Weaving My Way
Two years ago I attended the annual conference of American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine (ABIHM). The experience was honestly life changing. I came with this crazy belief that I had a calling to be a doctor, but knowing I was losing my way in this back breaking health system of ours today. And at the conference I found my tribe. I found a group of vibrant, brilliant physicians who are sure there is another path forward for those called to practice medicine. And my soul and spirit were fed.
So, I decided to take a leap. Every fiber of my being is risk averse. But with some savings I knew I could afford to at least try a new path. A new journey to follow my bliss, simplify my life and treat patients the way we all need and deserve to be treated. A chance to really doctor. And ever since I took that leap, I have felt such freedom.
I was meant to be a family doctor and after 12 years in practice, I had developed a big following. I loved the families I watched change and grow. Out a love of treating adolescents, I had somehow I had become somewhat of an expert in our community on the medical management of eating disorders. I enjoyed and felt privileged to care for patients with eating disorders. Patients that so many other physicians feel uncomfortable or ill-prepared to treat.
Over the years, I came to see our medical system was not only serious broken by the crazy, heavily encumbered way we deliver care, but that medicine was no longer about true healing. In our efforts to earn our keep, rushing from patient to patient, we had lost the most vital part of any physician’s armamentarium. Our ability to listen. We had lost time to listen.
Lost was the opportunity to see our patients holistically, address the needs of their minds, their bodies and their spirits. So often, we treat patients with an exhaustive list of medications, treating of a myriad set of symptoms – a band aid approach.
Lost is a search for a unifying reason for the cause of a patient’s disease. Sir William Osler, frequently considered the father of modern medicine wrote, “The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease.” And a physician must walk alongside their patients aiding them in reaching an optimum state of health.
At a breakout session at the ABIHM conference, someone asked me how I found my way to the conference. I didn’t have a quick answer to the question. I thought back to the practices and examples I grew up with in my family. My pediatrician was my hero, she was close to retirement when she began seeing me as her patient. She was among the few women in her medical school class. She had made a house call to see my brother during a medical emergency.
My father was also a role model. He practiced transcendental meditation for as long as I can remember. He utilized homeopathy. He entered a pilot program following the Dean Ornish Diet following a heart attack and cardiac bypass surgery.
And then there was the type of medicine to which I was drawn. Family practice with its focus on prevention, emphasis on treatment of the whole person within their family context. And my own experiences as a patient, both good and bad.
My own experiences with accupuncture and healing touch were transformative. I read everything I could find on sound nutritional practices. I wanted to teach patients how to eat to be well. Then there was my own personal need for self care, the need to slow down and practice mindfulness in my own life.
Now I realize I can follow a new road before me. Two years after first attending that conference, I work closely with nutritionists, an acupuncturist and therapists. My patients have special access to yoga instruction and therapists who teach mindfulness practices. They participate in Thai Chi and Qigong classes. I had the privilege of recently leading a workshop on integrated approaches to the management of anxiety. I got new resources to fully treat my patients. Armed with all the latest scientific evidence in allopathic and integrative medicine I’m returning to the way medicine once was practiced. I have the chance to honestly live out my calling.
So my attendance at that conference was simply a rewarding next step in the journey I had always been on. Part of my weaving my way toward being a better doctor.