Lese Dunton: What made you want to get into medicine? Both allopathic and complementary.
Jery Whitworth: Back in the '60s and early '70s much of the movement for what we call complementary medicine, integrative medicine, alternative medicine -- many of the traditional philosophies and traditional cultures were coming our way. Meditation, vegetarianism, mind/body techniques; Qi Gong, Tai Chi. In 1970 I started exploring them, practicing them and incorporating them in my own life. Becoming a vegetarian, practicing yoga, doing self-hypnosis, a lot of meditative activities; TM and the likes. I got into allopathic medicine as a registered nurse back in 1973. I didn't want to go full fledge into becoming a physician just because of being pretty much a child of the 60s -- a free spirit.
I wanted to go only so far into medicine, but I wanted my freedom. Being a male and an outdoor enthusiast, a registered nurse for me was a place where I could get a job anyplace in a caring environment. To care for people. To communicate and commune with people. To help them through their crisises. At the same time it allowed me to have the ability to work three months on and three months off and be a professional...bum. When I say bum, I'm not necessarily a bum, but I would rock climb and ski and that was what I loved to do. So it was a nice blend: being in the medical model but at the same time having freedom.
I graduated nursing school in 1976. In around 1980 medicine for me, from my perspective, appeared to be changing. The caring that we were taught -- i.e., as registered nurses it was part of our daily routine to actually touch or massage people before they went to sleep -- began to shift toward the individual who became more interested in instrumentation and technology. To do more with less people. That one component of being there for the person and family members who were in crisis, kind of got put on the back burner. I did not want to become one of those callous individuals who just delivered the pill, so to speak, and that's all there is to it. When a person would reach out for help, I didn't want to be the individual to say, "Oh just take this pill, don't worry about it, it will go away," and walk out of the room.
I helped a woman out of a very difficult situation in Montana where I was head nurse in the emergency room intensive care unit. She asked me if I wanted to go into the jewelry business. So with that, I did jewelry as well as working as a nurse for about a year before I made a decision. It was like, well, I see where nursing is going, or I see where medicine is going. I either go back and continue on with medicine, as a physician's assistant or nurse practitioner, or go into medicine full fledged. I even anticipated going into chiropractic medicine. All of that world in allopathic medicine didn't quite...it wasn't a "wow" for me because I felt it was losing what I went into it for. So I left medicine in '80, '81 and opened up another business in Montana. At the same time I did that, I learned that my father was diagnosed with inoperable heart disease. I was raised in the east, up in the Hudson Valley. I came back home to nurture a relationship with my father since I was the youngest, and I was a "traveling hippie" who really wasn't home too much. I came home to see if I could help him. I continued on with jewelry and ended up signing a lease in a mall. I became very proficient at fine jewelry. I had two stores and 26 employees. Created it from scratch.
I was nurturing a relationship with my father, trying to offer him these different low-tech techniques that I knew would be beneficial to him. I failed to realize that I wasn't hearing him. I wasn't listening to him. The more I would say, "Yoga is beneficial for you. It could decrease you angina" or stretching and breathing, or meditation or, "Dad you really need to go on a vegetarian diet, I could really help you with this," the answer was "No, no, no, no, no." Little did I realize that my words conjured up all sorts of negativism, such as, he went through World War II. His mindset of China and his mindset of India and his mindset of all the different things I'm holding true of how beneficial it is...what was conjured up in his mind was 180 degrees from what I was thinking.
When holding hands around my father's bedside and meditating...being from an Italian-Catholic family it's easy when you hear the words, "Let's pray," that's acceptable. Say the words, "Let's mediate," back in that time, 1985, it was foreign. With it being foreign -- we all have different perceptions, same reality -- and my perception was one of: This is healing! Their perception was that Jery was a la-la guy. He's out there. My intention was to help my father and family through the crisis.