Dr. Esther M. Sternberg

It’s really hard to say “Okay, I’ve made a discovery, and I know I’ve helped thousands of people, or millions of people.” It’s when you see the one patient that really has benefited from that discovery that you really know that you’ve helped. When the family member can come up to you and say, “Thank you, you helped save my mother.” That really makes a difference. And I think that’s what motivated me from the beginning when I started seeing patients on a one-on-one basis, when you know that you’ve saved a life. And then if you make a discovery in the lab, in a rat, that you know can be applied to saving many lives — that really is tremendously rewarding.

For so many thousands of years, the popular culture believed that stress could make you sick, that believing could make you well. And people believe what they feel. But scientists need evidence. And there really wasn’t any good, solid scientific evidence to prove these connections. Nor was there a good way to measure them. And scientists only believe what they can actually measure. Once scientists and physicians believed that there was a connection between the brain and the immune system, you could then take it to the next step: that maybe there is a connection between emotions and disease. Between negative emotions and disease, and positive emotions and health.

And we can then say, okay, maybe these alternative approaches that have been used for thousands of years — approaches like meditation, prayer, music, sleep, dreams — all of these approaches that we really know in our heart of hearts really work to maintain health... Maybe there is a scientific basis for it.