For many, Dr. Bernard Siegel—or Bernie, as he prefers to be called—needs no introduction. He has touched many lives all over the Planet. In 1978, he reached a national and then international audience when he began talking about patient empowerment and the choice to live fully and die in peace. As a physician who has cared for and counseled innumerable people whose mortality has been threatened by illness, Bernie embraces a philosophy of living and dying that stands at the forefront of the medical ethics and spiritual issues our Society grapples with today. In May 2011, Bernie was honored by the Watkins Review of London, England, as one of the Top 20 Spiritually Influential Living People on the Planet. He continues to break new ground in the field of healing, supporting changes in medical education to “humanize” medical practice.
Bernie was born in Brooklyn, NY, and attended Colgate University and Cornell University Medical College. He graduated with honors and holds membership in two scholastic honor societies, Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Omega Alpha. He trained to become a surgeon at Yale New Haven Hospital, West Haven Veteran’s Hospital and the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. In 1989, Bernie retired from Yale as an Assistant Clinical Professor of General and Pediatric Surgery to speak to patients, their families and caregivers.
In his latest book, his 12th, published in September 2011, entitled A BOOK OF MIRACLES—Inspiring True Stories of Healing, Gratitude, and Love, Bernie is described in the Foreword written by Deepak Chopra who tells us “Bernie Siegel began his writing career twenty-five years ago, and from the outset he didn’t shy away from miracles. The title of his first book—LOVE, MEDICINE & MIRACLES (1986)—flaunted his disagreement with mainstream medicine. An MD who advised more love as a path to healing would have been in enough trouble. Opening the possibility of miracles was grounds for dismissal. In his new book, Bernie reaffirms his original beliefs, and with a lifetime’s wisdom and experience, he trusts in miracles more than ever.”
Bernie’s writings in the 12 books he has published so far reflect his passion to reach people struggling with all of life’s challenges—not just the physical ones—so that each person can live life fully with the understanding that, as Bernie reminds us, “We only have today.” Believing that we are all here to love one another, Bernie has crafted eternal truths and the timeless wisdom of the ages into his reflections on the true stories of his patients in much of his work. But he has also produced wonderful resources for everyone like 365 Prescriptions for the Soul (Daily Messages of Inspiration, Hope, and Love), and 101 Exercises for the Soul (A Divine Workout Plan for Body, Mind, and Spirit). Bernie’s books also include those like Love, Magic & Mudpies, a great resource for parents and delightful, loving stories like Buddy’s Candle to help children of all ages cope with the loss of a loved one, be it a pet or parent. Reflecting on his work so far, Bernie quotes Woody Allen who once said, “If I had one wish it would be to be somebody else.” Bernie’s wish was to be a few inches taller, and can say now that he is a few inches taller because his work has been such a growth experience.
In 1978, nearly a decade before retirement, Bernie launched ECaP—Exceptional Cancer Patients, in which he and his wife and co-worker, Bobbie, remain active today. ECaP is a therapeutic approach Bernie calls Carefrontation that helps patients interpret their drawings, dreams and images to express their feelings about the healing process. The physical, spiritual, and psychological benefits that emerge strengthen the immune system, a direct response to the power of the Mind-Body Connection about which Bernie has written and spoken extensively. He is currently working on other books with the goal of empowering patients and teaching survival behavior to enhance immune system competency. Bernie believes that in the next decade, the roles of consciousness, spirituality, non-local healing, body memory, and heart energy will all be explored more intensively as scientific subjects.
All along the way, Bernie’s wife, Barbara H. Siegel—or Bobbie—has been a mainstay at workshops on helping patients interpret their drawings and especially, with a talent for very funny one-liners, at workshops on the healing power of humor. Bobbie, a graduate of Oswego State Teachers College with a BS in Early Childhood Education, credits her academic work as the preparation she needed to educate and train Bernie. On his part, Bernie does say that her guidance has helped him become the person he is today. Bobbie and Bernie raised five children together and now, as then, live in a home full of children’s things (for their eight grandchildren), pets, and especially love.