Shawn TassoneMind-Body Medicine Student
For years, Dr. Shawn Tassone and his wife, both OBGYNs, have run a clinic in Arizona, frequently seeing 40 - 50 patients a day and each performing 15-20 deliveries per month. They also perform advanced procedures, including highly technical robotic surgeries. They’re licensed, accredited, and up-to-date.
But something was missing from their practice … a mindful, more humanistic, element.
Over 20 years of practice, Shawn says, he made a discovery that would have been inconceivable to him while he was in medical school: that the body is more than a machine, and the patient is more than a body. “Sickness and disease are the physical part of it, but eventually I matured into the fact that there’s a spiritual and emotional side to practicing medicine.”
That was a hard realization, and it came to him while caring for someone who wasn’t even his patient – his mother.
“My mother contracted, and died from, ovarian cancer, which is a gynecological cancer, and I’m a gynecologist,” he says. “My mom was passing away from a process that I should have had some control over, but couldn’t. Being with her through that I saw the clinical nature of the disease that was killing her, but I also saw that I wanted something more to offer her, something beyond just my clinical knowledge. I didn’t know what ‘more’ there was to offer, I’d never really dealt with that before, and this was the spiritual seed that made me reexamine what I was doing.”
He enrolled in a two year fellowship in integrative medicine at a prestigious university, under Andrew Weil, M.D. It was a great experience for him, but it merely opened more questions. “It emphasized the humanistic side of medicine, and the spirituality of it came to the forefront, and it brought up a lot of questions for me about how I practice, but where were the answers?” he asks. “When I was done with the program, I felt ‘okay, there’s got to be a next step.’”
His search for a deeper understanding of integrative medicine brought him to Saybrook, which he says was the only program he could find that offered academically rigorous advanced degrees in mind-body health.
“I started out in the Human Science program because the College of Mind-Body Medicine was still being developed, and found that I really liked the Saybrook model,” he says. “It was much more rigorous than other universities I’d looked at, and all of the students were really capable people doing academically superior work. When you look at the table of books by alumni at the (Residential Conferences) it’s very impressive. As soon as the College of Mind-Body Medicine opened, I transferred over to that.”
He says the work he’s done as a PhD student at Saybrook has been directly applicable to the way he works with patients. “We’ve integrated integrative medicine into our practice. They don’t cover things like this in medical school, but I know a lot of patients and physicians are really looking for this knowledge and approach. It’s amazing what studying Mind-Body Medicine at Saybrook has done for me in just two years.”
Since becoming a student at Saybrook, he and his wife have published a book on the myths and superstitions surrounding pregnancy called Hands Off My Belly! The Pregnant Woman’s Survival Guide to Myths Mothers and Moods, and they are looking to publish a second book on the spiritual aspects of pregnancy. “Many of the chapters are from my experiences at Saybrook’s Mind-Body Medicine conferences, and explain how I can apply this knowledge to pregnant patients.”
Shawn expects the practice of mind-body medicine to grow: he knows firsthand how much many medical professionals like him want to offer integrative care to their patients. And he believes Saybrook will play a key role in this process.
“I look at the people I’m studying with and I think ‘some of these people I’m training with are going to be leaders in the field,” he says. “It’s neat for me to make connections with some of these mind-body pioneers.”