Planetary Health Consultant: Dr. Krista Farey

We would like to give a warm welcome to our new Medical Advisor, Dr. Krista Farey. She is joining our team to offer medical oversight and support to our planetary health programs in Indonesia and Madagascar.

Dr. Farey has been a volunteer and mentor at ASRI Medical Center for many years. She is also providing support virtually to Dr. Evelyne and the medical team in Madagascar.

We are honored to work with Dr. Farey, and we hope you enjoy this Q&A to learn more about the important work she is doing!

What inspired you to practice medicine?

Medicine drew me in as an important tool in our culture for the empowerment and transformation of both individuals and communities.

As a teenage exchange student in India, I witnessed, with disquieted fascination, smallpox eradication workers kidnapping unwilling villagers for vaccination. This ignited an intense and life-long interest in public health, medical anthropology, traditional medical systems, and the practice of healing arts across cultures.

I love working in public sector Family Medicine as a practitioner, educator, and administrator, serving underserved and immigrant communities. My diverse group of patients are amazing life companions, weaving in and out of each other’s stories. I love sharing that with the next generation of healers.

What does planetary health mean to you?

In Western medical thinking, the connection between the health of humans and the health of the environment is just beginning to gain traction. For me, engaging with health at the planetary level is fundamentally a spiritual practice.

In Ayurveda, a major traditional medical system from southern Asia that I greatly respect, it is taught (for 3,000 years and counting) that living in a way that is physically, mentally, and spiritually in balance with nature and the laws of the universe is the foundation of health in its deepest sense. It’s written about in the ancient texts in terms of harmony – I think the name “Health In Harmony” relates to that.

Why did you decide to support Health In Harmony’s programs?

I decided to support these programs because working in education exchange with Health In Harmony is a great opportunity for me to apply my skills as a medical educator towards forest conservation and global warming mitigation – things I deeply care about.

Also, it’s a lot of fun. The teams in Borneo and Madagascar are delightful to work with. They challenge me to grow, think creatively, and broaden my perspectives.

What is unique about the health programs at ASRI Medical Center?

Dr. Kinari Webb and I developed a “Radical Healthcare Teaching Manual” that we are using to orient new clinicians at all the sites. Through it, we are very intentional about nurturing a medical culture of listening, compassion, and respect. We also encourage clinical work that includes education and the connection between healthy ecosystems and healthy humans.

This is orthogonal to trends in Western Medicine towards increased corporate control, reliance on algorithms and super-specialization. I think that both patients and staff find this approach refreshing and satisfying.

What do you think the global community can learn from your work in Indonesia and Madagascar? What have you learned about health and connection in the wake of COVID-19?

As I engage in medical COVID-19 work with teams in California, Borneo and Madagascar concurrently, the experience of each informs the response in the others. Even in this relatively small-scale example, the benefits of learning and collaborating cross-culturally and cross-nationally are very clear. While COVID-19 responses at the individual and local levels are essential, so are coordinated research and public health interventions at the global level.

“The pandemic brings home the messages that human health and environmental conservation are inexorably entwined and that humans everywhere are in this together, profoundly interdependent.”

I dearly hope this is heard as a loud and clear call-to-action towards restoring balance and harmony both within individuals and as a human community.

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