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New York Medical School Doctor Teaches Stress Relief in Ukraine

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As the CEO of Medweb in San Francisco, Peter “Pete” Killcommons leads teams that provide medical devices and health care software. Peter Killcommons earned his MD from New York Medical College (NYMC), an institution founded in 1860 to educate physicians and conduct research.

A member of the NYMC psychiatric faculty, Dr. Patricia L. Gerbarg, along with her husband, former NYMC professor Richard P. Brown MD, has been demonstrating stress reduction techniques to Ukrainian health providers and refugees. The two doctors co-founded the Breath-Body-Mind Foundation, which deals with combat-related post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Beginning in 2022, Ukrainians in groups as small as a few dozen to over 700 have learned simple, quick techniques to relieve stress. Imagery and deep breathing exercises have helped thousands of citizens, uniformed personnel, and refugees cope with panic attacks, nightmares, headaches, and other conditions. Drs. Gerbarg and Brown train members of the military and psychiatric professionals in 3- to 40-hour sessions.

The team has had to had to adapt their practice to the exigencies of war. For example, they stopped using guided imagery for children that featured blue skies for fear of triggering memories of aerial bombardment. Instead, they taught kids to imagine themselves in a secret garden.

In addition to helping their compatriots, caregivers also had to learn to care for their own stresses. One Ukrainian soldier wept when he experienced a release of accumulated tension because of the program.

Drs. Gerbarg and Brown plan to expand their efforts beyond treating war trauma to people who have been sexually assaulted. Their long-term goal is to educate as many providers of help and comfort as possible.