Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, noted cardiologist and author, delivers commencement address — full text

Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum delivered a jewel of an address at MIU’s 2023 commencement ceremony, on June 24, interrupted with applause and greeted with a standing ovation at the end.

Below is the full text of her speech. She speaks after the text of her Doctor of Science honoris causa diploma is read.

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That was a little overwhelming and unexpected. Thank you so much. Thank you, Dr. Pearson, members of the Board of Trustees, President Hagelin, faculty, staff, families, guests, most important, graduates. Good afternoon, distinguished Class of 2023.

Congratulations. This is a seminal moment in your life, a significant achievement, and also a pivotal moment when you will take your achievements from here over the past several years and go out into the world and make an impact. So it’s a humbling honor to be here now and be the one who has the privilege to speak with you at this important moment in your life. 

I’ve been here before. It was a bit of time ago, in 2015. I came to visit Maharishi International University on commencement weekend, just like this. I gave a talk to the community about women and heart health. I remember my time here like it was yesterday, because my brief time here had a profound impact on me. 

I most remember the greenhouses. As I entered this lush area full of wonderful vegetables, I heard music playing. I remember thinking, the vegetables listen to music? Do we know what they prefer? Are the tomatoes into classical, the pumpkins into rock?

It was all a bit, I don’t know, quirky to me, no judgment. But when we sometimes encounter something that’s new, we tend to think this way. But then I saw with my own eyes what had happened. The cucumbers that were growing closer to the music were huge. They were this big! And the cucumbers who were growing further away just looked like normal and regular cucumbers. I never, ever forgot that. 

It was a memory that in a snapshot taught me what I’m sure you all know now. This truly is a special place with a very special collective consciousness, a very special energy. You today are an integral part of that energy going out into the world. You’ve had this unique holistic education focused on your well-being, mind, body and soul. You’ve had this incredible consciousness education that has allowed you to flourish academically, but also focus on developing the full creative potential within each of you. 

What you’ve been taught, which is now simply a part of who you are, has grounded you and is now your true superpower that will not only launch you out into the world, but will sustain you through all that life brings you, both the successes and the challenges. You are sitting here in this quiet town of Fairfield, Iowa, certainly far from the hustle of New York City where I live, and away from the prestigious institutions with far more recognition. 

And as a cardiologist working in some of these prestigious hospitals, I’ve been witness to awards and honors provided for institutions that have, yes, done great work.

But I’ve also seen how these institutions have perpetuated some of the hardships that we have seen in the health care system, things like inequity of care, polypharmacy, over-medication procedures that have been done unnecessarily, and systemic burnout of their doctors and their staff. 

Yet here at Maharishi International University, there is ground-breaking work focused on the opposite, on resilience, health, well-being, and an enlightened approach to health care and to life. This university has given you an exceptional education and the tools that will provide you wisdom and a foundation to accomplish your purpose, whatever direction you go from here. What other university would prioritize evidence-based meditation, yoga, at the core of your education?

That’s just one of the examples of many in the past two days. I saw and heard so many examples. I’ve been touring your campus, meeting the wonderful faculty, and I’ve seen so much more, and something really, really exceptional happened last night. A woman, I don’t see this often, a woman software coder, Azamit Belew, was honored for her talents in computer science. And let’s talk about Imedia Stewart, who just completed her MFA and honored at 88 years old. 

Where else in the world do these things happen? And by the way, congratulations to all your award winners. I’m sure if I were to ask you, you could think of a hundred more examples that you’ve experienced during your time here that I would never know. But we can celebrate today with immense gratitude. 

When I started my career, I didn’t have the tools that you have learned. I didn’t have an understanding that such a thing existed, different than you. I had to go on a journey to really find it.

But like what you have learned, deep in my heart, I knew I had a purpose. I was determined to fulfill it. When I went out into the world to fulfill this destiny of mine, I began my medical career. And it was about 20 years ago, I observed as a doctor in training that women were dying of heart disease, and they were often misdiagnosed, undertreated and the worst, dismissed.  

At this time, the pervasive thought in the medical community was that women didn’t get heart disease. They were actually taught there was no such thing. Women did not get heart disease. And because of that, women were discharged from the emergency rooms with diagnoses of anxiety and stress instead of what it really was, which was a hidden, hidden disease that was not treated properly and addressed the right way. This neglect and inequity of care eventually brought them back to the hospital, suffering and very, very sick. 

It was so hard for me to watch. I could not stand by any longer and observe what was so obvious to me. Women were dying simply because they were women — women suffering from a man’s disease. In time, the research proved this to be true. One in three women were dying of heart disease, more than all cancers combined. 

I knew that narrative needed to change. So one of the first things I did was to ask for a fellowship, extra training in women and heart disease. Do you know what I was told? There was no such thing. You see, if I didn’t fully understand yet, my purpose, my calling, was determined to make an impact in the world, just as yours will if you allow it. It was that internal voice, that knowing. You all know what I’m talking about.

At the same time, the American Heart Association created a national campaign called Go Red for Women to educate, empower, and conduct research on women’s hearts. There was no such thing as a spokesperson, so I volunteered. Sound familiar? That no such thing. So I asked to speak on their behalf until I eventually became a national spokesperson for the mission.

No such thing. Think about that for a moment. When we hear such things, it’s easy to see them as a barrier. But what I learned is they can also be a beacon, a light in the distance, confirming you’re exactly where you need to be. 

“‘No such thing.’ Think about that for a moment. When we hear such things, it’s easy to see them as a barrier. But what I learned is they can also be a beacon, a light in the distance, confirming you’re exactly where you need to be.”

As a young doctor, I watched the impact of stress, anxiety, and depression on women’s hearts and the juggling act that they were trying to maintain: work family, children, friendship, dogs, gardens — some of them might have had cucumbers — shopping, cleaning, caretaking. 

For so many, this harried life was not conducive to a heart-healthy life. And the worst part was all of their cardiac symptoms were blamed on their brains, and their hearts were ignored. It’s all in your heads, women were told. 

But as a cardiologist, I knew it was right there in their hearts. I needed to understand this better, research and learn more and figure out how to change these statistics. I had an inkling that there was more that we could do, and I went on a journey to find it. I did one of the first preventive cardiology fellowships in this country. I wrote a book. I became the director of Women in Heart Health Programs in three major hospitals in New York City. 

And three years ago, I made a life-changing decision. When I started my career, as I told you, one in three were dying of heart disease. And today it really hasn’t changed. I knew I could stay in the hospital system and continue to be part of the problem or take a risk — follow my purpose and leave the hospital to create a truly impactful solution. 

And now I’m the CEO and founder of a health technology company focused on women’s cardiovascular health, prevention, and wellness through innovative software working with primary care physicians. We’re going to finally change that statistic once and for all. Azamit, call me — I’m looking to hire some coders. 

“Someday soon we will be able to say it is no longer one in three women dying of heart disease. This is my mission. This is my calling.”

Someday soon we will be able to say it is no longer one in three women dying of heart disease. This is my mission. This is my calling. 

I want to share with you something that changed me and my medical practice and helped me on this journey. It was about 2008. As we were entering the recession, I started seeing more and more men come into my office with chest pain, shortness of breath, and palpitations. They had high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, insomnia, obesity, and the common denominator — they were all working on Wall Street. It felt like an epidemic was occurring. But they all described to me the same thing. Relentless stress, fear of the future, and lack of control. 

It was then when I met Bob Roth at the David Lynch Foundation, and I researched the seminal paper regarding TM and its impact on high blood pressure. With $26 million in research grants from the National Institute of Health, Dr. Robert Schneider, the dean of the College of Integrative Medicine and his colleagues from right here at MIU, discovered that TM was not only effective in decreasing blood pressure, but their work also showed a 30% reduction in death rates from cardiovascular causes. 

“These and other discoveries from MIU literally changed our understanding of preventive medicine and specifically of Transcendental Meditation and its role in heart health.”

These and other discoveries from MIU literally changed our understanding of preventive medicine and specifically of Transcendental Meditation and its role in heart health. So I needed to try TM myself so I could decide whether or not I could or should prescribe it to others. I learned it and I loved it. 

As meditation became a regular part of my daily routine, I knew this was not only an answer for those men and all those women with symptoms and diseases as a side effect of their relentless stress. I assure you, at that time my ideas were not wholly accepted by the medical community. Through my own TM practice, I had found a deeper sense of who I was and my mission became crystallized for me. 

I had started to tap into that field of inner stillness, that field of pure listening and knowingness that you have been having access to for years. And it has grounded me in my purpose and calling ever since. 

I wanted to share with you my story, because what it took to reach those milestones and get to where I am today was far from easy. There were so many who thought what I was doing was unnecessary. And as a woman in a male-dominated field, I often was personally dismissed and had to stand up for not only myself but for the cause. 

I had to work harder and be more diligent. I had to believe in what I was doing so deeply that no matter what came at me, I’d be able to handle it, manage it, and overcome it. I had to learn how to be resilient very early on, or I wouldn’t be able to do what I set out to do. 

In the beginning, I didn’t have all the tools to do so. You are so lucky that you do. I don’t say this all to tell you what I’ve done, but to inspire you. What you will do if you simply recognize that because of this education you’ve had here and who you have become because of it, the world is calling you to create that thing that will fulfill your purpose. 

I changed the narrative by instead of talking about sickness, I talked about wellness. Instead of researching medications and procedures, I focused on nourishment and movement. Instead of telling people what was best for them, I asked them to tell me how they were feeling and what they needed. 

And instead of prescribing Xanax, Valium, or antidepressants, I prescribed Transcendental Meditation. 

And you know what? It worked.

I have a career of stories and can see in my mind the faces of people who would have otherwise been a statistic. But this approach healed them, and it gave them a path towards wellness and vitality. Through my path, I’ve been an outlier in my fields. I’ve pushed the boundaries that have been established by the medical system. And I’ve challenged it to think differently. And I’ve proven it works with countless lives over the course of my career. 

I believe it is partially because of what TM brought to my own life at a fundamental level. That pure sense of knowing, you know what I mean? I have a phrase that I would like to share with you: Live from the heart. What this means is really knowing who you are. Knowing what makes you happy. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses and knowing what’s important to you. 

I’ve been talking about this approach and treating patients with it for two decades. Finally, we can talk about the depth of research validating this approach medically. In 2017, the American Heart Association published the scientific statement entitled “Meditation and Cardiovascular Risk Reduction.” I was in awe. It was finally happening.

The spark of the idea that changed medicine today. That idea that generated the research funded by the National Institute of Health and reported by the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association began right here at MIU, right here at your university. It happened right here in Fairfield, Iowa. Not those prestigious hospitals that I worked in in New York City. 

“You’re part of a legacy that is changing the world for the better, that legacy you carry with you today. And now it’s your turn.”

You should all be proud of that. You’re part of a legacy that is changing the world for the better, that legacy you carry with you today. And now it’s your turn. Your time to make your stamp on the world just the same. So as you go forward, use all that you learned. And I dare you all to live from the heart. Find what inspires you. Compels you. Drives you. Find the thing that can only be done by you, that you are uniquely suited for. Pay attention to who you want to be in the world, and don’t let anyone define or dissuade you. 

This is what I mean when I say Live from the heart. It is living a life of passion, purpose, wellness, and vitality. When you listen to who you are and what you can be, you will find your unique place in the world. And when you do that, you will powerfully and positively impact everyone around you for the better. 

In the past four years, the world and you have endured quite a bit of political, social, and economic upheaval. A pandemic shut down the world. And you lived through it. Our government became so polarized that we witnessed unprecedented violence at the Capitol building. We watched the destruction of human life by Russia and their war against Ukraine. And every day we hear of innocent lives taken by the violence of guns. 

If we are not careful, we can become immune to it. When you look around, many people have become withdrawn, angry, anxious, even self-absorbed. Society in some ways is living in survival mode, some living in the state of fight or flight and others falling back on their innate instincts to just keep going. 

But we know better. There are those of us who will continue to live from the heart, knowing that there is possibility for change, for a shift, for an impact, and for pushing the boundaries. 

You have survived a tumultuous time in history and arrived here at this stage of success in your academic journey. You, grounded in your innermost selves and profound awareness, can see the potential for a different world than this one. 

“You, grounded in your innermost selves and profound awareness, can see the potential for a different world than this one.”

You have also had the unique education that has set you up to succeed. Your education taught you to find your purpose and have a deep-rooted resiliency. So as you move to the next chapter, continue to do what you have learned to do. Continue your path to live from the heart. Listen. Pay attention. Be willing to try and also be willing to fail. Be willing to stand up for what you believe in, even if you are right, even if you are in the minority. 

Listen to what your heart is telling you is right and is real for you. Live in a way that makes you feel energized, invigorated, stimulated, and fulfilled. And know that it takes time and often some bumps in the road to get there. And if you’re being propelled forward and hear those words, “There is no such thing,” rest assured, you have chosen to create it from “no such thing” into your most essential thing. 

You can take joy in the challenge ahead and knowing full well that you are where you are destined to be. So can we get back to those cucumbers a second? What made them grow so large? You’re not going to believe this. A study out of Sydney, Australia, by Hendricks Gin, do you believe was able to publish research now? Hendricks Gin — you know, the ones that make the classic gin and tonic with a cucumber. They looked to see how the cucumbers could grow the largest. They describe that cucumbers respond to acoustic energy. And in fact, this study showed that plants, especially these cucumbers, reacted to outside stimuli and reacted to the energy around them. 

But we all knew that already, didn’t you? Did you know that they actually have taste in music? Of course you do, right? They grew larger to rock music and apparently they hated jazz, which quite frankly, my ex-husband was a jazz musician. So I get it. Those cucumbers. I know this sounds funny, but in a real sense, they are living from the heart. They are growing in a way that is the most authentic, healthiest version of themselves. 

“Ultimately, my greatest wish for each of you is to truly live from the heart, that true sense of being the most authentic version of yourselves. But you all are ahead of the game. You already know how to do this.”

Ultimately, my greatest wish for each of you is to truly live from the heart, that true sense of being the most authentic version of yourselves. But you all are ahead of the game. You already know how to do this. And we know, when we live from a place of passion and purpose, we live longer, healthier lives, and the whole world will be better for it. 

My call to action to you is to go out in the world and be exactly who you are meant to be. Be those massive cucumbers. How are you going to do it? You are equipped and ready. You are capable. You are kinder. You’ve learned the tools to navigate and master a complex world. You have chosen through your unrelenting self-care that you can give more and do more. You have found power in your stillness. 

Finally, I leave you with this, a quote from our friend David Lynch. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper. 

May you all continue on the journey you began here at MIU. Go deeper. The world will thank you. 

Congratulations, Class of 2023.


By Authority of the Board of Trustees 
Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum 
Doctor of Science honoris causa

We honor you for your lifelong service in promoting health, wellness, and well-being as a medical doctor and educator. You have touched and enriched the lives of millions of people, starting with your own patients and extending to the countless people you reach through your books, events, and media appearances. 

To guide people to health is to guide them to wholeness, happiness, a richer and fuller life. In a world where individual and social health seems increasingly imperiled, you are a shining light. 

Your career choice may have had something to do with your growing up in a family of doctors, including your grandfather, where you may have been his most frequent visitor, watching as he practiced from an office adjoining his home. Your father modeled the life of an oncologist. 

Yet you charted your own course in medicine. With cardiovascular disease as women’s number one health threat, claiming the lives of one in three women worldwide, you elected to specialize in women’s health and women’s hearts, focusing on preventive care. 

You have connected with women in just about every way possible. 

You have reached them through your work as an attending cardiologist and director of Women’s Heart Health at the Heart and Vascular Institute, part of Lenox Hill Hospital, the nationally ranked research and academic medical center in New York City. 

Through your weekly news show, “Focus on Health,” broadcast on WLNY-TV out of New York City. 

Through your appearances on ABC NewsGood Morning AmericaNBCCNNCBS News, and Inside Edition and your talks all over the country. 

Through your book Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book: Every Woman’s Guide to a Heart-Healthy Life, which, as one reviewer observes, “transcends traditional medicine and focuses on a woman’s entire well-being.” 

Through your service as a national spokesperson for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women initiative, designed to educate women worldwide about heart health and empower them to take charge of their own health and that of their loved ones. 

And through your initiative as the founder and CEO of Heart-Tech Health, where you developed its secret weapon, The Adesso Wellness Digital Platform, a comprehensive free platform with advice, news, events, research, and expert contributors that achieves massive financial savings through preventive care while immeasurably improving women’s quality of life. 

As you have written, “When we love our hearts enough to take care of them, the best within us emerges.” 

You are among those forward-looking physicians who recommend the Transcendental Meditation to your patients, recognizing its effectiveness in dissolving stress and restoring balance together with its application to a wide variety of disorders. As you have remarked, “I very clearly say to my patients: ‘Let’s treat blood pressure. Let’s treat your cholesterol. Let’s treat your stress. And the way we’re going to treat these is with Transcendental Meditation practice.’” 

Beyond your work in caring for women’s hearts, we honor you for the great heart you yourself bring to your work. You reflect the qualities of an enlightened physician — brilliance and joy, compassion and creativity, humor and humanity, knowledge and wisdom. It’s not surprising that when people see you, they want what you have. 

Your work has been widely cited in the media, and you have been widely recognized for your work, receiving the American Heart Association’s Young Heart Award for Achievement in Cardiovascular Science and Medicine and being named a “Super Doctor” by the New York Times

Our country and our world are healthy to the extent that its people are healthy, and in this respect you have played an outsized role in guiding the country back to balance and wholeness. 

Wishing you perfect health, a long and rewarding life, and the fulfillment of your goals for healthy people and a healthy world. 

With admiration and gratitude from the entire MIU community. 

Presented this 24th day of June 2023 

John Hagelin
President of the University

Ed Malloy
The Board of Trustees