How did you become interested in expanding your medical training to include less conventional modalities?
The short answer is that I had to fix my own PMS and I was trained to take Prozac every day for the few days a month that I was hard to be around. So I turned to herbs instead. The longer answer includes realizing early on that the medical training I received was great for acute care issues but really, really limited for chronic conditions, which is what I was faced with each day at the office. It feels better to actually help people heal rather than simply manage conditions and then deal with the side effects of the “treatment.”
As an MD, what motivated you to take David Winston’s Center for Herbal Studies two year training program, which you recently completed? How do you feel that enhances your medical practice?
I had heard David teach at conferences like Medicines from the Earth, and was struck both by his depth of knowledge and his insistence on science, as well as his deep reverence for the plants and their historical/cultural use. I spent at least 15 years thinking about taking the course but being sure that I was too busy. When it sounded as though David might stop teaching, I decided I simply had to make the time... and it was worth it!
How are you incorporating herbal medicine into your practice? Do you offer other modalities?
I had been using herbs in my practice for many years, even before learning from David. The difference now is that I see them differently; I have a better feel for individualizing them for each patient. I also think I “know” the plants better, which makes it easier to use them correctly.
Yes, my entire practice is integrative/holistic/functional medicine. I also have the privilege and honor to work with several other practitioners under the same roof: an acupuncturist/TCM practitioner, a shiatsu shin tai practitioner, a Rubenfeld synergist, a DO who comes just to do Osteopathic manipulation, a stress management expert and a shaman. We also have several yoga classes a week at the office as well as a monthly healthy food potluck!
Do you see holistic medicine growing in acceptance? How do your allopathic peers in the medical community respond?
Generally yes, I think at least parts of what I do are both better understood and more accepted. Some of my conventional colleagues refer patients to me. I get requests every few weeks from students and residents to come “shadow” me to learn more about this, since they won’t be taught much in school. There are also many integrative CME courses taught now around the country. That being said, I’m fairly certain that there are some docs in the community who think I’ve jumped off a cliff somehow! That is, in a way, kind of understandable, though sad. They have a lot of time and energy sunk into how they learned and how they practice, and they don’t take the time to look at the research on what I do, so they don’t understand it. If they feel threatened, it’s easier for them to just say it doesn’t work.
You’ve written articles, books, and been on Dr. Oz. What do you find is the most effective way of opening people minds to holistic medical care?
When it works for them or a loved one. I see people who have been very staunchly against integrative holistic care seek me out as a last resort when conventional care has either failed or simply frustrated them. When together we reset goals, make baby steps in the basic underlying issues, and they start feeling better, they start to become believers. Even one of my attending professors from training, who was vocally against anything non-conventional, started a macrobiotic diet when he was diagnosed with cancer!
Word of mouth, and medical success after medical success is what will turn the tide and get this medicine into the mainstream. We’ve already seen a huge groundswell in the past 10 years or so. And there are folks gathering the hard data: the Cleveland Clinic’s Functional Medicine Clinic and the VA system are both treating patients and gathering data on the results. We expect that they will both find that holistic medicine is as effective or even more effective that conventional care, and it’s usually much cheaper. Once that hard evidence exists, it will be hard to NOT see the value!