Karen Lawson, MD

Illness is more than a diagnosis, it’s an opportunity for healing


We often fear the unknown, especially when dealing with our ailments. Dr Karen Lawson comforts us explaining that this can often be a blessing in disguise.

The Interview

I, like many people, have been very blessed. I’ve had just the right people show up at just the right time.

The first big mentor for me after I finished my training, is really the first person I look back to, was a physician Rudolph Valentine. People flew in from all over the world to see him. And often they were people who had been everywhere, they had tried everything. So they had done all of the changes, the low hanging fruit, they were really looking desperately for something to address whatever their health issue was. And he would not only greet them with this great generosity and curiosity, and really hear the stories, which was really an important thing for me to see, but he would compliment people, or he’d congratulate them on having this illness or this diagnosis that they had. And basically say what a gift for your soul to be willing to come in here and do this work of healing this piece for all of us, and how courageous you are.

That really shifted me into start thinking about how do we approach illness, trauma, as a teacher, as a guide, as an opportunity for growth and healing rather than just something bad that happens to us. And often people were very frustrated sometimes, because people would be telling them whatever you’re experiencing isn’t real because it doesn’t show on the lab test or we don’t have an x-ray that shows it yet. And so they were struggling because, well I want a diagnosis. I don’t have a diagnosis. And again he would congratulate them that it was a great thing for not having a diagnosis yet, because the disruption in their system hadn’t become concretized and solidified enough to be manifesting as an abnormality on their x-ray, or an abnormality on the labs. But, he very much validated the experience they were having, and was like this is a great time to catch the illness and help work with it, shift it.

That was something that was just beyond anything I had ever considered in medical school or residency training. And as I work with residents and students and other people to really introduce that idea to them, that illness isn’t always terrible, and it may be an opportunity, and it may be an opening, and I’ve had patients teach me that over the years since that time too. So, I’m really grateful for that.

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