Chapter 11: A Few Words about Yoga and Views on MD Anderson's New Directions

Chapter 11: A Few Words about Yoga and Views on MD Anderson's New Directions



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Ms. Sumler begins this chapter by speaking briefly about teaching yoga at MD Anderson and how acceptance of that service has grown.

Next, she reflects on the new direction MD Anderson seems to be taking under Dr. Peter Pisters, who became the institution's fifth president after Ronald DePinho's resignation. CLIP She says she feels that "a new light is shining" and she sees a new commitment to the institution's commitment to care and compassion and its mission to support both patients and employees. She has hopes that acceptance of Integrative Medicine will continue to grow.



Publication Date



The Making Cancer History® Voices Oral History Collection, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center


Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The Interview Subject's Story - Overview; Definitions, Explanations, Translations; Professional Path; Professional Practice; The Professional at Work; Patients; Patients, Treatment, Survivors; MD Anderson Culture; Working Environment; Institutional Mission and Values; Cancer and Disease; This is MD Anderson; Offering Care, Compassion, Help

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Oncology | Oral History


Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D.:

Interesting, yeah. We never talked about you teaching yoga, and would you talk about that now, kind of what’s about, and acceptance, and its impact, all of that good stuff?

Pamela Austin Sat Siri Sumler, LMT, BCTMB, CLT, E-RYT:

So... So when we first started teaching yoga, I guess we had yoga here before I started teaching yoga here, and it’s been quite a long time since I’ve taught yoga, and I also—I taught a meditation class here, as well, but I haven’t done that in quite a while. But when I first started, I think there really was concern from Physical Rehab about our yoga classes. And at that time, we didn’t have, like, a medical director onsite in our center, and Rehab would oversee that. So they were very protective. Basically, the yoga teacher could submit, one, this is what I’m going to teach, and they would see what it was and say, “No, you—yes, you can do this; no, you can’t do this,” and that’s it. And so that’s changed a lot. Rehab has become part of our—and the Physical Medicine physicians, we created a training for yoga teachers, that they helped in developing those guidelines, and for yoga teachers to begin to think critically about working with patients. And so I think now our yoga teachers that we have are—have grown a lot. I mean, we have new people from before, but that whole part of what we have has developed a lot, since the very beginning. Because as a yoga teacher, you want to modify your class according to who’s in there, and so you really need to have those skills to be able to do that with a special population.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D.:

Yeah, for sure, and just information, too, that you may not be aware of. Yeah, last time you talked about that, developing the critical thinking skills, and I’d never really thought about that before, how key that was, but it sounds like that’s been a continuing theme sort of with everything that’s being offered through Integrative Medicine. That’s really cool, I mean, that...

Pamela Austin Sat Siri Sumler, LMT, BCTMB, CLT, E-RYT:

Yeah, I think there’s—even for yoga teachers in general, it’s just beginning to have continuing education for yoga teachers in working with people who have been through trauma. And so I think that’s going to develop more for yoga teachers in the community, but all of those types of trainings are really important for our—in our—for our patients who come to our classes.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D.:

Now, what’s your kind of big perspective? We have a new president at the institution. There are all these changes going on, attempts to kind of refocus the institution after the turbulence of Dr. DePinho [oral history interview] and his resignation, and all of the shared governance reorganization, all that kind of stuff. What is your impression about sort of where the institution’s going and what place Integrative Medicine is going to have in that new scenario?

Pamela Austin Sat Siri Sumler, LMT, BCTMB, CLT, E-RYT:

I’m really excited. I think we’re—(laughs) I like... I feel like a door has opened, or there’s kind of like a new light shining, and I feel like at least my initial impression is, like, we need to kind of look at our people that we have here, and support them, and empower them to serve our patients, and acknowledging the people we have here care about our patients, and they want to do a good job, and we think that’s great. That’s kind of the message that I’m getting, which is really exciting. And I think that Integrative Medicine has really developed so much, and it’s continuing to develop into a program that is fitting into this. And, of course, like, what’s, to me, a very important component in our mission is compassion, and compassion for our—for patients, compassion for caregivers, and compassion for our staff. And I feel like that’s also kind of a bottom-line message that I’m hearing in our new—from our new president. And so I think that things are going to be changing. I don’t know how long it’s going to take, but I think that Integrative Medicine is becoming more accepted, that maybe we’ll see more reimbursement for some of the things that we offer. Like, even yoga, when—I’m trying to remember what year we had health law change. And—not in Houston, but it was another part of Texas-- I knew somebody who was actually getting reimbursement for yoga. I forget how many weeks. It was a number of weeks that you could actually get reimbursed for yoga. So it just gives me hope that things are going to change, and that especially, I don’t know, that we’ll keep being able to help more people.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D.:

Well, I thought it was interesting when you mentioned that some patients reported that they’d selected MD Anderson because they could receive some of these Integrated Medicine services, and that goes to patient experience, it goes to the marketability of the institution, and the fact that a growing number of patients do want these kinds of things that round out and humanize, almost, the cancer experience. So hopefully there will be ears in the leadership that receive that message.

Pamela Austin Sat Siri Sumler, LMT, BCTMB, CLT, E-RYT:


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Chapter 11: A Few Words about Yoga and Views on MD Anderson's New Directions