One Doctor’s Journey to Using and Teaching Mind-Body Medicine
An Interview with BHI Trainee, Juna Bobby, MD
BHI: What drew you to the field of mind-body medicine?
Bobby: As a radiologist, I spent all my time looking for disease inside people’s bodies, and a lot of what I saw was related to lifestyle behavior. For example, I was seeing more and more fatty liver, most commonly due to alcohol and obesity. Sadly, we’re seeing this more frequently, in younger people, even in children.
I was also a women’s imaging specialist. My patients were at high risk for cancer and they were understandably anxious so I spent most of my time counseling them on lifestyle prevention strategies of exercise, nutrition, and how to handle medical anxiety. Over time, I came to realize that my passion was empowering people with knowledge about how to stay well.
BHI: How did you first become connected with BHI?
Bobby: I was in a bit of a crisis 5 years ago when I lost one of my dearest friends to breast cancer and my mother to suicide within 6 months of each other. Fortunately, I stumbled upon an amazing physician, Dr. Morton Kramer, whose therapy was rooted in compassion.
I was feeling pretty lost in my personal and work life. Dr. Kramer encouraged me to explore new directions through taking courses on topics that inspired me. Specifically, he said “look at Harvard- they always have amazing courses.” I saw the BHI Harvard CME course online and it reminded me of my research in neuroscience and my first love, behavioral psychology. I’ve always had a “preventer” personality and it intensified when I became a parent so BHI’s focus on self care deeply resonated with me. I signed up immediately!
BHI: How has the work of mind-body medicine influenced your professional life?
Bobby: In medical school, you learn a lot about what’s wrong with people, but not much about how to build on what’s right, or the role of the mind in physical health. The basic science research at BHI made sense to my physician mind and motivated me to try mind-body skills in my own life. So I experienced first hand, how powerful it was. I learned and will continue to learn, how to train and strengthen my innate ability to create health, both physically and emotionally.
It was life changing and I couldn’t get enough of the trainings. I attended the four-day Science of Resiliency conference a few times, the intensive trainings with Peg Baim and Rana Chudnofsky, and the online course offerings. I will go back again, as the program always features dynamic new speakers and cutting edge research. I also love that martial arts is incorporated into some of the programs. I first learned to meditate through Kung Fu, what my teacher, Shifu Shi Yan Ming calls “action meditation”.
After finding BHI, I started attending every lifestyle, behavioral psychology, mindfulness, and complementary medicine conferences I could find.
Finally, two years ago, I decided to switch tracks completely. I started a company called MindBodySpace LLC. I taught anyone who was interested – law students, business students, parents, teens, musicians, and business professionals. This year, I’m excited to have taught a successful year-round wellness curriculum to students at New York University School of Medicine thanks to the support of their Student Affairs team Dr Buckvar-Keltz and Dr Hubbard. It’s been incredibly rewarding to work with these intelligent and altruistic students – really beautiful people working so hard under very stressful conditions.
BHI: In what ways does MBM help your clients?
Bobby: We used to believe that if you were born into a certain situation, or if you grew up a certain way, that was who you were- it was permanent. In a sense, you were stuck with what you were. What mind-body medicine and neuroscience is showing us is that we can actually change our behaviors, our relationships, our health, and our lives. We can really become the driver and that gives us hope to always get better. Ancient contemplative practices have known this for thousands of years, but the scientific validations are now making it accessible to everyone.
BHI: Where would you like to see the field go next?
Bobby: I think people are ready to absorb these ideas. If we could just integrate and infuse these ideas of valuing mind body medicine, including healthy relationships, clean eating, exercise, and sleep into our culture, and I believe this is happening, slowly but surely, we could have a massive impact on quality of life. In my workshops I have people experience and practice mind body exercises, so they can see that even a 2-minute meditation or a 2 min exercise burst can have an impact and that it can easily be infused into their daily lives. Participants also practice thought patterns that connect to our deepest core values to train the brain to serve us, rather than being at the mercy of impulsive emotions and habitual reactions. I am in the process of uploading web-based multimedia support for the participants to start their own culture at work or home.
I made up this acronym KHSS- Keep Health Super Simple to remind us that health shouldn’t be a separate to-do item. Instead, infuse it into our moments and thoughts by integrating it into the workplace and schools. This will culturally normalize healthy behaviors so we don’t think it’s weird to see a spontaneous group meditation or wall squats before we start a meeting or while waiting on a line.
BHI: What advice do you have to offer health care professionals who are considering training in mind-body medicine?
Bobby: Start with the live or online programs at BHI. The advantage here is that the program includes not only the science of meditation, but healthy eating, relationships, exercise, and sleep. Although it’s a lifelong practice, you’ll experience the powerful changes immediately and that will filter into your work and personal life. It’s the opposite of taking a pill or drinking alcohol to regulate mood; the effect is real but smaller at first, increases over time, and the side effects are all positive. Healthcare professionals tend to be high achievers and a lot of times we use toxic stress as a motivator to keep us going. But this is a recipe for burnout. To learn that you can use compassion and self-care as a sustainable approach to health care is extremely empowering.