Dr. Gladys Taylor McGarey: A Living Inspiration by Sydney L. Murray
Recently I received a press release about a woman who was presenting at the American Holistic Medical Association’s meeting this past January in Irvine, California. I was compelled to find out more about Dr. Gladys who said prior to this event, “I am thrilled the Holistic Medical Association is giving me the opportunity to speak about Living Medicine. It is a different way of thinking about things. When you start thinking differently it’s amazing; it’s a rephrasing of illness. And it’s amazing what manifests.” Dr. Gladys Taylor McGarey is the kind of person who epitomizes a true heroine to me. She has devoted her life to being of service and is actively involved in living and learning at 90 years young.
Vision Magazine: How did you initially receive the title, Mother of Holistic Health?
Gladys Taylor McGarey, M.D.: It just kind of happened. I think it started because in 1968 we had our first medical symposium which we then had for 20 years. [It] was an annual symposium in which those interested were beginning to pull together people who were thinking along the line of holistic medicine. Then around 1976 there were five of us who met at Everett Loomis’ conference center in California. I was the only woman there and we got the idea that we needed to start an organization, so from that, the American Holistic Medical Association started, and from there it just grew. I don’t know who thought up the title of Mother of Holistic Medicine, but somehow or another the title started and stuck.
VM: What prompted you to become a Medical Doctor?
GM: I received my medical degree in 1946. My parents were both osteopaths and were medical missionaries in India. Also my Dad was an MD. At that point I had planned to go back to India as a missionary, and they were not taking osteopaths, so I figured I’d have to be an MD since I was going to be a doctor anyway.
VM: You are an advocate for health care in Congress. What is your opinion on the direction of health care today?
GM: I think this is the first time that anything substantive has been done from our government’s point of view. I think it isn’t anywhere near where it needs to be, but it is a start. We have been trying for many years to get something done, so at least I am pleased with this movement. There are a group of physicians that are interested in holistic medicine and not just alternative medicine but in the concept of body, mind, and spirit medicine. We have come together, created two papers, and have been able to talk to and consult with members of Congress. It’s hard to get to the Congressmen or Congresswomen themselves, but you can get to their aides. One of the people that [has] been really helpful throughout this whole process is Susan Riley. She was Ted Kennedy’s top aide for 40 years and she has been able to set us up with different groups and people. We are in the process of meeting with people in Washington. We know it’s going to take time, but we are talking about a paradigm shift in consciousness when it comes to health care, and that doesn’t happen easily. It is going to take time.
VM: Could you describe the system of real healing you talk about?
GM: Conventional medicine works with diseases, and when you have a disease that you have gotten under control, as far as the symptoms are concerned, [you think] that you have brought about a healing, and that is not necessarily so. Really it’s just a quieting of the symptoms. True healing comes from an integration of the body, mind, and spirit in a way that sometimes does not cure the disease but brings about a balance for the person so that they are truly whole. It’s like Franklin Roosevelt. He suffered from the result of Polio all his life, and yet I would consider him whole. Some of the most whole people I know who have chronic illnesses have become better human beings in relationship to the world, not because of the disease necessarily, but with that condition.
I am a little bit tired of hearing about wellness, because nobody is totally well. We all have corns or constipation or something. I am very interested in wholeness. I think that we can become whole, as we are human beings and we are here to do the work that each one of us separately and individually came here to do.
VM: Could you talk about your experience creating what you call the art of medicine?
GM: I am very interested in both the art and science of medicine. I think that medicine needs both. The art of medicine is something that we practice and is an individual thing. We use science as a wonderful tool in the art of medicine. I think we have come a long way in the science of medicine, but the art of medicine is something that each individual incorporates into their own life’s work. Any art is something that is created from within that person. In medicine it has to be the combination of the creative life force energy within the physician who is working as a caregiver and the patient who is the one who does the real healing. It is that bringing together of the art and science that brings about healing. I have watched beautiful jobs of surgeries that haven’t healed and I have watched botched jobs of surgery that have healed really well. So the question is, who does the healing? It is the art of medicine that brings together the physician within, and the physician without that brings about the healing.
VM: Our theme this month is about exploring different generations. When you think of this term, in reference to health and living well, what comes to mind?
GM: I think it has a great deal to do with timing. We have to be timely. Things that are happening now could not have happened when I was first practicing medicine, and at first I was able to do things that I cannot do now. I think that timing is absolutely essential.
One of the things I am very concerned about is conscious birthing. I think that we have trivialized the whole process of birthing, which I think is a spiritual gift, and I am working with a group of women on what we are calling the Inner Womb Project. It has to do with pre and peri-natal psychology and the consciousness that is brought into life when a baby is conceived. The opposite aspect is what I am calling Aging Into Health, because I think that each part of our growth process on this dimension can either be directed toward health or not. So all through our lives I think we need to look at aging into health, not aging into demise.
VM: Do you see a difference in the way different ages are treated in health care?
GM: I think we have become very confused about aging and about youth. In fact I have written an article entitled “When did the Shirley Temple Doll Become the Barbie Doll?” In other words, when did we eliminate that growth process that little girls have when they are 9 and 10 years old and they are having tea parties and so on, and then put them with the Barbie doll? We have completely bypassed that normal growth process in pushing little girls into Barbie dolls with high heels and thinking about dating Ken. At that point they still think boys have ‘cooties.’ We have tried to force them into puberty when they are not ready. Then we spend the rest of our lives trying to be young again. It again comes back to timing. We are what we are, when we are at that age. When we try to skip any of those ages or try to go back, all it does is confuse us. If we can accept the aging process in all of its stages, the way it is, then we are living our lives to the fullest. My next book is going to be, “The World Needs Old Ladies.”
VM: You also speak about Living Medicine. How has this played out when you were in Africa or Asia?
GM: I was born and raised in India and then came to the states [US]. I have worked in Afghanistan and other countries. Let me tell you how I came up with the idea of living medicine. It must have been around the turn of the century . I was talking to friends about the fact that medicine the way I saw it was that it was a killing machine, it was a war machine. Everything that we are taught has to do with getting rid of something, getting rid of cancer or AIDS or eliminating diabetes. It’s all in terms of conquering and getting rid of. Our language is against life itself. It’s antibiotic, anti-convulsive. What really gets me is the anti-aging. I mean, what are we supposed to do?
Our support groups support the disease; they really don’t support the person. We have cancer support groups and epilepsy support groups, and if you are going to have a war machine then you have to have ammunition. The ammunition we have is supplied by the pharmaceuticals. When I came to Phoenix in 1955, the PDR (the Physicians Desk Reference) was half an inch thick, and now it is at least four inches thick and has three addendums. The more you work with a war machine the more ammunition you need to keep on creating the illnesses that are created by the ammunition that you have created. It’s an endless cycle. I was going on and on like this talking to my friends and I stopped and said, instead of killing medicine what we need is living medicine. I said, “Thank you, God, I have been waiting 81 years for that!” If we are alive we will know it. We will have illnesses, we will be born, we will die, but our focus is going to be on life and living—not on death and killing. So the whole concept of living medicine incorporates the science of medicine and the art of medicine and it incorporates conventional medicine and alternative medicine. Our focus is on life and living; it’s that whole awareness.
I had a patient who had lung cancer. She had been a smoker and she had had all of the conventional therapy and called me up and said, “Now I need a blood transfusion and I don’t want one. I am afraid.” She said she was afraid of AIDS and hepatitis, which is silly because she was dying of cancer, but when you are afraid, it’s not silly—it’s fear. And fear immobilizes everything. Finally I said to her, maybe you could look at it this way, there is somebody in this world who loves you enough to have given their life’s blood for you. So when she was able to take her energy off of the fear of something and put it onto love, she was able to get the blood transfusion. It’s that kind of shift in consciousness that says we are working towards life and living, not killing.
VM: Have you done dream interpretation most of your life?
GM: I didn’t work on them much as a kid. I was too busy just being a kid. But as an adult, yes. Working with my patients, it has been a wonderful tool. I love working with my patients’ dreams. I had this one patient that had terrible headaches. We had done everything, acupuncture and biofeedback, we changed her diet, and she still had these headaches. One day she came into my office and said she had a dream that she was in my office and she had one of her horrible headaches, so she reached into her purse to get some of her pain pills, at which point in the dream I came in and looked at her and told her not to take them, and when we looked in her hand she had two M&M’s. That was the dream. So in the dream I represented the physician within her, which was telling her not to eat chocolate. So when she stopped eating chocolate her headaches stopped. It’s that kind of wonderful guidance and direction that I have been able to work with as far as the patients are concerned.
VM: Given the fact you are 90, how can people live well into their 90s and beyond?
GM: A number of years ago my oldest daughter was standing by me when someone asked me that question. I said, “I don’t know.” And my daughter said, “Oh mom you know what it is, you dwell in gratitude.” I said, “Well okay, I guess that is true.” It’s more than being just grateful. I am so grateful for everything. It immerses everything that I do. Part of our job as human beings is transforming the human race. This sounds grandiose but I believe it.
VM: Do you have hope for humanity looking over your amazing career and long life?
GM: Absolutely. When I started in medicine we didn’t think that smoking and drinking had anything to do with a baby’s health. When you talk about pregnancies and deliveries, women were taken to the hospitals and anesthetized for days and didn’t know what was going on for days. I didn’t know I had a son until 24 hours after he was born. We kept these patients in the hospitals for two weeks.
Finally we got it into our heads that women knew how to have babies and it didn’t have to become a disease process. It took me 12 years to get a husband in the delivery room. I think there is a lot of hope. The simplest things in life are the hardest to do. We talk about love, but we really have to experience it to understand it. I really believe that with the emerging consciousness that we have, that things are changing, and they have changed a lot in my lifetime. I spent many years being called a witch doctor, but now people actually listen to me talk.
The word ‘holistic’ was a really bad word, sort of connected with the devil or something. I started the foundation that bears my name in 1989. The purpose of it was to bridge the gap between conventional and holistic medicine.
VM: What does the McGarey Foundation do?
GM: Like every living thing, it is in the process of change. We are working very hard with the health care reform process, but we are also very much involved with conscious birthing. I am deeply concerned with the number of Cesarean sections that are not necessary. I can’t really figure out why. It’s just the modern thing to do. I think women have been talked into the idea that it is easier and that they can schedule it. It’s a major surgery; it’s not good for the baby and not good for them. But we are very much involved in education—education of patients and medical students.
VM: Who would have been your greatest teacher?
GM: Well I happen to be a Christian so Christ consciousness is central to my philosophies, but my parents were amazing. I think I chose a family that suited me.
When you wonder how things will change, what you [Vision Magazine] are doing is what is really going to change people. The media, the articles are what people want to hear that gives them hope. We are all part of a huge jigsaw puzzle, and if one piece is missing we are not complete.