Finding a purpose
My journey started with a master’s degree in Medical Biology and a minor in Medical Anthropology from the University of Amsterdam. I was curious about the interplay between medical science and people. The pharmaceutical industry and later strategy consulting allowed me to get detailed knowledge of the evolution of western healthcare evolves and related challenges. At the same time, I learned how to successfully nurture projects, grow teams and eventually lead a company.
In parallel I have always developed myself actively. My spiritual development provided insights in other medicine traditions such as Buddhism and shamanism.
This convinced me that healthcare can improve and become more sustainable when aspects of traditional or indigenous medicine systems are applied side by side with western healthcare.
I have decided to dedicate my next phase in life to support this vision.
From: Haarlem, the Netherlands
Member of: International Society for Traditional, Complementary & Integrative Medicine Research
A company name
After many years of moving around in the pharmaceutical industry, I slowly realized that it was time to change. I moved to the Netherlands from Switzerland, changed jobs and places. A lot and not much changed in that period, but the one thing that I vividly recall is that a certain name stuck in my head: Bridges in Health. I was reading more and more about Buddhism and mindfulness and was struck by the benefits it could generate. An idea started to form slowly that there may be a benefit for patients to try and heal not just with pills and procedures. The name stuck and the idea of “doing something in this area” was planted in my mind.
A shamanic nudge
I was very grateful to meet Itzhak Beery, a shaman based in New York. (http://ibeery.weebly.com/)
I read more about shamanic healing practices. Though I do not claim to know a lot about shamanism, the session with Itzhak were very helpful. Itzhak told me I was supposed to talk, to organize, to spread a message. This was a great nudge for the little seed planted in my mind. It grew into an idea to help bring different healing perspectives together, so they can actually help each other. I was thinking a global social enterprise, accreditation of different healing traditions, a directory of healers from across the world, symposia and research projects, all financed because both governments as well as health insurers would see the benefits. Just short of basically changing healthcare as we know if for good, globally.
Thanks to the pandemic
The idea was buried again in the work in pharma industry that I was used to and good at. Then the pandemic hit, which will be a sentence in many people’s obituary years from now. My personal development became confined to a zoom screen and books ordered online. The rest of the time I spent working behind my laptop. Living in London at the time, my walks through the English countryside kept me sane. However, the ample time available to think and reflect made me realize I really wanted to do something else. A teacher at a retreat once told me he started the day with 3 questions: Who am I, what is my purpose, how can I serve? I had asked myself those questions regularly. I still don’t have the answers. But I did decide to start working on that idea I had that at least felt closer to my purpose and hopefully was more “of service”.
Going big or small?
After declaring my intent to friends and family, I started to seriously think about this idea of changing healthcare in the West. It was rather big, rather all encompassing, in short rather scary. In addition, people didn’t really understand me when I explained my idea. It may have been the lack of a good storyline, or simply the fear of failing because it could be to big swallow. After more pondering and another consultation with Itzhak I decided to focus on end-of-life care. That would be an easier story to “sell” to others: the benefits of supporting patients in their last phase in life with different medicine practices. I started to research how many people died in the EU, how the end-of-life care was organized and what the cost was of this care. It turns out there was a lot written about the value of “spiritual counselling”. Some of this care was actually reimbursed. Perhaps because I had made the idea smaller, it became less appealing and my focus started to slip again.
Everything is a distraction
I was back in the Netherlands, set up as a freelancer, company name from back in 2015 officially registered. And I was doing little to nothing towards my purpose. I had decided I would not “keep it small”. Once that was clear, the idea of diving into the sea of content that was available was scary. Everything was possible, thus too much was possible. I started with baby steps, researching a couple of hours per month, and kept myself distracted with projects for the pharmaceutical industry.
Regardless of how big the challenge was, it did excite me to research different medicine traditions, find commonalities and think about topics that could be the basis for a symposia series. I actively cut back on projects for the pharma industry, thus I had no other excuse than to get started. The first step was to build the storyline around the goal of creating a dialogue between diverse perspectives on healthcare. Check out my blog to see how this evolved