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Champions of Health & Fitness 2010

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Mind-Body Visionary: Donna Karan

Fashion designer Donna Karan has always made us look great. Now, through her groundbreaking Urban Zen Integrative Therapy program, she's helping cancer patients also feel their best. The project, which launched at New York City's Beth Israel Medical Center last year, combines chemotherapy and radiation sessions with alternative treatments, such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture, and aromatherapy.

Karan, a yoga practitioner since she was a teenager, came up with the idea of helping ease patients' pain, anxiety, and nausea when her late husband, Stephan Weiss, was battling lung cancer in the late 1990s (he died in 2001). "I didn't know what to do to help him, so I turned to yoga and meditation and urged Stephan to do the same," Karan recalls. "Very quickly the yoga and breathing techniques gave him physical relief as well as spiritual comfort and eased his pain. Out of that experience, my commitment to holistic care was born."

By 2008, Karan had raised more than $850,000 through educational well-being forums, corporate contributions, and proceeds from the sale of furniture, jewelry, and clothes at her two Urban Zen boutiques. She donated the funds to Beth Israel, where they have been used to transform the hospital's oncology unit into a more soothing, sanctuary-like environment. Now doctors and nurses work side by side with practitioners of Eastern therapies who are introducing important approaches such as contemplative end-of-life care. The money is also supporting a clinical study of the results of the program's methods.

"I want to humanize the patient," Karan declares. "I believe simple acts, whether we're offering the scent of therapeutic oil or a healing touch, can transform a painful experience into one of comfort and hope."

-- Patty Adams Martinez

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shell813@gmail.com wrote:

What a great story - kuddos!

3/26/2010 01:16:40 PM Report Abuse

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