|It’s been two years since I heard David Reilly, MD, speak in Boston at Harvard Medical School’s conference on
alternative medicines and I still marvel at his words. I heard him speak to the 700 participants on the first day of the
conference. Then I followed him to his three smaller sessions, never tiring of his wisdom and humor and information. He
was brought over from Glasgow, Scotland to be a speaker at the conference and he was well worth the effort.
His main address centered on the importance of the therapeutic relationship in medical and other caring and healing
work. He encouraged the participants (half of whom were physicians) to “first of all, be a person with a person” when they
work with patients or clients.
He asked how long it takes when meeting someone to know if the person connects with us. It takes practically no time;
we know in an instant. Yes, it can take time to know a person well, but there is so much that can be learned swiftly if the
basic relationship is personal and real. Time is not the problem. Attitude and approach are more important.
He said even single encounters can be powerful, possibly transformative (or destructive). They can impact across the
mind-body spectrum and are about the stuff of human understanding. The hallmark of a good encounter is when the room disappears,
when time stops, however briefly.
Too often caregivers get caught up in their roles and forget the simple basics of being a person with a person. And
they are likely to miss a wealth of information.
In a video of a first meeting with a patient, David Reilly stood to greet her, saying, “Hi, I’m David Reilly. You can
call me David or Dr. Reilly or Dr. David. What would you like me to call you?” As the video progressed it was evident that
the patient was regarded with keen and kindly attention. David Reilly said, “When I can, I see every consultation as an
adventure and every patient as a teacher. When I cannot, I just try and do no harm.”
His smaller sessions centered on aspects of his primary practice of homeopathy in Scotland, where homeopathic medicine is accepted along with allopathic medicine (the common medical base in the
United States). He and the other speakers at the conference were reluctant to divide medical care into alternative and
mainstream types, preferring to concentrate only on good medicine, that which promotes health with as few unwanted side
effects as possible.
David Reilly: a person of logic, science, experience, humor, grace and wisdom. I felt like he was speaking softly
and directly, to me. So did the rest of the participants.