Bernie Siegel, MD : Healer Extraordinaire

Bernie Siegel, MD
Bernie Siegel, MD

Bernie Siegel needs no introduction. For decades, his leadership in integrating mind/body medicine with patient care have been trailblazing.

I first became aware of Bernie many years ago at Yale. I was in an audience in a large lecture hall.  Bernie was at the front of the room at the podium.

The audience consisted of surgeons. Within the medical community, surgeons are often seen as having less than stellar bedside manners. And Bernie was the antithesis of this model. He talked to his patients and most importantly he listened.

“People have taught me what most doctors don’t learn, in other words, when somebody does better than expected, the doctor will tell them they’re doing very well and to keep it up. I learned to say, ‘You didn’t die when you were supposed to so what’s going on?”, and they always had a story to tell me.’  

–Bernie Siegel, MD

Bernie believed in his patients, in the power of thought and prayer and in the importance of a patient’s attitude. Their story mattered, in their lives and in their healing.

His audience on this day did not see things this way.

“Cold steel for a quick heal”, “Don’t let skin stand between you and the diagnosis”, and other surgical quips round their way through the audience, accompanied by laughter. Laughter at Bernie, and laughter at anyone who would dare to challenge their medical model of the surgeon as the supreme healer.

Well, Bernie has had the last laugh as science has caught up to his vision of health. Using expressive methodologies such as art and drawing to help patients understand their world view and to heal it, Bernie and his exceptional patients continue to beat the odds. The impact of our thoughts and perceptions on our bodies is real. Bernie was just ahead of the curve.



“Thoughts are chemical. They can either kill us or cure us.”

–Bernie Siegel, MD



That day always stuck in my mind, and years later as I dealt with cancer, Bernie’s book and words accompanied me. And then one day, we had a conversation. It was about my other website, Anti-Cancer Club.

“You have the wrong name, you know,” Bernie told me.

“How so?” I asked.

And he told me a story.

Mother Teresa, Bernie told me, would never go to an anti-war rally. But she would attend a pro-peace rally.

It took me some years to fully grasp this simple tale, about the importance of focusing on good energy and being for something, not against anything. But it’s advice I’ve taken to heart.


Life is about a positive flow of energy, not about being against something.

Bump in the Road: Bernie Siegel, MD

Bump in the Road: Bernie Siegel, MD

Part II

Some More Wisdom From Bernie Siegel

Bernie Siegel
Bernie Siegel

Bernie Siegel
Bernie Siegel

Thoughts are chemical. They can either kill us or cure us.

I am convinced that unconditional love is the most powerful stimulant of the immune system. If I told patients to raise their blood levels of immune globulins or killer T cells, no one would know how. But if I can teach them to love themselves and there fully, the same changes happen automatically. The truth is: love heals.

Diseases can be our spiritual flat tires–disruptions in our lives that seem to be disasters at the time but end by redirecting our lives in a meaningful way

Be grateful simply for being alive. When you are grateful for life, pure and simple, your life becomes one you can be grateful for. That may strike you as circular or even backward logic, but your attitude really does have an effect on how tings work out. When you can’t change your life any other way, you can still change your attitude. When you do, your life changes.

You cannot fail at being yourself. A cat doesn’t try to be a tiger, and you shouldn’t try to be something you aren’t. You are a process, not a product. Your job is to discover what you are and create that creature. You still won’t be perfect, but success isn’t about perfection–it about authenticity.

You are a success if you are being your real, authentic self.

God wants us to know that life is a series of beginnings not endings. Just as graduations are not terminations but commencements. Creation is an ongoing process and when we create a perfect world where love and compassion are shared by all suffering will cease. Embrace each challenge in your life as an opportunity for self-transformation.

You can’t control the world, but when you control your thoughts, you bring order.

Refusal to hope is nothing more than a decision to die.

Being a survivor doesn’t mean being strong – it’s telling people when you need a meal or a ride, company, whatever. It’s paying attention to heart wisdom, feelings, not living a role, but having a unique, authentic life, having something to contribute, finding time to love and laugh. All these things are qualities of survivors.

Some of Bernie Siegel’s Quotes 

Bump in the Road

Everyone hits a bump in the road. The question becomes: What do you do with it?

I share stories about how people experience, manage and navigate life's bumps, hopefully using them as a pivot into a more conscious and meaningful life.