Sylvester’s WellBeingWell Conference Draws Hundreds with Focus on Healthy Aging

An estimated 600 guests attended the 2011 WellBeingWell symposium held at the JW Marriott Marquis Miami on April 26. Hosted by the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, the day-long conference focused on healthy aging and integrative medicine.

The WellBeing conference, sponsored by Chico’s clothing retailer, provided a day of educational workshops aimed at educating participants about the many science-based and integrated approaches to healthy living. University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala delivered the breakfast address, talking about healthcare reform and how personal responsibility for our own health is critical for improving health care nationwide.

Throughout the morning and after lunch, guests were able to attend break-out sessions based on their own interests. Sylvester physicians and scientists presented talks on various topics, such as women’s health, men’s health, preventing cancer, skin care, nutrition, managing stress, yoga and acupuncture.

Dramatic changes in the medical field were highlighted by Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School and CEO of UHealth-University of Miami Health System, who spoke at the luncheon. He focused on the breakthroughs being made each day by medical pioneers, saying that “you will someday live in a way that you will never need me.”

Andrew Weil, M.D., renowned leader in the field of mind and body medicine, and keynote speaker, picked up that theme. In his address, he focused on healthy aging, encouraging everyone to “accept aging as a natural process.” The author of several books, he said the key is to separate aging from age-related illnesses which can be minimized by lifestyle changes.

Integrative medicine, says Weil, involves “seeing humans as whole people,” melding the body, mind and spirit. Weil verbalized what most people want: to live a long life and to live well, only declining rapidly at the very end; a process he called “compression of morbidity.” The integrative approach, he argues, is what we as a nation must move toward to avoid health care disaster because “it works better and saves money.”

The Miller School of Medicine is already taking a lead role in integrative medicine in South Florida, establishing the Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine. Janet Konefal, Ph.D., A.P., assistant dean for complementary and integrative medicine, was instrumental in the planning of the WellBeing conference. She presented a seminar on exploring methods to relieve stress, which also focused on how nutrition, yoga and exercise can all work together.

More than once, guests heard the message that they can influence their own health. “Diet and physical activity,” said Mark Stoutenberg, Ph.D., research assistant professor of epidemiology and public health. “That’s what we control.” Stoutenberg, presenting at “Eat Right/Feel Right”, reminded everyone they don’t have to run a marathon, but simply walk several times a week to make “lifelong changes.”

Richard Cote, M.D., professor and chair of pathology, presented information about the future of medicine and how scientists, including himself, are working on improved methods of identifying circulating tumor cells so that patient-specific disease management will be possible in the next couple of years.

A seminar on preventing cancer included details on the latest recommended screenings and methods to trace your family history to determine if you might be at a higher risk for certain cancers. Guests filled the room for the presentation on skin care, where advice on sunscreen, wrinkle prevention and other treatments were offered. An acupuncture demonstration gave attendees evidence that the insertion of needles is not painful.

“I don’t know anywhere else people can get this incredible variety of information,” said Joan Scheiner, chair of Sylvester’s Board of Governors. “In one day, we heard experts in virtually every field offer advice that can change our lives for the better. It was empowering and transformative.”

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