Dr. John Henning Schumann is a primary care doctor in Tulsa, where he teaches at the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine. He also hosts Public Radio Tulsa’s Medical Matters.

Dr. Schumann explains the slow food movement as the idea that cooking, nutrition and eating should be intentional, mindful and substantive. The process is as important as the product.

He sees a medical version of slow food “bubbling” up in response to “industrialized, hypertechnological and often unnecessary medical care that drives up costs and leaves doctors and patients frazzled.”

Here are some more of his thoughts….

As a teacher of medical students and residents, I find myself pulled between 2 contradictory poles. I want new doctors to be efficient so that they can survive in the real world of medical practice, which breaks out time into 8-minute increments. But I also want them to take the time to think through their actions and consider potential consequences.

Slow Medicine adherents will be quick to tell you that the vast majority of CT scans ordered in ER’s are of little value, most of the time adding only unnecessary cost and radiation risks for patients. Antibiotics for colds are another example of harmful waste. They don’t work for viruses, and patients who take antibiotics are more likely to develop resistant bacteria, diarrhea and other symptoms that lead to avoidable office visits and hospitalizations.

As I’ve learned in Slow Medicine, I’ve found it comes in many flavors.

In searching for ways to teach the essence of Slow Medicine to new doctors, I was fortunate to come across what is perhaps its newest flavor: a running correspondence from 2 physicians driven to find hard evidence for the best approaches to medical practice. Their emails have sparked a nationwide conversation among doctors about costs, the limits of scientific proof and – yes – the art of medicine.

The emails between doctors, Pieter Cohen the mentor, and Michael Hochman, his protege, became fodder for weekly roundups sent to their department’s trainees at the Cambridge Health Alliance in Massachusetts. The doctors analyze important journal articles, comment on new findings in the context of established medical knowledge and share wisdom.

Cohen and Hochman adopted Slow Medicine as the name for what they do because it ties together several ideas that they’ve found to be the strongest, safest and most effective in their practices. In their credo, they emphasize “careful interviewing, examination, and observation of the patient over the growing array of medical tools and gadgets.” In addition, Slow Medicine recognizes that many clinical problems do not yet have a technological “magic bullet” but instead require lifestyle changes that have powerful effects over time.

That is what we all struggle with most. As a doctor, teacher and patient myself, I know that changing my own habits and those of my patients are some of life’s most challenging tasks.

Like a stew that’s had hours to simmer, Slow Medicine hopes to lock in medicine’s best ideas, providing deeper meaning and richer lives to both patients and practitioners. I’m savoring this growing movement, adopting its wise examples in both my teaching and my practice.


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