Saybrook doctoral student, Avn Sturm, completes qualitative research study on the doctor-patient healing relationship in Ayurveda

Avn Sturm - graduate of the Saybrook University College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences.

Avn Sturm is a new graduate of the Saybrook University College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences.  She earned the Ph.D. with doctoral dissertation research on the doctor-patient relationship in Ayurvedic Medicine, the traditional medicine of India. Here she blogs about her own healing journey. Dr. Sturm will now be studying Ayurvedic Medicine herself, at the California College of Ayurveda, where she conducted her dissertation research.

“My healing journey began at 8 years of age, when I saw a the movie titled The Three Lives of Thomasina.  I realized then that I wanted to be a healer and herbalist just like the character in the film who helped heal Thomasina, a cat. Later in life I encountered a medical doctor, who was an Ayurvedic practitioner, and he told me that I had the hands of a healer. By good fortune, I had the opportunity to be part of the first cohort in the Mind-Body Medicine doctoral program offered by Saybrook University.

It was at one of the Food as Medicine conferences that I asked Dr. Don Moss to be the chair on my dissertation committee. Dr. Moss observed that relationships seemed important to me and that this might be a good basis for my study. That was when I settled upon researching the doctor-patient healing relationship in Ayurveda, which is one of the oldest mind-body medical systems in the world. Later I was given the opportunity to complete my PhD Clinical Practicum at the California College of Ayurveda in Nevada City, California, by its founder, Dr. Mark Halpern.

After the Practicum I followed up with two pilot studies in which I decided to base my dissertation in qualitative research. I chose as my research design the holistic case study model of Robert K. Yin. I decided to study Ayurvedic practitioners and patients in the natural settings of the California College of Ayurveda, and to utilize interviews with semi-structured open ended-questions as well as direct observations of Ayurvedic assessments and treatments.

My research sought to explore how certain criteria affect the doctor-patient healing relationship and how the doctor-patient relationship affects health outcomes. This topic was explored through the examination of the doctor-patient relationship in the practice of Ayurvedic medicine. Three groups were observed in this study: a) three Ayurvedic practitioners, b) three Ayurvedic students and c) three Ayurvedic clients. Four criteria were considered: a) patient-centered care, b) communication, c) empathy, and d) health literacy. The Ayurvedic healthcare paradigm serves as an excellent model within which to study the dynamics of the doctor-patient relationship. Ayurveda provides a good alternative to Western medicine when studying the doctor-patient relationship because of the notable differences.

As Hippocrates stated, “Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also love of humanity.” It is in this important relationship between doctor and patient that I want to help both recipient and care-giver to optimize the healing process.”