By Dr. J. B. Dunphy, published in Irish Doctors Environmental Association (IDEA, Issue 1, Vol. 1)
Now that the 20th Century has drawn to a close, many of its paradigms have also run out
of steam. We see this in industry, commerce, social living and, now, in medical practice.
The word ‘paradigm’ comes from the Greek word ‘paradigma’, meaning model, pattern, example. So, a paradigm represents the dominant perception at a given time which sets
rules by which you can anticipate success in problem solving. When a more desirable solution evolves, a paradigm shift occurs, making the old paradigm and those rigidly attached to it redundant.
It wasn’t that long ago that to run the four-minute mile, the so called ‘perfect mile’, was considered impossible. No one was able to do this ‘impossible’ feat. Why? Because the paradigm up until then, in relation to this accomplishment was wrong. Instead of attempting to run ‘the perfect mile’, an English medical student reasoned that he could run a sixty-second quarter mile with ease; he could even run two sixty-second quarters. If
he could string together four sixty-second quarter miles, he could run a four-minute mile! He did and the rest is history.
That same year, 18 other runners broke the four-minute barrier, because there was a NEW PARADIGM.
In his book, ‘Paradigms – the Business of Discovering the Future’, business writer Joel Arthur Barber claims there are three keys to success in the 21st Century: 1. Anticipation; 2.Innovation; 3. Excellence. He emphasises that all three are absolutely necessary and
describes a fascinating example of how a failure in one of these can undermine success in the other two. The example was Switzerland. Hard-working and innovative, the Swiss had dominated the world of watch-making for 60 years. They made the best watches in the world. They had constantly improved their watch technology. They had invented the
minute hand and the second hand. They led research in waterproofing. In 1968, they dominated the world market with 65% of world sales and close to 90% of the profits. They were so far ahead of the rest of the world that they had no real competitor. Even though the Japanese had greatly improved their watch technology and were by 1968 almost as good as the Swiss, they enjoyed only 1% of the world market. Yet, in only 10 years, the Swiss market share dropped to less than 10% and their worldwide profits from 90%, to less than 20%. What happened? A paradigm shift! The fundamental rules of watch-making had changed from mechanical to electric. Everything the Swiss had perfected…gears, mainsprings and bearings, were obsolete. In just three years, 50,000
watch-makers in this small country lost their jobs – a catastrophe for Switzerland.
The irony of this story is that it was avoidable had the Swiss been able to anticipate their own future…had they spotted that a paradigm shift was underway. In fact, it had been Swiss research that invented the electronic quartz movement. When this revolutionary discovery was presented to the Swiss watch-makers in 1967, it was rejected. They were certain that it had no future and allowed the technology to be displayed at the World Watch Congress that year. Seiko of Japan took one look…and went on to capture 33% of the world market.
The shift in my own thinking was helped by two events which occurred simrultaneously. On the evening of the birth of my first child – a baby girl – media reports said that Margaret Thatcher’s government had sent nuclear weapons to the Falklands war. At that moment, I determined to do all I could to make the planet a safer place for my new baby.
As many of you will know, I founded the Irish Medical Campaign for the Prevention of Nuclear War and represented Ireland on the International Council of International
Physicians tor the Prevention of Nuclear War – IPPNW, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985. I believe that doctors around the world, through IPPNW played a pivotal role in bringing the cold war to an end. It was only a matter of time before I realised that while the nuclear threat was the most urgent, other environmental problems
also needed to be addressed. Large pharmaceutical giants were polluting our air and water in Cork harbour. This eventually forced me to look at how I practiced medicine. The
drugs I was prescribing, what their manufacture was doing both to the planet and people for whom they were prescribed.
It was time to look to other modalities of therapy and, to my surprise, a vast and ever
expanding array of therapies existed. Many had been discovered and developed by mainstream doctors who, having presented their findings, were invariably rejected and ostracised by the medical establishment.
For example, Dr Samuel Hehmann, working in Germany 200 years ago, was so horrified by the practice of the day decided to research and develop a safer and more humane form of therapy. Re-discovering the basics of hypocratic medicine, he developed what we now know as Homeopathy, which continues to be derided by the establishment, much to the advantage of non-medical practitioners who, like the Japanese in the Swiss watch story are going to reap the advantage in the coming decades as patients begin to vote with their feet.
Another case in point is that of Dr Edward Bach, a Harley Street consultant who, in the 1930s, made what to most of us was a crazy discovery…that the essence of flowers and trees were therapeutic for various emotional problems. Our current medical paradigm says this is impossible. Lay practitioners, not knowing that it is impossible, prescribe the Bach Flower remedies and often achieve the impossible, to our great surprise and anger. In the words of Edward Bach: “let not the simplicity of this method deter you from its use, for you will find the further your research advances, the greater you will realise the simplicity of all creation.’
In the early 1960s, Kendal and Kendal, working in the US, observed behaviour in muscles not previously described. A Chiropractor, George Goodheart, spotted their research and
went on to develop Applied Kinesiology. From this has evolved therapies such as Touch for Health; Edukinesiology; and Neural Organisation Therapy, used with great success in
Dyslexia and learning disorders as well as other problem areas not adequately addressed by the current paradigms.
A lovely quotation from Marcel Proust states: “The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands, but in seeing with new eyes”.
It was only in the past few years that I discovered a therapy developed here in Ireland which I believe represents a paradigm shift in the treatment of arthritis. It was discovered by Dr Patrick Collins in Lucan, Dublin in the early 1950s while researching immune response in allergy. He discovered that by diluting Procaine Hydrochloride and injecting it intradermally he could influence the course of rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. He published his results in the Irish Medical Journal of the day and internationally in Nature magazine.
He further discovered that by modifying his solution, he could apply it directly to the skin, which most colleagues – working from their paradigm – found incredible. Of course, in
recent years, many therapeutic agents are applied via the skin in patches, etc., which no longer seems so incredible. The clinic, established by Dr Collins in the grounds of the Spa Hotel in Lucan, continues to this day to treat patients with arthritis from all over Ireland and, indeed, overseas. It is now under the medical care of Dr Maurice Collins, a son of the founder of the clinic, who has continued to research this remarkable therapy.
Finally, let me share one last story with you. It tells of an affluent Galway doctors who had a little holiday home in a remote spot in Connemara and a large Merc to get there. Every
Sunday he headed off at speed along the windy roads which he knew like the back of his hand. On one of these lovely Sundays, while approaching a particularly nasty bend in the
road, around came a car out of control. The driver had only just pulled the car from going over the ditch, before swerving back into the doctor’s lane. He was sure he would be hit. He slowed to a stop. Again, at the last moment, the driver pulled the car back to its own side of the road, just missing the terrified medic. As it sped past, the pretty lady driver stuck her head out the window and at the top of her voice shouted: ‘Pig!’ Our Galway doctor was furious. How dare she. It was she who was all over the road. He immediately roared after her: ‘Sow!’ He reckoned that put her in her box. He then revved up his Merc and sped around the corner and ran smack bang into the pig!
The moral of this story is that over the next decade many people will be coming around blind bends yeling things at you. They may be too busy to stop and expiain. If you have
Paradigm Paralysis, you will be hearing only threats and insults. If you have Paradigm Pliancy, you will hear great opportunities.