A few months ago I arrived at a doctor’s office at the scheduled time. I then waited an hour and a half under fluorescent
lights, inhaling the chemical odor of his new carpets and assaulted by a pharmaceutical video blaring in the back ground “If you have these symptoms ask your doctor about…blah blah drug.”
I was finally ushered into his office, which had garish posters of diseases with the names of drugs used to treat them. He spent exactly twenty minutes with me, during which time he did most of the talking. During the brief interview, he was judgmental, impatient and full of certainty. The only people who actually seemed attentive were those from the billing department.
As opposites often do, that experience evoked my first visit to a homeopath. I drove through the beautiful countryside of Lancaster Pennsylvania to see Dr. Henry Williams. As soon as I arrived, he greeted me and we walked into his office. It had wooden floors, chairs and an old oak desk. Books and case conferences on homeopathy filled a large bookcase. A gentle light filtered through the window. Dr. Williams leaned forward in a relaxed manner and said “What brings you here?” I then spoke for over an hour, interrupted only by an occasional “Anything else?” When I was done, he reached down and opened up an ancient leather bag with tiered rows of little glass corked vials. He tossed a remedy on my tongue.
His office and his remedy kit were from a different era, and so was he. Dr. Henry Williams had attended Hahnemann Medical School in 1949, studying under Garth Boericke (son of William Boericke) and the renowned Elizabeth Wright Hubbard. He learned homeopathy at the end of a period when homeopathy had flourished in the U.S. He was one of the founders of the National Center for Homeopathy and director of the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia Convention. Henry
Williams helped keep homeopathy alive in the U.S. when it almost disappeared.
Once, when I was in considerable pain, I called him three times in one day. The last time I called, I apologized, saying “I’m
really sorry to bother you like this”. He replied, “That’s okay, it’s my job to be available for you”. Dr. Williams often gave free lectures, some of which I had the good fortune to attend. Though he’d practiced for half a century, it was not unusual for him to answer a question with “I don’t know”.
When he passed away in 2002, at age 87, homeopaths from around the country recounted stories of his humanity . His broad knowledge coupled with caring, patience and humility, inspired a whole generation of homeopaths. He embodied what we have come to expect from our profession and ourselves.
Conventional medicine is a fast paced, high tech, big business. The patient as a disease becomes known, but the emotions, the spirit and the dignity of the human being are often lost. A study in 19981 found “significant numbers of people” using
alternative medicine, but declared “the reasons for such use are, at present, poorly understood”. Really? Another
study in 20082 found that patients of homeopaths were more satisfied, than those of conventional doctors. It’s not
This is our second “school” issue, with presentations by the Teleosis School of Homeopathy. They state
their mission as teaching not only the technical skills of homeopathy, but also entraining in students the “heart of a healer”.
Henry Williams would have approved.
Why Patients Use Alternative Medicine – JAMA. 1998;279:1548-1553.
2. Patient satisfaction and side effects in primary care: an observational
study comparing homeopathy and conventional medicine. BMC Complement
Altern Medorrhinum 2008 Sep 18;8:52.
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Alan V. Schmukler
Homeopathy for Everyone