Donna Karan designs for healing

Fashion designer, Donna Karan

When I stayed in hospital for my breast cancer surgery, I made my way most days to a small oratory, a sanctuary in the hospital. I was reminded of this as I watched a TEDMED video of Fasion designer, Donna Karan, who founded the Urban Zen Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to promote patient advocacy and well-being in health care, integrating alternative approaches such as yoga.

In a recent  TEDMED video  she talks about sponsoring an initiative at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York that’s seeking to “treat the patient, not the disease.” This includes a “sanctuary” in the hospital where patients and their loved ones, as well as doctors and nurses, and go to find peace and calm.

Karan says that the initiative was born out of frustration that so much was missing from traditional Western practices of medicine. While powerful science and pharmaceuticals are of course vital in curing disease, Karan noticed there was a distinct lack of healing of the heart and the spirit. ‘We must treat the patient with the same passions with which we fight the disease,’ Karan insists.

The designer spent several years at her husband’s bedside while he underwent treatment for lung cancer. “I appreciated the advancements of western medicine but I immediately understood that it was Stephen’s cancer that was being treated and not my husband. So I brought in my posse of healers, yoga therapist, essential oil therapists, acupuncturists, Chinese medicine specialists and nutritional counselors. I saw and experienced the healthcare system very intimately and I knew I had to get involved” said Karan in an interview in SU2C magazine.


TEDMED is an annual event that brings together dozens of luminaries from a variety of fields to “demonstrate the intersection and connections between all things medical and health care related: from personal health to public health, devices to design and Hollywood to the hospital.” TEDMED 2010 will take place from October 26 to 29 in San Diego, California.