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Featured Profile: Pam Kircher, MD, Master Trainer, Pagosa, Springs, CO, USA

By Caroline Demoise, Master Trainer, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

Dr. Pamela Kircher, a strong advocate of integrative medicine, has actively promoted Dr. Paul Lam’s Tai Chi for Health Programs since 2001. Dr. Kircher encourages western medicine physicians to incorporate effective strategies that promote wellness and rehabilitation. As the Medical Director of Wellness and Integrative Medicine at Mercy Medical Centre in Durango, Co, she encouraged the Wellness Team to embrace the Tai Chi for Arthritis Instructor program and became a tai chi teacher herself in the communities of Durango and Pagosa Springs.

Pam is focusing on creating tai chi for health opportunities for every person who lives in Colorado. Her strategy involves giving a CME presentation (Continuing Medical Education) at the local hospital when she travels to an area that is new to Tai Chi for Health programs. By doing this, local physicians know what is being initiated in the community and why it is safe for their patients. Physicians feel more confident referring their patients to community tai chi classes. Pam has facilitated over 70 workshops in Tai Chi for Arthritis, Tai Chi for Diabetes and Sun Style 73 since becoming an MT.

In her relationship with western medicine, during the eight years that Dr. Kircher practiced family medicine in Houston, she served as Chair of the Family Medicine Department at Memorial Southwest and brought acupuncture into the hospital setting. Because of her interest in Near Death Experiences and grief counselling, she became a Hospice doctor at the Hospice at the Texas Medical Center where she served from 1990-1994. She is an expert in end-of-life issues and Near Death Experiences and is a national speaker on NDEs.

She authored a book on Near Death Experiences called “Love is the Link”. In Durango, she was a Family Practice physician with a strong interest in Complementary Medicine from 1994-1997. She created the TLC program (Touch, Love and Compassion) that offers complementary care services to patients. These services include Therapeutic Touch, music therapy and gentle massage to reduce stress and assist with pain management. These modalities are included in the Pre-operative session along with a tape to help patients prepare for surgery and to heal quickly after surgery.
Aromatherapy and stress reduction products are sold in the gift shop. In fact, the TLC program was adopted as the flagship program when Mercy built a new hospital in 2006. Currently, over 50% of patients avail themselves of this free service and patient satisfaction has skyrocketed since the advent of the program.

When I met Dr. Kircher, at the hospital in Durango, she was interested in experiencing the health benefits of tai chi because she had constant pain in both knees from osteoarthritis. Bilateral knee surgery to repair medial menisci left her with stiffness and pain in the morning. Clinical research studies done on tai chi gave her hope for greater symptom management. I brought Dr. Lam to the hospital to teach a Tai Chi for Arthritis Instructor training in 2001 because I wanted to initiate a hospital based and supported tai chi program for the staff and community.

To Pam’s delight, when she took the training and made tai chi a regular addition to her life, she experienced relief from her knee pain, an increase in range of motion in her neck and reduced stiffness in her upper body as well as an incredible tool for stress management. Learning tai chi gave her the gift of being more in tune with her body. The process of facilitating instructor workshops helped integrate her mind, body and spirit. What surprised her most was how deeply tai chi spoke to her. Pam is at heart a spiritual person and the slow movements of Sun style connected her more deeply to the peace at the core of her being. Practicing tai chi has been an anchor to that mindfulness and awareness of purpose in life. This connection with heart and her experience with tai chi’s wonderful health benefits prompted her to begin promoting tai chi to physicians around the country in CME programs.

To date Pam has given over 40 talks on the health benefits of tai chi to hospitals, people with chronic illnesses (such as MS) and Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation conferences and Integrative Medicine conferences. As a physician advocate for tai chi, Dr. Kircher is in a unique position to advocate for a non traditional rehabilitation strategy like tai chi and convincingly present the case for adopting tai chi in hospitals and wellness centres.
Colorado and the south western states have a large Native American population with a high incidence of Diabetes. Pam did her first instructor training in TCD with the Southern Utes in Dulce.

From there she was invited to do workshops in New Mexico with various pueblos. Pam travelled to Alaska to teach tribes there, including those above the Arctic Circle. They are scattered into small groups, so tai chi is an ideal exercise for diabetes prevention since it can be done alone and doesn’t require space or equipment. Most recently, Pam taught people from the Tohono O’odham Nation in Arizona who had already developed a strong diabetes prevention initiative and wanted to add tai chi, making them a very receptive group for the tai chi training.
As an MT, Pam values opportunities to continue her growth in tai chi. After certifying for TCA in 2001, she became certified to teach Tai Chi for Diabetes Workshops in 2005. When her schedule permits, she assists Dr. Lam with Depth of TCA workshops. Pam participated in the first International Conference for the Scientific Study of Tai Chi for Health in Seoul, South Korea in 2006. She was a Keynote Speaker, giving a talk on “The Practicalities of Tai Chi” and taught a Tai Chi for Diabetes Instructor workshop in Seoul. In 2011 Pam will be taking an intensive workshop with Dr. Lam on Depth of Sun 73.

Dr. Kircher became a Master Trainer for Dr. Lam’s Tai Chi for Health Programs in 2002. In fact, she organized the venue for that training at her ranch in Pagosa Springs, complete with catered meals. It was a magical retreat in the solitude of rural Colorado with views of mountains and a stream. The conversation flowed from training to planning for the future of tai chi’s USA organization into having fun being with others who had a passion for tai chi. I became a Master Trainer that year along with Pam and we conducted our first Tai Chi for Arthritis Instructor Workshop together in Houston in December. What I remember about Pam in that co-teaching experience was her compassion for students, her ability to speak clearly and effectively and her enjoyment of teaching. Teaching skill and medical knowledge are a remarkable combination.

In addition to being a Master Trainer, conducting workshops and teaching at Dr. Lam’s annual weeklong tai chi event in the United States each June, Pam was a founding charter member of the non-profit organization a group of USA MT’s started called Tai Chi for Arthritis Association. The name was later changed to TCHC, Tai Chi for Health Community. Pam served as president from 2002-2006. During that time by-laws were written, non-profit status was obtained and a website was constructed with the help of Pam’s daughter. One of TCHC’s greatest contributions to the new instructor community is the Scholarship Program that awards 5-10 scholarships to the annual workshop.

Although Pam has retired from being a practicing physician, she is actively involved in her teaching role through local classes and regional instructor training workshops. Pam and her husband Mark, a retired Orthopedic Surgeon, now live full time on their ranch in Pagosa Springs. Their ranching lifestyle includes raising cattle, mending fences and involvement in community activities, along with enjoying the beauty of rural Colorado.

What if you have more questions?

Please feel free to browse my website for more information. You may also contact me if you have other questions.



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