Pittsburg mayor William Peduto publicly thanked Dr. Barry Kerzin on 19 November for making the US city the headquarters of the Altruism in Medicine Institute (AIMI). Founded by Dr. Kerzin, the institute combines Eastern philosophy and Western medical practices to increase compassion and resilience among healthcare professionals and their patients.
“I’d like to thank Dr. Barry Kerzin for choosing Pittsburgh to set up the AIMI which will teach our local communities and communities all around the world compassion to avoid burnout in demanding, public-facing fields where self-care and altruism are critical for staff and the people they serve,” Peduto said. “We have started an important partnership to provide this for our own staff and we thank AIMI for working with us to work toward creating a Pittsburgh that is compassionate and altruistic for all.” (The City of Pittsburg)
Best known for his position as His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s personal physician, Dr. Kerzin grew up in California, where he trained as a medical doctor. As a young boy, he suffered a brain abscess, which led to comas and seizures, and he eventually recuperated after multiple surgeries. His near-death experience and subsequent recovery inspired him to help others. After undertaking his residency at Ventura County Medical Hospital, Dr. Kerzin practiced family medicine in California, before traveling to India in 1988, where he provided free medical care to local communities.
While living in Dharamsala, Dr. Kerzin underwent extensive training in Buddhism, which included a three-year retreat. In 2003, he was ordained as a bhikkhu by the Dalai Lama, who suggested Dr. Kerzin maintain his US medical qualifications.
In a 2015 interview with PBS, Dr. Kerzin explained: “[The Dalai Lama] always encouraged me to keep my credentials and to continue practicing medicine. Don’t just do the wisdom. Also do the love and the compassion. In fact, do them 50:50. Those were his words.” (PBS)
In addition to practicing medicine and Buddhism, Dr. Kerzin teaches and lectures around the world and is affiliated with many prestigious universities. His publications include No Fear, No Death: The Transformative Power of Compassion (White Cloud Press 2018) and Nagarjuna’s Wisdom: A Practitioner’s Guide to the Middle Way (Oxford University Press 1995).
Dr. Kerzin founded the AIMI in 2014. As part of its mission to train healthcare professionals in compassion, mindfulness, and resilience, the AIMI offers lectures, workshops, and curricula that focus on bringing a caring component to the fore of medical practices. The institute also works in collaboration with other organizations to measure outcomes and inform wholesome practices that can be applied across the world.
This work is particularly important now that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated what was already a fragile healthcare system. In order to address the reality of widespread burnout, the AIMI has worked closely with first responders, Citiparks staff, and the Office of Community Health and Safety team so that these providers may, in turn, offer first rate services to the residents of Pittsburg.
The AIMI website states:
Our healthcare system is near breaking point. It needs healing. We envision healthcare professionals finding resilience in training compassion, mindfulness, and reducing burnout, depression, anger, and frustration. This resilience and new life will automatically be transmitted to patients. By 2030 we aim to transform medical education to incorporate curricula of self-compassion, compassion for others, mindfulness, and resilience as essential as anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology.(Altruism in Medicine)
Mayor Peduto Welcomes Altruism in Medicine Institute’s World Headquarters in Pittsburgh (The City of Pittsburgh)
Altruism in Medicine Institute
Dalai Lama’s American doctor wants more compassion in medicine (PBS)
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