Speaking to the World
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Physician, Activist, Writer, Composer, Founder of Deep Medicine Circle & Co-Founder of Do No Harm Coalition
"Dr. Marya was engaging and dynamic in her keynote address. The gravity of the presentation brought several attendees to tears. Dr. Marya 's work is revolutionary and her call to action is necessary to promote health justice." - Austin Peay State University
It’s not often that you can combine several passions and be incredible at all of them. But that’s exactly what Dr. Rupa Marya has done. She has joined her love of socially conscious music and activism with a career in medicine. Add to that, the title of author. She, along with political economist Raj Patel, co-authored the book: Inflamed: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injustice. Read More >
A child of Indian immigrants, Dr. Marya took a less-than-traditional route to study medicine — earning undergraduate degrees in Theater and Molecular Biology at the University of California San Diego before heading to medical school at Georgetown University. It was during her residency at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), that music also began tugging at her heart. Dr. Marya began performing with her band, Rupa and the April Fishes. Today, she is an Associate Professor of Medicine at UCSF, where she practices and teaches internal medicine. Her work sits at the nexus of climate, health and racial justice. She’s also toured 29 countries with her band.
Dr. Marya founded and directs the Deep Medicine Circle, a women-of-color-led, worker-directed nonprofit committed to healing the wounds of colonialism through food, medicine, story and learning. Together with the Muchia Te Indigenous Land Trust, she is piloting the Farming is Medicine project on land that was returned to Indigenous leadership, where farmers are recast as ecological stewards, and food is liberated from the market economy.
Marya is a co-founder of the Do No Harm Coalition, a collective of health workers committed to addressing disease through structural change. At the invitation of Lakȟota health leaders, she has helped support the Mni Wiconi Health Circle at Standing Rock Reservation to decolonize medicine and food.
Marya was recognized in 2021 with the Women Leaders in Medicine Award by the American Medical Student Association. She was a reviewer of the American Medical Association's Organizational Strategic Plan to Embed Racial Justice and Advance Health Equity. Marya was appointed by Governor Newsom to the Healthy California for All Commission, to advance a model for universal healthcare in California. Read Less ^
To Promote Public Health, We Must Decolonize
Health and Justice: The Path of Liberation Through Medicine
Farming is Medicine
Does our history of colonization, white supremacy and genocide affect people’s health and wellness today, especially Black, Brown and Indigenous people? Absolutely, says Dr. Rupa Marya. In this fascinating talk, Dr. Marya highlights the history of colonization and how it affects everything around us, including diseases and our long-standing beliefs about healthcare. She shares her journey in recognizing the intersection of society and the human body and our health, and her work on healing the wounds of colonialism through food, medicine, story and learning at Standing Rock Reservation.
As a hospital doctor serving on the frontlines of health care for nearly two decades, a musician who’s traveled the world to examine the social forces on health, and as a mother and a farmer’s wife, Dr. Rupa Marya has seen it all. And through these experiences, she started to notice a pattern: Our health is being affected by current land use and farming practices around the world. In this riveting talk, Dr. Marya will share her story of investigating health deeply down to the very fibers of our social fabric and how human health starts in the soil. The earth is a body like her own, she says, and the soil is the gut. It’s the place where nutrient recycling accrues and immunity is supported. Dr. Marya talks about the need for a new mindset to address the challenges we face. One of the most important of these mindsets is agroecology. By tending the soil and the relationships around it and giving the soil what it needs to thrive, the plants around it will thrive and we will thrive as an outcome--securing the health of future generations.
The COVID pandemic and the shocking racial disparities in its impact. The surge in inflammatory illnesses such as gastrointestinal disorders and asthma. Mass uprisings around the world in response to systemic racism and violence. Rising numbers of climate refugees. These incidents have caused our bodies, societies and planet to become inflamed. So, is there any solution? Through the latest in scientific research, her work with patients in marginalized communities and the wisdom of Indigenous groups, Dr. Rupa Marya illuminates the hidden relationships between our biological systems and the profound injustices of our political and economic systems. She shares what it will take to heal not only our bodies but also the world.
Highlighting histories of how colonialism has severed critical relationships and responsibilities between people and the web of life, Dr. Rupa Marya illustrates how a mindset based on domination and control, rather than reciprocity, impacts the body and the planet. Solutions to address the climate crisis and the health impacts of climate change cannot come from the worldview that has been exploited and extracted from the web of life in the name of so-called progress. Humans that have remained in relations of care with the world around them are currently stewarding the greatest amount of biodiversity, which is critical for mitigating the impacts of climate change on the web of life and on human health.
Physicians interrupt their patients within 11 seconds of their first encounter, but the stories our patients tell reveal everything about their experience and understanding of illness and wellness. Stories are a form of knowing that has been systematically excluded from Western science, yet they are a critical mode of passing knowledge in traditional societies. In order to understand why we are sick and how we can be well, physicians engage in diagnosis, which is a story told out of order to understand where the derangement came from and how to return the body to health. The word diagnosis comes from the Greek roots, dia—to take apart—and gnoskein—to know. Art, music and storytelling bring things together to understand, offering other ways of knowing that can complicate and offer complexity to our understandings of sickness and health, from the microscopic to macroscopic derangements. Dr. Rupa Marya, an accomplished composer and performer, will talk about the art of diagnosis and demonstrate how incorporating the arts into medicine more directly can bring more complete ways of knowing and, consequently, healing.
"Her presentation was just brilliant weaving equity in agriculture, health, food, farmers, farm workers and the environment into one whole cloth."
“Thank you for an inspirational and moving presentation. Please continue your powerful voice on the California Health Commission! Thank you!”
“Dr. Marya: you are getting out the messaging of interbeing in a coherent beautiful way. Thank you! I can only hope many more people will hear you. Living in the community I do gives me little hope.”
“Amazing, insightful, perspectives and re-framing of familiar issues. Excellent and well presented."
“Everything is so inter-related - the climate, the land, our histories, bodies and our health and healthcare. We need to address all of these issues from a systemic perspective. She is a fabulous researcher, speaker and teacher. I learned so much listening to her and will definitely read her book.”
“Thanks for your great insights and leadership for making important changes in our system.”
“I would like to hear a progress report on how her community is progressing at next year's annual meeting.”
"Dr. Marya was engaging and dynamic in her keynote address. The gravity of the presentation brought several attendees to tears. Dr. Marya 's work is revolutionary and her call to action is necessary to promote health justice."
"Rupa Marya is an amazing presence and speaker, she is a megaphone for the values our organization lives by."
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