My philosophy of practice started out as a personal belief that health came from an integrated balance of the mind and body that allowed the natural forces of maintenance of the body and healing.
At age 14 years old I was struck by a runaway stolen car. I was walking on the sidewalk; I should have been in a safe place. I didn’t see the car before or after the incident, it crashed over a parking meter hit me and crashed into two houses. I only heard the sounds of the roaring engine and impacts. I was hit and thrown into the air. As I was flying through the air I heard a voice in my head. This voice or thought clearly has stuck with me and remains as both a core principal and mystery in my life. It said: “This is not an accident; this is to teach you – pay attention.”
This event seemed very precise. If I was one step slower, it would have missed me and been a close call, if one step faster, I would have been killed. As it was I knocked up in the air and away from the charging car. The impact fractured my femur, the thigh bone and I was put in traction, strapped to a bed in the hospital for the next ten weeks. It would be unimaginable for me to sit still for that long. Jonny Unitas came to the hospital and visited me and when you are a kid on Baltimore in those days you knew who god was and he had a crew cut and word high top football shoes, so a visit from god helped.
I felt that there was something I could learn from this, so I listened to that voice and paid careful attention the best I could. Instead of trying not to feel the things that were going on inside of me I tried the best I could to feel everything. I paid close attention to both the sensations and my reactions to them.
I experienced that there were times when I would react to the sensations and emotions and that would lead to more pain and suffering and there were times when I would just “be present” non reactively and would be more at ease and not be suffering even though there was intense sensation going on inside of me.
I observed that after I was recovering there were triggers that would easily set me off. One of the biggest was the sound of a car engine. I would be crossing the street with friends and hear a car engine and I would run back to the sidewalk without any control. I was embarrassed to see my friends on the other side of the street.
I could feel that part of my brain had the job of protecting me sending out a alarm and sending adrenaline to get me to flight from the potential harm. After uncontrollably jolting back to the sidewalk and regaining got control, I would speak to that part of me with kindness and say “thank you for trying to protect me and as you can see I am safe and not being injured at this moment”. I saw how the mind works after trauma and with pain.
I also saw that my physician came by late at night and did surgery early in the morning and made the decision that I wanted to be in medicine but not as a physician. I went into dentistry but felt that I would be able to use the experience of working with pain trauma in some way.
Almost immediately after my completion of my residence at the Palo Alto Veterans Hospital in 1976 I went to a course in TMJ and emerging field and knew this is the field I was looking for. There were many approaches to the treatment of TMJ at that time and only a hand full of doctors specializing their practices in this field of care. I knew I wanted to integrate the approach of restoring health and function in as natural a way as possible and use a mind/body approach. This did not exist at that time.
Over the years this approach to care has emerged and now it is established in such great institutions as Harvard, Columbia, and Stanford University where I am now a staff physician and on staff of the Stanford Center for Integrative Medicine.
Mind/ Body medicine has become part of the standard for the finest care possible in an age of technological medicine.
Over years I studied acupuncture, homeopathy, cranial osteopathic manipulation and mindfulness meditation as well as keeping abreast of the latest research in medicine and TMJ and pain management. I have always felt that the best way to care for my patients is to bring to them methods for restoring them to health and relieving their suffering in ways that would help them become more whole in their lives.
Today, over 30 years after beginning this journey into healthcare, I direct Stanford’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Clinic, Founded Stanford’s TMJ Craniofacial Pain Clinic and have brought a integrative medicine approach to my private practice in TMJ Orofacial Pain management and Dental Sleep Medicine.