S A N F R A N C I S C O, Dec. 5 -- As Dr. Michael Samuels examined a patient, he used healing tools of feathers, rose petals and animal statues called totems instead of instruments.
He’s the modern version of an ancient Native American medicine man.
Samuels is a modern-day shaman, a traditionally trained immuno-geneticist who worked on a Hopi-Navaho Indian reservation in the 1960s.
“The shaman is the part of the physician that uses mystical and intuitive tools to heal,” Samuels told Good Morning America. “What you know is a good doctor has moments where they look into your eyes, where you can feel the interconnection with you — a merger — their heart opening. When that’s missing there’s a coldness that the patient feels and the healing is incomplete.”
Samuels’ nature-inspired approach has drawn interest, not only from patients, but from traditional healing centers thirsty for new information.
He collaborates with researchers at the University of Florida, and works with patients at Marin General Hospital outside of San Francisco, often taking them outdoors as part of the healing process. Much of the interest in alternative therapy is driven by patients, experts say.
Referrals and a Healthy Skepticism
“I will more times than not have someone say ‘can you refer me to a female doctor who will incorporate alternative treatments into health care?’” said Good Morning America’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman, a surgeon oncologist. And this, she says, is a good thing.
In 1983, when Snyderman first began practicing, alternative medicine was practically non-existent. Over the years, she has maintained a “healthy skepticism,” but has come to see the value of such treatments as Echinacea for colds, therapeutic massage and acupuncture and she has made referrals for alternative practitioners.Not all doctors feel quite so comfortable doing so, and Snyderman understands why.
“My colleagues are very hesitant, but they are coming along,” she said. “It is imperative that we hold up alternative medicine to the same rigorous standards as everything else. The scientific community is asking for proof that these practices work, and they should be.”