Torn Kuzma recently dropped out of U-M Medical School in the middle of his second year. He had hoped to become a fuller human being as a doctor, but found instead that he was becoming less of one. His insights int o doctors, medical school and Western health care prac tices offer a unique and seldomheard point of view. This interview was conducted by the Free People's Clinic. FPC: Why did you originally go to medical school? Why did you drop out? Tom: I feit that the MD degree could be a powerful tooi to aid people in times of serious life problems, and that it would give me the credibility to begin to criticize present social structure and be taken seriously. Unfortunately, once I got into the process, I realized that what had motivated me was a sort of romanticism, a love of the idea of being a MD, but at the same time I began to feel personal dissonance caused by the process of being filtered, indoctrinated and resocialized into the roles that the institution had designed for us. FPC: How does t feel to be in medical school? Tom: Rotten. Medical school is destructive of the individual, as evidenced by the high degree of anxiety in the students. It's a lot like a fraternity: first they greet you with the oíd "Welcome, collegues, you're one of us now." Then there's heil week. In a frat, heil week often consists of some herculean physical labor andor abuse; in medical school it's a mental flogging and it goes on for four years. They overwhelm you with more information than you can possibly assimilate. It's uncoordinated and mindless. Medical school obscures the forest for the trees. Instead of looklooking at the whole human being and the environment it exists within, and their mutual interactions, they focus in on the smallest of details. Now, this is fine and necessary on an abstract level of organizing facts, but they never get back to understanding and relating to the whole person. FPC: What does this say about how doctors trained in this manner treat patients? Tom: It comes down to being a tender violence, a manipulation. Doctors try to establish a warm relationship with the patiënt, one of trust, but it's usually phony, the kind of trust relationship you might have with a salesman. Doctors aren't open with patients but withold information. They have a professional language that they use freely among themselves. They talk over the patient's head and don't explain things. I've found most doctors to be essentially mistrustful of patients. I say this because, again, like in the academie world-and I'm speaking from my experiences at U-M Medical Center-the doctors are not primarily interested in understanding a body of knowledge and applying it to anybody's welfare, but in maintaining and furthering their own own position in that system. The patiënt becomes a pawn in the doctors' elabórate hierarchy game: I'm above this one, but below that one. The notion of hierarchy is fundamental to the medical school. They see the world as up and down, never across. It's not the kind of situation where there's room for trust, because real trust is between equals. It's a reflection of this culture that puts the individual in opposition to the rest of the cosmos. You're constantly competing with everyone else: all the people who might beat you out for that scarce spot in medical school, score ■better on a test, or push you out of that precious internship, And the attairiment of these goals is seen as conquest: conquest over Nature, poverty, racial and sexual conquest; conquest over disease. What it comes down to is that the patiënt perceives that the doctor is relating to himher as a thing, rather than as . a human being. The doctor has been taught to analyze and I understand the mechanics of the body, while his training has burnt him out emotionally. The plane on which a 1 tor is taught to perceive the body is a mechanical plane. I The person inside the body is invisible. FPC: How about the person inside the medical student? Torn: Well, medical students want the MD degree, but no one enjoys the processing you have to endure to get it. From what I've seen in others, and what I've feit in j self, medical school is really a lack-love situation. There's a feeling of being inadequate to the task set before you. And when you want to take time out, to be human, to recharge your batteries, you feel guilty for taking a moment from the pursuit of the task which they keep telling 1 you is so vital. It's a mind-fuck. You feel that if you don't learn everything, someone could actually die. You begin to hate it. Part of you wants to do it, but part of you is freaking outj In the second year, tempers get shorter. The effect of this approach-avoidance reaction to medical school is a tremendous sense of alienation and futility. The medical school work load is overwhelming. You have to put so much time into trying to keep up with the work there's no time to ask:what's it all about? What are j its underlying values? Where is it coming from? Are there ] any other, equally valid approaches? There's no time for j that. You're on an assembly line that's processing you into' anMD,and specifically, a specialized doctor in the context of the present medical care system. This processing refuses to deal with acupuncture, herb medicines, psychic healing, real nutrition, and chiropractic. In the end, it refuses to deal with the problems of human beings. The pain and alienation from the process of being in medical school leads to all sorts of attempts to compénsate for it on the outside through various kinds of escapism: romantic love (though the divorce rate among medical students is higher than that for the general population) spectator sports, acquisition of more and more material possessions, drugs, alcohol, etc.-all sorts of things which are an attempt to gain the fulfillment that is denied you in school. Within my own class, I've heard that 1 0% of my classmates are on valium. A large number of first and second year students seek psychiatrie counseling because of the pressure they feel. So they go to the shrink, who's been through it all himself, and he runs this beautiful trip of "Well, that's the way things are, and you've got to adjust to it. Everyone's got to endure pain, and it's only right that you should, too." But, this ignores the question of why so many people feel this pain to begin with. No one ever asks questions about the merit or lack of merit of a system that does this to people. FPC: What would you say is the state of Western medicine? Torn: You can't discuss Western medicine out of the context of Western society because they work hand-in-glove. Western medicine does not take the initiative in seeking to maintain the health of the people, but hangs around waiting to "conquer" disease as Western society generates it. It's passive aggressive! You come in with a bacterial tion, you get an antibiotic, and you're sent right back out the door, in much the same manner that psychiatrists turned shell-shocked soldiers back to the front in WWI & II. Meanwhile the underlying causes are never dealt with: the dietetic imbalances, the psychic imbalances, economie considerations. All these things are environmental. but they're never treated, or even acknowledged. It's nothing more than patchwork. FPC: What's its historica! development? Torn: In the 19th century the major killers were the viral and. bacterial epidemie diseases: smallpox, influenza, diptheria, cholera, tuberculosis, mastoiditis, pneumonía, and the like. Antibiotics, vaccination, and public health measures have suppressed-such killer diseases of old at the expense of sensitizing the populace to antibiotics and the creation of resistant and more virulent bacterial disease. Today the major killers are more the direct producís of fast living and its stress; heart disease, stroke, cáncer, hypertension and so on. These illnesses are ferent from those of the last century. They are caused by our entire conception of lifestyle. Running after more material possessions and higher status doesn't bring you any closer to happiness, only closer to heart disease. FPC: What's the effect of the food industry on diet? Torn: Terrible. The quality of food hasdecreased over the past decades in proportion to the control of agricultural production by huge industries that see food as an economie product rather than a life-sustaining substance. Rats fed on "enriched" white bread and water die of tion within a couple of weeks. Our food is devitalized, subtly and not-so-subtly poisoned, filled with carcinogenic chemicals such as coal-tar derived Red 2, the red dye in maraschino cherries and lip sticks. When I was in medical school for example, we were told of two separate cases where men came into the hospital because their breasts were enlarging. Upon taking careful histories, it was found that they both liked to eat chicken, especially the neck. Well, the way chickens are raised nowadays, in order to boost production and profits, the breeders insert female hormone pills into the necks of the chickens. They're supposed to diffuse throughout the bird, but they don't. Chicken necks contain significant residues of these hormones. So eating chicken necks for these two men was like taking female hormone shots, and their breasts began to develop. Or take salicylates which are akin to aspirin. Now a lot of people are sensitive to aspirin; it upsets their stomach. That's because salicylates provoke an allergie reaction in them. Yet nowadays manufactured foods contain large amounts of salicylates as emulsifiers and coloring agents, especially in convenience and snack foods. Children eat a lot of these mostly chemical non-foods. They're junk! These days there are many more "hyperkinetics" and children with so-called "behavior disorders" than there were just a few decades ago. The only answer the medical establishment can come up with is to put them on drugs like Ritalin (an amphetamine); yet open-minded doctors who place their young patients on a chemical-free diet have had great success in treating them by this means alone In other words, you are what you eat. But medical school just doe'sn't deal with these things. All the nutritional instruction I got in medical school was one week tacked on at the end of a course on biochemistry. It was a laugh. For one thing, to survive in medical school requires expediency. You live your life from test to test; study only what's on the test, take it, get it over with, then study for the next one. So they gave us this nutrition course the last week of school when you can't pay attention because you have to bust ass for the final, but that's OK because it doesn't cover nutrition anyway. This one lamentable week of so-called nutrition was filled with biochemical mumbo-jumbo but based mainly on the calorie value of foods, that is, the heat energy in. herent in them. But this is a very simplistic. mechanical analysis because living systems are much more complex than that. For example, when you eat white sugar, which is virtually without food value, it costs you energy to digest it. Sugar depletes B vitamins. But they don't teil you that. All they say is: so many calories per teaspoon, which is crap. Doctors are taught that a tomato is a tomato - that all tomatoes are essentially the same. There's no discussion of the important differences produced by acid or base soil, whether it was treated with chemical fertilizers or organically mulched; sprayed, dyed, etc, which makes one heil of a difference in the trophic value of the food. Trophic value is the actual value to the organism of eating the food. It's a more real measure of a food's value, whereas calorie counts are abstractions, the heat released when the food is burned. Calorie counts teil you nothing about the real effect of the food on the health of the organism. And it's not really that surprising when you look at the U-M Medical Center as a whole. If you go into the hospital cafetería, you see they use produced meat, white flour, white sugar, and they fry up eggs that have been produced by chickens pumped with dyes and amphetamines. It's testimony to the amazing power of the body to heal itself that people can get well on that fare. In the student lounge in the medical school, there's a big candy bar machine. One of the candy bars says: "Gives ,you a lift." I had to laugh at that one! It's the old sugarjunkie trip. You feel low energy because you haven't been eating right, so you eat the candy bar and take this sugar rush into your system. And it does lift you up. It increases your blood sugar so you feel energized for a brief moment, but having all this sugar in your blood triggers your pancreas, which floods you with insulin. All that sugar is taken from the blood, driven into the cells and stored as fat. The blood sugar level is now lower than it was to begin with. So you need something to piek you up again. What do you do? Reach for another candy bar. It's the same with caffeine or nicotine. They all hook you with an upand-down trip. I couldn't begin to teil you the number of medical dents who survive on cigarettes, candy, and caffeine. I wouldn't trust anyone who ate that kind of diet to teil me how to care for my body. FPC: Would you talk about physician-induced illness? Torn: Well, in medical school we were taught about doetor-caused disease very carefully, in a circumstantial man■ ner, but not about its alarming extent.That was revealed by a sociologist, Martin L. Gross, who wrote a book called The Doctors. In it he cited a survey of doctor-caused illnesses and deaths made by the chief resident of Yale New Haven Hospital and published in the Annah of Interna! Medicine. In his book Gross concludes: "It might be conservative to estímate the deaths from doctor-caused diseases in the magnitude of 200,000 per year." Wliat this means is that physicians and modern medicine have become one of the leading killers- right up there with cáncer and heart disease. FPC: How do doctors kill patients? What is physician-induced illness? Torn: Doctor-induced illness is caused to some extent by medical mistakes, but mostly, in my opinión, by the present course of theory and practice of therapeutics, since Western medicine is based on a kind of bludgeoning attitude toward the body. Doctors don't seek to work with the body, but instead of it. They either cut out of a part of the body surgically or try to alter the body with drugs. The side effects of drugs are enormous. Drugs are not specific to the task, and do all sort of things to the body we don't even know about. Antibiotics. for example, kill not only disease bacteria, but other bacteria inside the body that are essential for harmony and well-being, like those that aid in absorptionof nutrients, and protect us from invading disease organisms. Antibiotics also cause the possibility of super-infections from resistant strains of bacteria. These resistant bacteria are more virulent and attack the body causing greater harm, and understandably, they hang out in the hospitals where they have evolved due to the chronic presence of antibiotics. Then super antibiotics have to be developed to fight the resistant bacteria, which in turn cause worse side effects and lead to even tougher germs. Nowadays, for example. between 5-10% of the adult population is allergie to penicillin. If they take it, they get an allergie reaction and can die. And yet antibiotics have only been available since the late 1940's. When they were first introduced, no one was allergie. It's all happened in just one generation. FPC: So where's it all headed? Torn: Western civilization produces a life-style which guarantees a large amount of disease. You can think of it as a leaking boat with holes that are growing larger. The doctors in the boat look down and see the water coming in and think: "We'd better bail!" Then, as more water rushes in, they cry: "Bail faster!" Never thinking that first they need to plug the leaks. It's a mindless escalation that increases profit but doesn't address the cause of disease. Ultimately it's self destructive. And that destruction is accelerating.