Speak Sooner panel to focus on community health resources


BENNINGTON >> The Speak Sooner Initiative is hosted another healthcare panel discussion in Bennington, this time focusing on how patients and their families can best find the community resources they need in their battle with long-term illness.

The event is hosted by The Center for Communication in Medicine, and will be held at Oldcastle Theatre on Main Street in Bennington from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 26. It is free and open to the public. The group hosted their first panel in Bennington last October, which was titled "Building Your Team and Navigating the System." CCM co-founder and executive director Dr. Bernard Bandman was excited to announce that this program, entitled, "Finding Your Path Through Illness and Getting the Help You Need," is entirely new, with an entirely new panel.

That panel will be made up of Bandman, who has been a psychologist at the Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center since 1988; his wife, Celia Engel Bandman, who created the role of medical humanist at the cancer center, and co-founded CCM with her husband; Lindy Lynch, a local business owner and cancer survivor, who also acted as a caregiver for her husband, Kevin, during his own cancer treatment; James Poole, chief medical officer and director of the Hospitalist Service at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center; Rebecca Hewson-Stellar, breast health navigator for SVMC's Women's Imaging Center and Cancer Center; Rev. Lucy Ijams, minister at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Bennington; and Cynthia Reilly, a licensed acupuncturist who is certified in Chinese herbal medicine.

"Our effort is to help the public understand that the patient and their loved ones are responsible for opening up the conversation with their medical providers," said Bernard Bandman, as well as let them know about the many resources available in the Bennington community, "A prepared patient really helps the provider give better care."

Bandman said that Ijams was included on the panel, because spiritual help can be an extremely important aspect of care. He said the process of being diagnosed with a long-term illness can be overwhelming, and often people will turn to a spiritual advisor, as a key member of their support team. "Religious beliefs can play a very helpful role," he said.

Reilly said that some of the most respected medical institutions in the country are opening integrative care departments, and that despite being referred to as "alternative medicine" for many years, the medical community is coming to realize that complementary services, such as acupuncture, provide a real, tangible benefit to patients. "Stress comes up over and over again," she said, "it has a huge effect on a patient's mental and physical health."

Bandman agreed, saying that doctors are now starting to recommend complementary services to their patients at higher rates than ever before, "They are learning that this could be helpful to their patients, so they're paying closer attention to this. And, it's compatible with the treatment they are already getting."

Lynch said she learned about reiki during her time at SVMC, and said that it played a major role in her recovery. "It was incredible," she said, "I continued to do it all through my illness for strength and energy." She said that acupuncture helped with her nausea from treatment, and said she couldn't have made it through without Reilly. She continues to receive acupuncture therapy to this day.

She said that there is no directory of complementary services, and that she learned about many of them through conversations, both with her doctors and other members of the community. Bandman said that one of his primary goals in running this panel discussion is to let the public know what resources are available to them.

"All of these people," said Lynch, "they are my cheerleaders. They give you a ra-ra when you really need it. It really is a team."

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.


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