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An Interview with Dr. Gerald Karnow

Dr. Gerald Karnow worked alongside Dr. Paul Scharff for over 30 years.

Now he helps carry the torch of Anthroposophic Medicine at the Fellowship Community.

How did you come to practice Anthroposophic Medicine at the Fellowship Community?

I visited the Fellowship for the first time in 1970, when I attended a big international youth conference in the area. It was then that I met Paul Scharff. When I did my training at Harlem Hospital in New York City, we met more frequently, especially since I visited my future wife Miriam Barkin, as she was helping out at the Fellowship Community while studying Eurythmy.

In 1975 Miriam and I were married. We were invited to move into the Fellowship Community and lived there until both of our trainings were finished. Miriam began her eurythmy therapy practice and I worked in various clinics and emergency rooms. It was around then that the medical office was prepared for two doctors. When I joined the practice, I was touched by Paul Scharff’s welcoming gesture of giving me the larger office and examining room, while he took the smaller one.

During that time, I had five different jobs. I didn’t just practice medicine, I was a Fellowship Co-worker. I worked in the gardens and in the fields, and on the maintenance team. I had to learn to be an all-around person.

What impact has the community had on Anthroposophic Medicine in the United States as a whole?

The Fellowship Community Associates, along with some other private practices, are the oldest Anthroposophic medical practices in the country. For that reason we had young doctors, medical students, interns, and residents spending time here to get exposed and learn about this integrative form of medicine.

Many of these young doctors then went on to do important things in medicine. Molly and Quentin McMullen have a clinic in Ann Arbor. My sister and brother-in-law, Andrea and Ross Rentea, and Mark Kamsler started a pharmaceutical venture called TRUE BOTANICA. Its mission is to contribute to a complete holistic health at all three levels of Body, Soul and Spirit.

Then there are people country wide, many of whom have touched in here and gone on to develop active Anthroposophic medical practices.

Is anything missing in this description of Anthroposophic Medicine? “Illness manifests itself differently in each patient and so you look at the physical, the psychological and the personal circumstance.”

Yes, the spiritual aspect! We relate to one another on the physical level, the organic level, the psychological level and the spiritual level. A person’s spiritual capacity makes a difference in their ability to deal with illness.

As I talk to a patient, I begin to understand how they are spending their life. Do they succumb to the trials and tribulations of life or do they find that these trials and tribulations may be steps towards greater health and self-mastery? I also look at what they are involved with personally, besides the physical challenges they are facing. I learn about their work life and leisure activities. One person takes up knitting. Another begins to study Steiner. Others work in the garden. You’ll find if you look around that the people who actually are the healthiest here, mentally and otherwise, are often people who have worked in the garden.

What is your vision for the future of the Anthroposophic medical practice here at the Fellowship Community?

My hope is that the remodeling we are doing of the medical center here will now allow us to offer a wider choice of therapies. We continue to use natural substances for healing, and there are many different modalities that we use to help heal someone. There is mistletoe treatment, eurythmy therapy, massage therapy, bath therapy, Anthroposophic nursing, embrocation, compresses, hydrotherapy along with music therapy, painting therapy, speech therapy and spacial dynamics.

Furthermore, my hope is that new spaces will be filled with people who want a different way of treating their medical problems, one that gives a more human answer to how we may become healthy. Our new offices will open the door to a multi-professional, integrative approach to prevention and therapy.

If you had a crystal ball – where do you think Anthroposophic Medicine is going here at the Fellowship Community?

It’s really hard to say. There are more young people now entering into the field and there are more training courses now for a variety of medical professionals.

The good news is that there are a lot of people who want to be treated in a more human way and in a way where you don’t have to use toxic substances all the time.

Many people are disillusioned by the progressive disenfranchisement of physicians. Physicians today are being relieved of their unique relationship to the patient because they are focused on an illness. Additionally, the whole electronihication of the therapeutic encounter kills the relationship between the doctor and the patient. Antrophosophic medicine strives to keep the doctor/patient relationship in tact.

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Thank You.


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