Being mindful: Healing for the whole person

New Centre for Mindfulness launched at BC Children’s Hospital this past June


Dr. Dzung Vo, (pictured below, along with mindfulness participant Mckenna) is the director of BC Children’s new Centre for Mindfulness, which launched this past June with the help of donor support. As one of the first mindfulness centres at a children’s hospital globally, its ultimate vision is to create a culture of mindfulness at BC Children’s that will help kids, teens, families and health care providers here and around the world. We sat down with Dr. Vo to learn more.

Mindfulness Dr Vo

What is mindfulness?

To get the full essence of mindfulness, you have to experience it for yourself. But as a definition, I usually refer to a slightly adapted explanation from mindfulness pioneer Jon Kabat-Zinn:

Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment and with unconditional love. I’ve added the last part as a reminder that “heart qualities” like compassion, caring and acceptance are vital to the healing power of mindfulness.

To simplify it further, when you’re wishing things in the past had been different, you can end up depressed. When you worry about the future, you can get anxious. Mindfulness is about living in the present moment, and not giving power to the past or future. It’s a way of life, and a concrete tool for coping with life’s challenges. If you’ve observed young children in awe and wonder at a beautiful beach or forest, you’ve seen mindfulness in action.

What benefits have you seen in youth who have practiced mindfulness?

I’ve worked with adolescents for many years at the hospital to help them use mindfulness in coping with struggles like depression, anxiety and pain. With one teen, her use of mindfulness ended years of depression and anxiety by changing her relationship with her chronic pain. In paying close attention to it, she recognized the ebbs and flows of her pain and learned how to ride the flows. That’s just one example of how mindfulness has helped change lives.

You’ve described the Centre for Mindfulness as a potential game-changer here at the hospital. Tell us why.

The Centre for Mindfulness is one of the first of its kind at a children’s hospital globally. That’s huge because we have the chance to create a culture of mindfulness throughout the campus that will not only help youth, families and health care providers as they cope with the challenges they face, but to also become a model and inspiration for other pediatric hospitals around the world. That’s our ultimate goal.

In the meantime, what are the Centre’s short-term goals?

We’re expanding existing mindfulness initiatives at the hospital to create a culture of mindfulness. We’re educating hospital staff through initiatives like webinar trainings and lunch-and-learns. And we’re also working to expand mindfulness education resources to help more youth, parents and health care providers here at the hospital.

What difference has donor support made in the Centre’s work?

The Centre for Mindfulness was only made possible through donor support—and without it, we wouldn’t exist today. With the Centre’s dedicated team, resources and partnerships in place, we’re empowered to take the next steps in pursuing our vision and helping to transform care.

In addition to leading the team at the hospital’s new Centre for Mindfulness, Dr. Vo is also the head of the Division of Adolescent Health and Medicine at BC Children’s.

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