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Contributors' Profiles

Writer

Dr. Patricia Lynn Dobkin

Between the ages 19 and 23, Patricia Lynn Dobkin had only a backpack and an enormous desire to encounter the world. She lived in the French Alps and ventured overland to India, discovering who she was and how to live life in the process.

Her experiences in Auroville, India (a spiritual community which attracted seekers from around the world) transformed and inspired her to undertake the practice of karma yoga. It was to become the foundation her work in medicine. One might say she had been imprinted: the sparkling eyes of village children, biking on hot dirt roads, living in a thatched-roof dwelling on stilts, learning the art of weaving – these were all experiences that remain deeply embedded in her psyche.

Most of all, those years evoked in her a deep sense of compassion. She cannot erase from her mind images of a shrivelled woman in rags who extended her tiny baby, begging her to take it; or the man without even a loincloth standing on a heap of dung.

Dealing with chronic illness

When Patricia returned to the West, she revived her studies and chose a profession with the intention to relieve suffering. After obtaining her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Georgia and working as a post-doctoral student at McGill University (1988-90), she was offered a post in McGill’s Department of Medicine. She initiated and studied interventions for medical patients and has published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles in professional journals and various book chapters.

Patricia is a certified teacher of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, an 8-week program designed to assist patients with chronic illness. She and her colleagues at McGill Programs in Whole Person Care (www.mcgill.ca/wholepesoncare) developed a similar program for health- care professionals. She published her first book in 2015 entitled, “Mindful Medical Practice: Clinical Narratives and Therapeutic Insights”. The book launch can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFV4onTlyg0

She is co-authoring with Dr. Craig Hassed from Monash University in Australia a book entitled, “Mindful Medical Practitioners: A Guide for Clinicians and Educators”, to be published by Springer Press in 2016.

While on sabbatical (2014) in Paris, Patricia taught at L’Hôpital Pitié Salpêtrière, a 402-year-old hospital that began as a holding pen for prostitutes, orphans, mentally deranged and abandoned elderly people. In its famous halls, Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot, a 19th century neurologist, once employed mesmerism to treat swooning women. The history of the hospital did not escape Patricia – the spirits of those unfortunate souls reminded her of the poor people she had encountered in India.

A middle-aged woman suffering from arthritis, insomnia and fatigue is referred by her rheumatologist to a clinical psychologist conversant with chronic illness. The patient’s story is similar to others the psychologist has heard about doctors well trained to treat acute pain who are at a loss when dealing with chronic pain. The woman, who also suffers from diabetes, confides that her family doctor pooh-poohed a new perplexing symptom she reported to him. This is the story of one psychologist’s emotional, bonding journey alongside her patient, leading her to conclude that “I am my sister’s keeper.”

[Chronic pain seen through a doctor’s eyes: See November 20, 2015 Notes From The Editor.]
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