Carl Hammerschlag, M.D., Paradise Valley
Author, physician, psychiatrist, speaker
In Dr. Carl Hammerschlag, the spirits of New Mexico Native Americans still roam after more than four decades.
They transformed the son of German Holocaust survivors into a heralded psychiatrist, accomplished author, speaker and bona fide character. “Something happened in Indian Country that changed my life,” Hammerschlag says. He’s talking about when, in 1965, he left behind a New York upbringing for the big, blue sky of New Mexico. He landed a two-year stint at the U.S. Public Health Service Indian Hospital in Santa Fe, where he took up the agency mission of helping otherwise underserved Native Americans.
He came to the Valley in 1970 and went on to spend 16 years as chief of psychiatry at the Phoenix Indian Medical Center before going into private practice. In that work to better others, the Yale University-educated Hammerschlag found self-improvement and a personal mission: promoting mind-body-spirit medicine, known as psychoneuroimmunology—ostensibly bridging the gap between science, spirit and culture. Now 67 and living in Paradise Valley, he has authored several books, including The Dancing Healers; The Theft of the Spirit; and Healing Ceremonies; plus children’s books The Go-Away Doll and Sika and the Raven.
“Just think about what we have to learn from Native people,” he says. “If we only believed that those people that we conquered had some information to share.” In an undulating and admitted ramble, Hammerschlag derides the modern-day disconnect of health care, humankind, incessantly ringing phones, video games and other technological trappings. We no longer value conversation and, perhaps, never truly reveled in life lessons handed down through the ages, he says. Through mesmerizing monologues, Hammerschlag marries the wit and wisdom of Garrison Keillor and Carl Sagan. He has a mission and a message that, when delivered, opens a window to his soul, says Phoenix physician Howard Silverman.
“He’s unconventional, but he comes from a very authentic place,” says Silverman, who co-authored a book with Hammerschlag. “I think his message is that as medicine gets increasingly accelerated and hightech, let’s remember also to include issues related to the heart and related to spirit. I think that’s an important message.”