, like the AMA Rural Health Conference you mentioned, that many health workers get introduced to these concepts—and so do other professionals- such as librarians, social workers, and agricultural extension workers.

In fact, that's the stage self-care is in right now— networking. Getting the word around. Helping people connect with others with similar interests. Some of these networks are very informal communities with homey mimeographed newsletters. Some are more formal—some of the best national networking is being done by the National Self-Help Clearinghouse in New York.

What do you see ahead for self-care?

I would hope that we would see some changes on three levels: changes in our understanding of what self-care is, changes in government health programs as the result of an increasing awareness of self-care as a resource, and a gradual extension of the goals of the self-care movement.

Up to now, self-care has been thought of as an individual activity. I think we're going to move toward a view that also takes into account the health-care-giving functions of nuclear and extended families, friendship networks, affinity groups, churches, mutual aid groups, libraries, groups of fellow-workers, and political groups. We're going to broaden our notion of the nonprofessional health-care resource.

Second, I think that legislators considering new state and federal health legislation will have to be very sensitive to its effect on our lay health resources. We don't want to professionalize these resources. We want to supplement and humanize professional health care by nurturing existing lay health-care strategies.

Finally, I think we're going to see the self-care movement taking on some broader social and political goals—improving the environment, improving our communities. I would hope that self-care could build on its strong base of individual action and seek to improve our individual and community health by social action as well.

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 About The Author
Tom Ferguson, M.D. (1943-2006), was a pioneering physician, author, and researcher who virtually led the movement to advocate informed self-care as the starting point for good health. Dr. Ferguson studied and wrote......moreTom Ferguson MD
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