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Don’t Settle For Being Well

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Don’t Settle For Being Well

When I was learning to be a doctor, the focus was on making the sick well, but there was a huge piece missing from what they taught me in my medical education. Nobody ever taught me that, as doctors, it’s our job to help people become, not just well, but whole.

After all, our job is to help people heal – and “to heal” means “to become whole.” But what does that mean? Here’s what it means to me.

Sick Vs. Well

In medical school, I was taught that there are two kinds of people – sick people and well people. “Sick” people have abnormal laboratory and radiologic tests and are considered “diseased” or “ill.” They wind up taking medications, and if we manage to keep them from landing flat on their backs in hospitals – or even worse, dying – we breathe a sigh of relief. If we go a step further and help them make lifestyle modifications that benefit the body from the physical root, then we pat ourselves on our backs and consider our jobs well done.

“Well” people, on the other hand, have normal laboratory and radiologic studies, and are generally free of disease. Or if they have diseases, we’ve controlled them with medication, dietary changes, exercise, weight loss, or whatever is working to keep them “well.”

We aim to prevent well people from becoming sick people, and fortunately, greater awareness of preventative health has helped make that goal a reality.

Public health education about such wellness-inducing behaviors as good nutrition, regular exercise, smoking cessation, weight control, vaccination, and cancer screening tests have contributed to the wellness of the general population.

Or have they?

Then Why Are We Still So Sick?

Why is it that medical technology is advancing at a rapid-fire pace, and yet disorders such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic back pain, and ulcers plague us?  Why are we obese, hypertensive, diabetic, and hypothyroid? Why are we keeling over – often at a young age – from heart attacks, strokes, and cancers? Why are so many of us doped up on drugs for anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder?

I’m talking about the ones who are under a doctor’s care, the ones who have been diagnosed with an illness or two, the ones who pop pills every morning.

Well Vs. Vital

But there are others. We may not be sick. We are mostly well. Our blood tests come back normal. Our vital signs are stable. We get the clean bill of health from our physical. And yet, something is still missing.

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Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.  She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.  Lissa blogs at and also created two online communities - and She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.


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10:15AM PST on Dec 10, 2011

yes, interesting

8:02PM PST on Nov 23, 2011

thats really interesting

10:56AM PDT on Sep 19, 2011

How sad. I do't feel that way, but I have in the past. Now I do work that reflects who I am, I have many friends, some love interests, a wonderful grownup daughter, enjoy regular exercise (including biking, playing soccer, weight lifting, dancing, hiking, and canoeing), cook good meals using good foods, almost no TV, and I love my life.

8:20AM PDT on Sep 19, 2011

Thank you for this great article...

7:56AM PDT on Sep 18, 2011

We need a healthy mind in a healthy body guided by a healthy spirit. If either of the trinity is awry, all will suffer.

7:54AM PDT on Sep 18, 2011

thank you

7:53AM PDT on Sep 18, 2011

Doctors don't make money from well people.

Some go ahead and forego the fabulous vacations and houses and CEO status and help people stay well, anyhow.

Life lasts a few years. The older you get, the faster they fly.

When life is over, how will the one who chose the expensive houses and vacations and companies will fare?

How do you think the doctors who did not go for the houses and vacations and companies will fare?

Where, your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

3:51AM PDT on Sep 18, 2011

I eat pretty well, do at least a little exercise (not a lot), don't drink much, don't smoke etc... I still feel tired.

3:34AM PDT on Sep 18, 2011


9:16PM PDT on Sep 17, 2011

I can really relate to this. I'm looking forward to the next post.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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