MBM Student Leads Medical Students in Shamanic Quest, and Makes Presentation about the Experience to Society of Scientific Exploration Meeting: Shawn Tassone, MD

WISE%20Logo - MBM Student Leads Medical Students in Shamanic Quest, and Makes Presentation about the Experience to Society of Scientific Exploration Meeting: Shawn Tassone, MD
World Institute of Scientific Exploration


Attending professional conferences is a great way to learn new information, strengthen skills in a chosen area, and network with other like-minded individuals.  Presenting original work is an entirely different experience.  Saybrook students are part of a pioneering movement to bring a humanistic experience to health care.  Therefore, presenting their research-based scientific ideas to colleagues is sure to become part of their path in chosen areas of interest.

Shawn Tassone, MD, has presented countless talks to fellow physicians and like-minded professionals.  However, facing a presentation to a group of peers on the topic of consciousness elicits some nervousness.  Shawn will be presenting one of his papers, titled “The Shaman and The Doctor:  Breaking Open the Head,” in June, 2012 at the 31st Annual Society of Scientific Exploration Meeting, in Boulder, Colorado. For more information about the conference follow this link. http://www.scientificexploration.org/meetings

The inspiration for the paper began with a course that Shawn taught for the University of Arizona Medical School Department of Integrative Medicine.  Shawn decided to do something out of the ordinary for his group of medical students.  He took three groups of 10-12 students to Sedona, Arizona for 2 nights and 3 days and introduced them to indigenous shamanic practices in the Huichol tradition.  The trip began with a physically rigorous day of hiking and meditation at an ancient Hopi Indian site.  The site is located in a remote part of Sedona, and, despite the well-preserved hieroglyphics that surround the site, it doesn’t see much tourist traffic. It is a secluded, spiritual place to meditate.  Part of the journey to the meditation site included learning how to trust in one’s senses, which meant that the group walked with their eyes closed for several miles.  The culmination of the trip was an 8-hour Huichol fire ceremony.  Fire ceremonies are part of the Huichol Peyote gathering experience and are a very sacred process.  The fire and the group are representative of the stages of life, and people are encouraged to divulge their secrets to the fire.  Once the messages are given over to the fire, it is thought that the person is freed from past issues and they are consumed by the fire.  Those surrounding the circle are a part of the fire and everything stated is sacred.  This ceremony lasts for 4-6 hours.

When Shawn returned home he decided to write about the experience.  Using grounded theory qualitative research methods, Shawn put together his paper.  The students who participated shared many comments; one of the most insightful comments from the students was that they learned that there is a place for intuition in medicine.  Traditional medical school training is dense with science and an objective study of the body; more esoteric topics such as intuition are rarely or never discussed.  Through this experience the students learned a new way to diagnose and understand their patients.  They learned to listen with all of their senses to get a glimpse of the different factors that play a role in illness, and in getting well.

The theme for this year’s Society of Scientific Exploration conference is Bonfire of the Paradigms.  One of the paradigms placed in the conference fire is that of healthcare.  Shawn proposed his talk to the committee and was sponsored by Larry Dossey, MD. 

As the Society of Scientific Exploration has expanded, it has decided to branch out and create the World Institute of Scientific Exploration (WISE).   The primary mission of the WISE is to conduct, lead, and promote groundbreaking research and investigations worldwide in the biomedical, natural sciences, and social sciences fields, by investigating scientific anomalies, complementary, alternative, and integrative medicine therapies, alternative scientific hypotheses and speculations, and legends in science, technology, history, and other fields. 

Last week Shawn was invited to be faculty of WISE and to act as the Director of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Research Center in the Health and Medicine Division.  This is a tremendous honor for Shawn.  It will certainly also be an opportunity to bring research and grants to students at Saybrook, and will help other Saybrook students bring their research to publication.  For more information on WISE, visit the organization website at:  http://instituteforscientificexploration.org


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