MY JOURNEY BECOMING A PHYSICIAN AND HEALER
I had an unusual calling toward healing and helping people most of my life. Like many of us, I was connected to nature as a child. I climbed trees and easily made friends with the plants and animals despite living in the concrete suburbs of Detroit. My grandmother showed me how to fall in love with a flower and how God’s love heals.
In the beginning…
I first began learning about imagery and healing as a senior in high school when my best friend’s mom was dying of pancreatic cancer. Then, in college, I began studying imagery and holistic healing with Dr. Bernie Siegel and Dr. O. Carl Simonton. I continued exploring the role of cultural beliefs in healing while studying anthropology at Northwestern University. It soon became clear that rather than writing a PhD dissertation on indigenous healing systems or digging up ancestors’ bones, my calling was to serve living people as a physician.
I graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School In 1990. Prior to residency training, I spent a year in Nigeria, West Africa as an international health fellow and was involved in a variety of community-oriented primary care programs. It was quite an experience but there was not doubt that we weren’t “saving” Africa. I was saving myself from the illusion and grandiosity of becoming an expert in helping others or that paternalistic organizations can really make a difference. I was gifted with a deeper experience of the relevance of human friendships and how essential community is for sustaining life. I also met the Sun, the Earth, the Moon and Water in a new way.
I went on to specialize in family medicine at the University of New Mexico Residency Program. During my residency I had the opportunity to spend time in India and Nepal helping coordinate acute medical care in rural settings along with receiving Buddhist teachings.
The Blossoming of Family…
In 1992, during the first year of my residency training I became unexpectedly pregnant. Pregnancy was a life changing experience. After being confronted with the fear from being accidently stuck with the needle of a patient with HIV early on in my pregnancy,
I courageously took a leave of absence from the rigors of residency training so I could dedicate myself to being as healthy as possible during pregnancy and open more fully to the transformation of becoming a mother. I learned all I could about pregnancy, parenting, healing and nature; connecting with and yielding to the great mystery guiding all these aspects of life.
Deepening Connection with Nature and Community…
After the birth of our amazing son, Wilkin, in our home in New Mexico, we moved to Bethel, Alaska where we worked with and served the Native Yupik people for 2 years. There I learned first hand about the rigors of nature, the role of nutrition, the preciousness of tradition, the necessity of family and community for our health and well being. I deepened in the discovery of parenthood with the guidance of native elders and also taught primary care to Yupik and Athabascan village health care workers. During this time we were blessed with the birth of our second, Devin in our home in Alaska
In 1994, After the birth of our 2nd son at home in the bush in Alaska we moved back to New Mexico to be closer to family. There we created and ran a holistic medicine clinic in rural New Mexico. I feel in love with the desert plants and began an apprenticeship as a clinical herbalist with Tieroana Lowdog. Suddenly, I was able to marry my joy in helping people with my love of making medicine from the earth. Nonetheless, I had a hidden hunch that people could benefit from more than the bodies of plants. I knew that friendship and connection with the unseen but felt part of nature was important.
Finding Home in Western North Carolina…
I let that notion germinate for a bit. In 1996, we were guided to move to Asheville, North Carolina so that I could complete my residency training at the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) where I focused on midwifery, infant care and family systems counseling. The transformative pregnancy and birth experiences with both our sons compelled me to complete my training in family medicine so that I could more effectively serve and guide families through this mysterious and potent stage of life. This I have done in the Asheville area for nearly 20 years.
In September, 1999, calling upon our training and life experience, my husband, Patrick Hanaway and I opened Family and Family as a place for men, women and children to receive integrative functional medicine and holistic care for all stages of life. It has been a place where possibilities and choices exist.
Stepping into the Mystery …
My journey becoming a holistic physician continued to stretch me and invite the question; what is possible? what is needed for healing? Luckily, I stumbled into studying plant spirit medicine with Eliot Cowan in 1998. When I heard Eliot speak on the first day of class about sacrifice, friendship, care and mystery I knew she was in the right place. It was this perspective that inspired me to go to medical school in the first place. I completed my training as a plant spirit medicine healer in 1999 and continue to participate in advanced training and clinical supervision. I was inducted into the Plant Spirit Medicine Seminary as a lay spiritual healer and have had an active healing practice for over fifteen years.
In 2000, I was further called to begin a long and rigorous shamanic apprenticeship in the Huichol lineage under the guidance of Tsaurririkame (elder shaman) , Eliot Cowan. In 2014, I became initiated as a Mara’akame (traditional medicine person or shaman) in the Huichol Tradition in a ritual led by Attending shaman, Don Jose Sandoval at La Laguna in Santa Maria Del Oro, Nayarit, Mexico. This means that I have assumed the responsibilities of a tradition holder of this lineage for the benefit of helping others.
In September 2015, I was inducted into the Sacred Fire Healing Ministry and authorized by the Temple of Sacred Fire Healing to work as a Mara’akame. My learning continues with the guidance of Tsaurririkame, Don David Wiley. As a traditional healer, I continue to offer plant spirit medicine as foundational healing. Additionally I offer spiritual counsel, traditional shamanic healing as needed and help guide various rituals and ceremonies.
While trained through a variety of Universities, programs and lineages, my education truly comes from deeply listening to people and to the Divine living world.
I am so grateful to my teachers and to the native people and lands of Nepal, India, Nigeria, Alaska, New Mexico, an d Western North Carolina and especially the Huichol people in the Sierras of Central Mexico.
This life is about joyful service to people in need of healing, to the traditions that help bring balance to the world and to community. My work is my play and when I’m not at the office or traveling, you can find me sitting around a fire, talking to plants and animals, singing with the sun, walking to the river or goofing around with my husband, Patrick, and our sons, Wilkin and Devin. This also brings me great joy in life.
In Peace and Health,