Meet Carrie Horwitch, a doctor at Virginia Mason Medical Center who specializes in internal medicine and gets invited all over the world to speak about the therapeutic benefits of laughter.
What do you do? My professional area is outpatient internal medicine, transgender health and HIV care. I treat patients from age 18 years and older. I manage many different medical conditions and issues that encompass all of internal medicine, with a special focus on HIV care, which I have been doing for 26 years.
Also, I have been a Certified Laughter Leader for the past 10-plus years. I use laughter as therapy for patients who are interested in it, and I teach other clinicians about the health benefits of laughter. Research has shown that laughter reduces stress and increases levels of good hormones, like endorphins.
Is laughter the best medicine? I believe laughter, along with other positive cognitive techniques, is indeed very good medicine and helps improve our health. Laughter is fun. It is free. In addition to its many known benefits, laughter has the added benefit of being physical exercise and can burn calories. I think that adding laughter to one’s healthy practices can positively impact their well-being.
How did you choose a medical career? I chose medicine because I wanted to be in a helping and healing profession. I loved learning the science of the human body as well as the art of medicine. I enjoy getting to know my patients and hearing their stories. My ultimate reward is helping them navigate their conditions and achieve better health.
What’s a typical day like? In medicine, I do not think there is a “typical” day. Every day is different because every patient is unique in some way. I see people with many different issues every day. This variety is one reason I like being a doctor. Also, I am fortunate to be able to flex my schedule for 30-minute appointments in which to address my patients’ needs. By comparison, average primary care medical appointments in the United States are about 20 minutes long.
What surprises people about what you do? Many people are surprised to learn that I am a Certified Laughter Leader and often use laughter in my practice with patients. They are skeptical initially, but they usually want to learn more about the positive impacts laughing can have on our bodies and minds.
Another thing that surprises some is that I used to be a member of a Balkan folk dance troupe.
Also, I have traveled to several countries in Africa where I’ve trained local medical providers to care for HIV-infected individuals.
What’s the best part of the job? The very best part of my job is helping patients and working in a collaborative, respectful and team-oriented environment of doctors, physician assistants, advanced nurse practitioners, medical assistants and customer service representatives. I’ve never once wished I’d chosen another career.