James Gordon has long been recognized as one of alternative medicine's foremost spokespersons. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, Dr. Gordon worked for ten years at the National Institute of Mental Health, where he developed the first alternative program for runaway teenagers. Now Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Community and Family Medicine at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, he also serves as Chairman of the Advisory Council to the National Institutes of Health Office of Alternative Medicine, and is Director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D.C.
Over the past 15 years, Gordon has developed the first comprehensive medical school program in mind-body medicine, conducted a private practice in which he utilizes a wide range of approaches including acupuncture, homeopathy, spinal manipulation, nutrition, and various forms of mind-body medicine, and appeared countless times in virtually all major media (CNN, Newsweek,Washington Post and New York Times among them) as an articulate and knowledgeable representative of the alternative medicine community.
Dr. Gordon?s new book, Manifesto for a New Medicine: Your Guide to Healing Partnerships and the Wise Use of Alternative Therapies (Addison-Wesley) is a dramatically written, highly informative, and at times deeply moving story of his work as a holistic physician and teacher. Perhaps more than any other book, it demonstrates what a truly holistic medicine looks like, and how it can be made available to those who have not yet experienced its benefits.
In this interview with Dr. Daniel Redwood (whose first Pathways interview was with James Gordon ten years ago), Gordon speaks of the dramatic advances in public acceptance of alternative medicine in the past decade, discusses how he first became involved with alternatives, and offers inspiring stories of healing from his practice. He also describes outreach programs in which natural healing approaches have been brought into the D.C. public schools.
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James Gordon Interview
Daniel Redwood: What is different now than it was ten or twenty years ago when you are interviewed about alternative medicine?
James Gordon: Twenty years ago, or ten, or in some instances even five years ago, people acted as if I were an anthropologist bringing news back from some strange tribe about their customs. Now when people talk to me, the questions are: How do I use this in my daily life? How do I integrate it? What do I do about my conventional doctor? It?s as if I?d gone from being an anthropologist to being a friendly family doctor and adviser.
DR: Alternative medicine has penetrated much more deeply into the culture during this time.
JG: It?s very much a part of the culture. First of all, people are much more sophisticated about it. It?s not, "How can you possibly think of using herbs?" On the skeptical side, it?s "Are you sure the herbs are safe?" and on the more informed side, "Exactly which herb do you think would work better?" and "Why do you use Chinese herbs rather than western herbs?" So it?s a whole other level of sophistication. People understand that this is being used and they want to learn how to use these approaches most intelligently.
I think the issue that?s still there with many people, and this is partly why I wrote the book, is people thinking, "Well, this stuff sounds great, but is there any evidence for it all?" I was being interviewed the other day by a very intelligent college professor, who said, "Well, of course, there?s no evidence for any of this." I said, "Wait a minute, there are hundreds and hundreds of studies on many of the modalities, and many of those studies are very good." Part of what I?m trying to do is to make that evidence available in a way that people can read it, understand it, and put it in context with stories about people very much like themselves who got better.