ISHI Goes Back to Medical School

Below you will find an important announcement from Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, Director of the Institute for the Study of Health and Illness at Commonweal. We celebrate ISHI’s new partnership with Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio. The Medical School has made a wonderful commitment to creating an endowment so that ISHI’s work can continue for many years to come.

Rachel speaks for herself and for ISHI below. All I will add is my heartfelt gratitude that we have been able to support Rachel’s work at ISHI for the past 25 years. Rachel is a genius and a national treasure. Our partnership has been a gift to all of us at Commonweal. We are delighted that Rachel will continue to be active at Commonweal as Medical Director of the Commonweal Cancer Help Program—a position she has held for 30 years—and as a senior faculty member for The New School at Commonweal and Healing Circles.

With gratitude to all who have supported and benefited from Rachel’s great work through ISHI,

Michael Lerner

ISHI Goes Back to Medical School
by Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, Director, ISHI

Since the Institute for the Study of Health and Illness (ISHI) began at Commonweal 25 years ago, almost 16,000 medical students have completed The Healer’s Art course. Thousands of doctors and other health professionals have renewed and revitalized their calling and commitment to the core values of their work in Finding Meaning in Medicine groups and the hundreds of presentations and training workshops offered by ISHI. Like an old tree, ISHI continues to grow and put out nourishing fruit despite its age. Our newest program is now poised for national dissemination. The Power of Nursing is a discovery model curriculum for practicing nurses and nursing students that strengthens the professional resiliency of nurses at all levels of training and empowers the voice and healing wisdom of the nursing profession to shift the goals and practices of healthcare overall.

In 2016 I will be 78 years old. It is time for us to think not only of expanding our program of service, but also of ensuring that ISHI itself will continue to strengthen all health professionals in their commitment to the integrity of their work well into the future. Creating an endowment campaign that can offer this security of mission requires partners who are skilled in this outcome and resources beyond those necessary to simply create and implement programs. These skills and resources far exceed our own.

Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio, is one of the schools that has taught The Healer’s Art course for more than a decade. In June, Dr. Margaret Dunn, Dean of Medicine at Wright State, approached us with an offer of partnership. If we would consider basing ISHI at the Boonshoft School of Medicine under her direct authority as Dean, she would hire the former Assistant Vice President of Advancement for the medical school to coordinate a multimillion dollar legacy fund and endowment to ensure ISHI’s future. In doing so she committed the expertise and support of the medical school’s grant writers, publicity and marketing departments, Internet experts, and fundraisers to achieve this goal. Her message was one that I had never before heard in more than 50 years of academic medicine. “I believe in your work,” she told us. “Let us help you.”

The depth of my gratitude to Michael Lerner for his extraordinary vision, his ability to withstand opposition and endure, his courage to generate and embrace new ideas, his profoundly intuitive recognition and nurturing of the seeds of change that hold the future, and his commitment to a better world know no bounds. Commonweal has been the birthplace of the ISHI work. There is no other place where we could have found the colleagueship and support to openly express radical ideas within the medical system or have the freedom to speak radical truth, the courage to take major professional risks, the encouragement to follow the best we knew, and the love that enabled us to face criticism and harsh judgment and persevere. Commonweal has made the work of ISHI possible. Wright State will make possible its future.

Many years ago at a dark time in the history of Commonweal and ISHI, Michael said to me, “Peace of mind is never the outcome of success; it comes from knowing that no matter what the outcome, we have chosen to live our lives dedicated to what matters.”

Twenty-five years ago Commonweal put its arms around ISHI and made it safe for us to dare. Commonweal and ISHI have grown up together and together we have grown large enough to put our arms around the world.

Bless you Michael. Bless you Commonweal. It has been an extraordinary journey and a great blessing.

With a deep and enduring love,

Rachel Naomi Remen, MD
Founder and Director, The Institute for the Study of Heath and Illness