I Am Health: A Doctor’s Inspiring Journey Behind The White Coat
I AM health.
I don’t use this phrase because I’m a physician who treats patients with cancer, hypertension, and diabetes. I’m not using this phrase because I haven’t suffered from chronic disease myself – because I have.“I AM health” has become a personal mantra I’ve adopted to remind me of my own intrinsic healing powers, thus taking full responsibility for my health. I’ve learned this lesson from the many patients I’ve witnessed reverse their chronic diseases without the aid of conventional pharmaceuticals and surgeries.
I’m Kien Vuu, M.D. and currently an Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at UCLA. I’m an Interventional Radiologist by specialty which is a fancy name for a doc that uses imaging to do minimally invasive surgeries. I treat consequences of many chronic conditions including hypertension, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and many others.
Chronic disease is an American and global epidemic and by far the biggest health challenge we face in healthcare. About half the population of Americans have a chronic illness, and 1 in 4 have multiple chronic diseases. Chronic disease is responsible for the majority of death in the US. The consequences of chronic disease include destroying our quality of life, shortening our lifespans, bankrupting our governments, and threatening the health of our future generations. In fact, this generation is the first in which children are expected to live shorter lifespans than their parents.
I speak of our power to heal not from the perspective of a physician who treats chronic disease, but from a patient who had once forfeited my own healing power.
So just a little story about me. A few years ago, many from the outside would look into my life and perceived that I had achieved The American Dream — I was a boat refugee that survived dysentery and rickets, came to America penniless, and was able to overcome racism and poverty to become a “successful” doctor.
I found myself in a private practice, as Chief of Interventional Oncology/Radiology. I had a lucrative career, a fantastic house, a fancy car, and a lovely woman I was going to ask to marry.
Here comes the plot twist. Unexpectedly, things in my life start falling apart. I lost an uncle to cancer. The woman I thought I was going to marry left me for another man. And the doctor who was giving medical advice was suffering health problems I created on my own.
I was working long hours and taking prescription sleep medications to fall asleep every night. I was overweight, diabetic, and exhausted on every level. My story was unraveling, and I was becoming another statistic on America’s chronic disease tally.
I partly became a physician because I wanted to help people, but the truth of the matter was, I became a physician to be respected. The mask of the white coat was meant to hide the “not enough-ness” I was feeling inside – not rich enough, not tall enough, not “American” enough, not smart enough. I had spent my entire life becoming successful in the eyes of others, and it didn’t just cost me my relationships, but also my health.
I began a journey of self-healing and personal development and rediscovered how to be more authentic, more vulnerable, and owning my real power. This quest led me to start the Live Again Project, a fiscally sponsored non-profit aimed to connect and transform the world through cancer stories & to help fulfill the purpose of those with terminal cancer.
I then also became the host of a series called Behind the White Coat – a comedic talk show blending medicine, health, comedy, and Hollywood. While getting involved with these projects, I’d come across patients who reverse their diseases without any aid of conventional medicine. Many of these “miraculous” recoveries occurred with shifts in thought and mindset, meditation, stress control, diet changes, futuristic “biohacking,” and alternative therapies.
I was amazed and in shock when I saw these recoveries and what I have discovered is that everyone has their power to radically transform how they look, feel, reverse disease, and live a long life. This recipe for health and vitality is personalized to each, and one must own the responsibility of their health and put in the work of discovery to find the formula that best works for them. It is by their example that came up with the mantra “I AM health,” and took 100% responsibility for my health, and happy to report I no longer suffer from chronic disease.
The field of Epigenetics supports the idea that our choices, lifestyle, and how we view the world and our meaning of life play a much more significant factor of our health than the genes we’ve been given. The truth of the matter is genes can predispose certain people to disease, but the good news is gene expression (what genes are turned on/off) is controlled by external factors outside of the genes. In very simplistic terms, disease states can be considered abnormal states in which there is an imbalance of gene expression. And since gene expression is determined mainly by external factors by choices we have control over, we all have an ultimate say on what type of health we have.
Many of these external inputs that affect gene expression include diet and nutrition, exercise, stress reduction, and sleep, but interestingly enough, our thoughts, emotions, and how we view the world also play a significant role.
In short, recent studies have now shown that emotions of love, gratitude, and community have positive effects on human health including better immunity and decreased inflammation. Researchers Steven Cole from UCLA and Barbara Frederickson from the University of Illinois have also demonstrated that persons who exhibit high levels of eudemonic well-being – the kind of happiness that comes from having a broad sense of purpose and meaning in life – is also associated with favorable gene expression that promotes health and longevity.
I don’t think my story is unique. Many people in this country with chronic disease have forgotten their healing power as well. The good news is that like me, everyone has the ability to reverse their condition and live in such a way to have your genes gift you with abundant health. I am not promoting shunning off conventional medicine or treatments as they do have their role in saving lives. I am merely suggesting that we should not forfeit our powerful ability to heal by relying on modern medicine.
My mission is to empower you to reclaim your healing power so that you can live a long and healthy life and share your gifts with the world. As we work together to promote this new paradigm of health-based empowerment, love, gratitude, and community, we will change the world. WE ARE HEALTH.
Kien Vuu MD, clinical professor of medicine at the UCLA – David Geffen School of Medicine, is a multi-faceted physician carving a distinctive path integrating traditional western, eastern and alternative forms of medicine. His passion for using the power of the mind as a healing tool has fueled his avocations as a professor, motivational speaker, author, entertainer, and philanthropist.