Mary Malinski, BS,RN, LMT, seasoned massage therapist, graduated from Tacoma General School of Nursing in 1966 and Oregon School of Massage in 1987. Since then, Mary has been pioneering studies on massage as well as on the benefits of touch for people with chronic asthma.

In the late 1970s, after taking time out to raise her three children, Mary resumed her career in nursing at Allergy, Asthma, Dermatology Associates (AADA) and continued there for 25 years. During that time, she completed her education at Marylhurst University and began her studies at the Oregon School of Massage.

Mary’s journey into the world of massage started in childhood. Memories of her Aunt Lillian’s gentle and loving back rubs blossomed into a nursing career and later led her into massage therapy.

Mary’s interest in combining alternative healing with medicine expanded after attending a Sufi Conference where an associate of Olga Worrells, Dolores Krieger, PhD, RN, spoke on Therapeutic Touch. One statement Olga made impacted Mary, setting her on a new path of discovery and research. In a question-and-answer period following a lecture, Mary asked, “How do I talk to my doctor who doesn’t believe in natural healing?”

Olga responded by calling her down to the stage and asking, “Do you touch patients in your job?” Mary responded in the affirmative and Olga followed by stating, “Healing energy is very intelligent and knows exactly where to go and what to do at all times. All you need to do is silently call it forth.” She continued, “Don’t ever argue with your doctor again. It serves no purpose.”

This interaction strengthened Mary’s resolve to bring touch and healing into her work, setting the course of her career combining nursing and massage. This new information on healing touch led Mary to seek training in this method of energy healing. Mary obtained certification in Therapeutic Touch at Orcas Island, Washington. Mary has had numerous experiences with patients surprised at the impact of touch in her therapy. She has seen rapid recoveries in her patients and unexpected results from applied touch with intention.

Mary was allowed by her doctor at AADA to incorporate simple neck and shoulder massage on her patients to show if these methods could reduce symptoms and levels of stress. This involved only five to ten minutes of treatment and produced recognizable results. Mary then began formulating a research idea on whether massage for more extended time could achieve greater results in affecting the symptoms of chronic asthma.

Over the next five years, Mary researched the effects on chronic asthma symptoms from a new method of massage therapy called Chair Massage, created by David Palmer from the Skilled Touch Institute, now known as Touch Pro International. In 1993 she was surprised with a grant of $10,000 to consolidate her research. She had a limited time to put together her research conclusions. In 1994, following the successful study, she was encouraged by her doctor to present a Posterboard Session at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) in New York City. Mary applied for peer review and acceptance of her study and received a confirmation from AAAAI. She was shocked and elated, especially as she discovered she was the only person out of 8,000 attenders at the conference presenting a Posterboard Session on the effects of massage and asthma.

In 2002, Mary started working with Dr. Miles Hassell in developing the Integrative Medicine Program in the Cancer Department at Providence St Vincent Hospital in Portland, Oregon. During her term with Integrative Medicine, Mary had the opportunity to develop, promote and teach a one-hour class on “Reawakening Touch in Nursing Care.” She presented this class to nursing floors at St. Vincent Hospital, as well as at ancillary service departments, the V.A. Hospital, and other Providence facilities throughout the state. She also provided the class to other Portland area hospitals such as OHSU, universities and hospice care facilities.

Mary added a personal touch in her classes with nurses by bringing along her mascot, a beloved and somewhat scruffy teddy named Red Bear. Red Bear sometimes contributed by whispering something in Mary’s ear, which she then conveyed to the class. This bit of humor helped students relax and enjoy the experience, thus enhancing learning.

In 2009, Mary took part in a research project spearheaded by William Collinge, PhD and sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. Its purpose was to develop a caregiver education program on massage for cancer. The team named the program “Touch, Caring and Cancer: Simple instructions for family and friends.” The program enabled caregivers at home to learn safe and effective massage techniques to reduce symptoms and side effects of the cancer treatment. To date, thousands of families across the U.S. and in several other countries have learned and benefited from the Touch, Caring and Cancer program.

After 50 years of nursing, Mary retired in 2015. She has retained her massage license in Oregon and continues to provide massage to her clients. She has also continued teaching her one-hour class on “Reawakening Touch in Nursing Care” to first year nursing students at George Fox University.

Written by: Gina King

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