Health Team

Duke Debuts Stress-Free Medicine Center

Posted November 29, 2007 5:44 p.m. EST
Updated November 29, 2007 7:09 p.m. EST

— It's estimated that up to 90 percent of physicians visits are related in some way to stress.

Stress affects people’s heart rates, and it can raise blood pressure and increase pain. Just going to the doctor's office or hospital clinic can be stressful.

But Duke has a new Integrative Medicine Center that equips people with the tools to conquer stress and pain.

It’s a medical office building unlike any other in the country. The waiting room has a water wall and stone pond, and treatment rooms are equipped with soft lighting.

Executive Director Dr. Tracy Gaudet says it was a rare opportunity to match design with a concept. The space is about health and healing as opposed to the treatment of disease alone, she said.

John Munce discovered the center when he learned he had cancer at the base of his tongue. He had surgery to remove malignant lymph nodes on his neck. Then, he was preparing for six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation.

“For me, once they tell you that you've got cancer, you get open to all sorts of things,” Munce said.

He opened up to acupuncture, massage, hypnosis and meditation.

Munce said he wanted to reduce the stress of fighting cancer and the pain or discomfort of treatments. New research shows acupuncture can reduce the effects of anesthesia or the amount needed during surgery.

“Acupuncture also has been shown to be effective in reducing the effects of chemotherapy such as nausea and vomiting,” Gaudet said.

Munce’s surgery left him with nerve damage to his shoulder.

“The acupuncture was almost magical in the way it relieved the pain and allowed me to move. In conjunction with the massage, it was dramatic,” Munce said.

Unlike trips to most doctors’ offices, Munce said he actually looks forward to visiting Duke’s Integrative Medicine Center.

“My wife says it’s like a spa,” he said.

The center is primarily for healthy people who just want to optimize their health. It's for people who are about to go through surgery or rigorous treatments.

The center prefers to work with people before they face illness or disease so they can learn some tools that may help in prevention.