Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

Circle Medicine


To care for the whole person we need human-based models of medicine that complement our protocol-based medicine.

As I have gone deeper into studying various circular, holistic models of healing, I have come to see that there are common elements with holistic, integrative, and indigenous approaches to healing the whole person. These contrast with the reductionist approach that underlies so many of our treatment protocols.


I have developed the table, below, in the chapter on “Circle Medicine,” in Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality, which is the next book that Joseph Rael and I are currently working on:


Linear Medicine                                                                              Circular Medicine

Pathological Process                                                                              Natural Process

Treatment                                                                                                Transformation

Elimination of symptoms                                                                     Acceptance of symptoms

Restoring old state                                                                                Achieving new state

Disease-based                                                                                        Health-based

Biomedical Model                                                                                 Holistic Model

Evidence-Based Medicine                                                                   Human-Based Medicine

Hierarchical                                                                                           Collaborative

Can Foster Dependency                                                                      Empowering


Our linear medicine model based on objectivity, evidence-based science, and delivered as standardized techniques is a one-sided medicine. It works well for straightforward, straight-line problems, but much of life is not linear, but rather conforms to the ancient circular pathways of healing. Our medical education and continuing education almost solely focuses on reinforcing linear ways of thinking and linear ways of treating problems and diseases. We would do well to balance this with circle medicine that reminds us of our multidimensional nature as human beings and that healing requires the full participation of the healer and the person suffering. Remembering to look at health and illness from the perspective of circle medicine as well as linear medicine can help you transform yourself, your clinical practice, and the culture of medicine.


piece of art by the author

“The Hero’s Journey,” by David R. Kopacz (2014), written quotations from Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero With a Thousand Faces.”