It goes by many names – complementary, alternative, integrative; some simply call it quackery. But whatever you want to call this realm of non-conventional medicine, know that it is filled with much more variety and depth than you likely suspect. I became interested in integrative medicine (IM) in college, when I started practicing yoga and became more concerned about nutrition for myself. It was a gradual process from there. I attended a local IM conference as a first-year, which lead to re-instating Loyola’s Interest Group for Integrative Medicine, and hosting the same conference as a second-year. Then came research projects, and new mentors who encouraged me to do things like getting trained in clinical hypnosis and presenting at an international IM conference in London. The world of IM grew from yoga and nutrition to a variety of mind-body practices, to whole systems of medicine like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. It’s exciting, and tends to align with my passion for preventive medicine, and desire to help others on a path towards wellness. (Note: that is different from treating disease, which conventional medicine does exceptionally well.)
This blog has been a big part of facilitating learning around these interests, and sharing them with others. Especially regarding nutrition and mindfulness. It's also been a major creative outlet for me. A place to express myself without much pressure, and to begin developing a personal writing style and explore where that might lead me. Over the years I've posted less and less, and recently I have really trickled off. Part of that was because of a month-long trip to Changzhou, China for Loyola’s newest global health elective. At the Number 1 People’s Hospital I got to learn about acupuncture and the traditional Chinese methods of diagnosis. The hospital is predominantly Western, and it was fascinating to see how Eastern and Western medicine are truly integrated. For example, there is a drawer full of herbal patches in the pediatric nurses station that are placed on children’s chests when they have a cough.
One important thing I learned there, which I had already begun to suspect, is that even alternative medicine can be practiced in a non-holistic way. Problem, diagnosis, prescription, return in four to six weeks. So then, what is it that I’ve been searching for? Certainly not a whole new pharmacopoeia of herbs and supplements, nor a list of problems not yet defined by the modern medical literature. I’m not looking for a fancy new field of medicine, I’m simply looking for good medicine. I believe that happens when we approach the patient as a person with whom we enter a relationship, as a whole person who can also teach, and even heal, us. I also still believe that looking at IM is a good place to start, because it emphasizes the fact that what we eat and do with our bodies daily, and the way we experience stress and emotions all have a profound impact on our health.
I feel very fortunate to have some time to reflect on these things even more before heading into residency. It's such an exciting time. I absolutely want community outreach, teaching, and writing to play major roles in my career as a family physician. But I think this blog is no longer the place for me to do that. Instead, I'm going to push myself to write when I feel like writing, even if I won't have the instant gratification of hitting the "publish" button. To store up my thoughts, to refine them, and then to be so bold as to ask somebody else to publish them.
With any luck, you will be reading something else from me soon. Just not here.
With gratitude and love,