A Skeptic Learns from Deepak Chopra - at a Military Health Conference

Dr. Julie Kinn with Dr. Deepak Chopra at DoD/VA Resilience Conference

While attending the first-ever Military and VA Resiliency Summit in San Diego last month, I had two epiphanies while listening to keynote speaker Dr. Deepak Chopra:

  1. Rhinestone eyeglasses look good on everyone.
  2. The military community is undergoing a paradigm shift in our perspective on health and healing.

Over the past few years, I’ve heard more and more stories about the successful use of mind-body medicine within the DoD and VA—such as warrior transition units using transcendental meditation and outpatient groups engaging in weekly yoga. But until the summit, I had underestimated the amount of compelling research supporting the use of mindfulness and mind-body medicine approaches to care for post-traumatic stress and other health issues common in the military community.

Over three hundred treatment providers, researchers and leaders gathered at Naval Medical Center San Diego and online to participate in the conference. We learned about innovations in research and practice to use mindfulness and similar techniques to care for service members and veterans. We heard from pioneer of mind-body research Dr. Herbert Benson, and other thought leaders like COL Richard Petri, CDR Jeffrey Millegan and Dr. Kevin Berry.

There was palpable excitement in the room before Dr. Chopra spoke (and a long line for pictures with him). I’ll admit I brought both negative and positive biases with me—though frankly, I had gleaned most of what I knew about him from Wikipedia. He began by speaking about the process of human conception to provide a broad perspective on health (i.e., that we should not take our existence for granted). Dr. Chopra’s overall message was to “stop thinking of your body as a thing. Start thinking of your body as a process.” In other words, we shouldn’t just pay attention to our health only when we have a problem. Instead, we should consider daily actions we can take to promote wellness, such as meditation, sleep hygiene and healthy eating. Pretty hard to argue with, right?

Overall, I was impressed. Dr. Chopra is an incredible speaker: he provided clear logic and relatable examples. He used PowerPoint sparingly and humor generously. I was a bit nervous when a participant asked Dr. Chopra a question about the potential harm of using technology. To my relief, he indicated that it is a tool to use for health promotion, just like any other tool. I especially appreciated the sentiment since I was at the summit to give a presentation on using T2’s mobile apps and websites to increase resilience in providers, military kids, and service members and veterans.

My big takeaway from the summit was to recognize that a focus on mindfulness, meditation and other forms of mind-body medicine is no longer a fringe interest. In fact, it’s time to pay attention to how integrating complementary and alternative medicine can improve my contribution to military health care. I may even try yoga. And I’m definitely looking into rhinestones.

Julie T. Kinn, Ph.D. is a research psychologist at DHA Connected Health.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Center for Telehealth & Technology, the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


Read other posts by Dr. Julie Kinn