BENNINGTON — Speak Sooner hosted the first of three 2016 community conversations on communication in medicine on Tuesday night, bringing together a panel made up of experts from across the medical spectrum.

The event was held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Oldcastle Theatre Company and was free and open to the public. It was followed by a reception with the panelists, with food provided by Kevin's Sports Pub and Bakkerij Krijnen.

The panel discussion was moderated by Bernard Bandman, co-founder of the Center for Communication in Medicine, who has been a psychologist at the Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center since 1988. The panel itself was made up of his wife, Celia Engel Bandman, who created the role of medical humanist at the cancer center, and co-founded CCM with her husband; Lindy Lynch, a local business owner and cancer survivor, who also acted as a caregiver for her husband, Kevin, during his own cancer treatment; James Poole, chief medical officer and director of the Hospitalist Service at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center; Rebecca Hewson-Stellar, breast health navigator for SVMC's Women's Imaging Center and Cancer Center; Rev.


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Lucy Ijams, minister at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Bennington; and Cynthia Reilly, a licensed acupuncturist who is certified in Chinese herbal medicine.

"None of us likes to think about illness," said Bernard Bandman at the start of the discussion, "but, we know someday we, or someone we love, will be a patient." He said the goal of CCM, and their Speak Sooner initiative, is to help patients and their loved ones strengthen the relationship between doctors and patients by asking the right question, which he said is a benefit to everyone involved. "Through this program," he said, "I hope you'll be able to ask the right questions."

Tuesday's event, which was entitled "Finding Your Path Through Illness and Getting the Help You Need," built off another panel discussion that was held at Oldcastle last November, which focused on how to bring together a team of medical professionals and caregivers. This discussion focused on how to discover and utilize the resources available in the community, after being diagnosed with a long-term illness. Lynch said that taking advantage of those resources, which included acupuncture, reiki, physical therapy, a psychologist, a minister, a chiropractor, massage therapy, reflexology, fitness training, and a pharmacy, in addition to her cancer treatments through the hospital, allowed her to make it through what was an incredibly difficult process. "I've made it through," she said, "I was in a wheelchair for six months, and now I'm walking without a limp."

During the discussion, Bandman asked Reilly to describe what ailments acupuncture can help with. "Acupuncture was the primary medical model in China for thousands of years," she replied, "It has treated everything under the sun, as it was necessary." She said the she does not treat diseases, but the individual. Western doctors have begun to take notice of the improved patient outcomes that stem from using acupuncture, and other complementary medicines, alongside western medicine, and have begun recommending patients to her. She said that the field has come a long way since 10 years ago, when patients who told their doctors they were exploring eastern medicine would often meet with resistance.

The panel discussion was filmed and will be broadcast on Catamount Access Television. The next Speak Sooner event will be held on August 10, at the Manchester Community Library, and will focus on caregivers. To learn more, visit speaksooner.org, or follow them on Facebook.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.