We live in an age of acceleration. Much is changing. Jobs are changing and today, brain power is more valuable than muscle power. Globalization, computerization and the use of robots and machines are stripping away high-paying labor jobs in our state and across the country.

It is a time of change.

With this change comes fear, a feeling of threat, and a mindset of scarcity. Anne Case and Angus Deaton reported that addiction, overdose and suicides are greatly increased in 45 to 55-year-old white Americans with high school educations or less. Why? Because they have suffered self-perceived social decline accompanied by a mindset of fear, despair, hopelessness and scarcity.

They feel isolated and forgotten. This mindset has made them sick and likely has accelerated their biological ages.

Many of the people they described are among our patients in West Virginia, are the parents and families of our students, are the voters who choose our local and state leaders. They are our families and neighbors. They are us.

Fast forward to Charlottesville.

Like many Americans, I have been glued to the events in Charlottesville, Virginia - the home of a University that shares many of the same values and aspirations we hold dear at West Virginia University.

The images reveal a deep sense of separation, fear and confusion cumulating in ego-driven hate and control. These images remind many of Nazi Germany. But what I see in the shocking photos are a number of scared, confused and isolated people that lack love and safety – healing energies and healing environments.

I have written before that I deeply believe we are spiritual beings with a human experience, not the opposite. Thus, I believe that at a foundational level we are all connected – doors of the same house.

Einstein found the famous mathematical formula E=mc2 or that energy = matter. Moreover, at the most foundational level, all matter is made up only of energy. Energy holds everything together and we are all energy.

Thus, I believe that we are droplets of the same ocean, not separate and isolated people. It is our egos that make us feel separated from each other. I think this feeling of separation is the key element that we need to overcome in our lives.

The feeling of isolation is the critical factor that makes us feel like vulnerable, temporary entities that live for a short time and then die. The more this feeling pervades our minds and lives, the less happy, more fearful, less safe and less healthy we become.

I think it is the opposite. I think our lives are like being in school and our deaths are like being on summer vacation. If we embrace and trust that we are spiritual beings with a human experience, then we become secure in our lives and futures. 

It is no mistake that the things that make us healthy – deep connection to others, defining purpose and mindset of abundance or gratitude are grounded in love and safety, not hate and fear.

As health professionals, students and teachers, we’ll be successful only if we look beyond the physical manifestations of disease and injury, and find ways to connect our patients, students, and communities with their true intrinsic potential for health and happiness.

When I compare the images from Virginia to what I see every day in West Virginia, I feel even more blessed to be in our great state and at our great university.

We will hold a Town Hall at the Health Sciences Center in September to talk about what we do right – and what we could do better – in making our campus a place of love and safety for all who come to us to learn, to be healed, to teach and to work.

There is an undeniable energy here that connects us to our purpose – to help and love each other, to help those in West Virginia and beyond – and recreate healthcare to a model of  health – to flip the focus of our work and lives from fixing disease to creating health.

From business to purpose.

From fear to safety.

From ego to heart.

From separate to together.

But mostly, it is about seeing and celebrating the miracles that surround us every day.

The miracle of loving people and a safe environment.

Where the beauty and peace of nature heals our wounds and where a better future is born.

After all, we are Almost Heaven.

Let’s lead and go first.