Beginning in my youth, I was exposed in the ideas of holistic medicine through my parents.  My father, a veterinarian, began using alternative forms of healing on animals from the time I was a young teen, including acupuncture, homeopathy, energy medicine and nutritional supplements.  Always excited to learn something new, he read veterinary and alternative journals every day and shared his findings with us.  My mother always preached thinking for yourself, questioning authority, and making informed decisions especially about health issues.  She had always been a strong breast feeding advocate and drove to Canada to buy milk that was free of DDT and questioned giving us vaccinations even back then.  I grew up eating carob, putting acupuncture needles in oranges, taking lots of vitamin C, doing EST (now known as Landmark Education), using visualization techniques to improve my rare headaches and guide our airplane to safety, and taking niacinamide for PMS.  One of my first research papers in high school was on homeopathy.  As children often do, I resisted much of what I heard, needing to learn things for myself.

Having decided at the young age of 5 that I wanted to be a pediatrician, I followed that goal.   While in college, at the University of Michigan, I have a vivid memory of telling a boyfriend that I couldn’t wait to one day be able to tell a parent that their child was healthy or to reassure them that their child just had a cold, and nothing more serious.  When that friend seemed disgusted by the simplicity of this goal, I initially questioned myself, but later realized that this is truly what I desire.  I chose MSU’s College of Human Medicine due to it’s focus on doctor-patient relationship and it’s claim to “treat the whole person” rather than the disease.  While it was the right school for me, unfortunately it offered virtually no training in nutrition nor any exposure to alternative forms of healing.  I then completed my pediatric residency at William Beaumont Hospital and began my practice as a traditional community pediatrician.

Soon after entering clinical practice, I gave birth to my daughter and became a better doctor – far more empathetic – but suddenly realized the many areas where my training had failed.   Emily had classic colic and was a terrible sleeper, which now I believe may have stemmed from my misguided nursing technique as well as my own gut dysbiosis.  If only I had known then what I know now…  When she was 9 months old, I developed Graves disease.  I was told by “the best” local endocrinologist to just get my thyroid irradiated, then my problem would be over. I would just need to take Synthroid for the rest of my life.  “Hold on,” I thought.  That just didn’t sit right with me.  The thyroid is an important organ, not one to so easily be dismissed.  At that point, I realized that I was not able to just sit back and trust conventional medicine to fix me.  I had to think outside the box.   I trusted my father and, with supplements and his energy machine, he guided me to improved health.  Thankfully my Graves disease went into remission and has been that way ever since.  I promised him, at that time, that if I improved from his therapy, I would be open to hearing and reading about alternative forms of medicine.  So I did, and so I began.  Slowly but steadily an alternative way of thinking began to take hold of me, only to continue to seep deeper into my being after my son was born.

My son was a far different child than my daughter, with digestive issues that I didn’t grasp until recently.   I am thankful that he was not first, because I wouldn’t have been ready for his issues.  Frequent diarrhea as a baby, for 3 weeks, that burned his bottom, eczema, recurrent ear infections, recurrent croupy cough each time he caught his frequent colds, coughs that lingered for weeks after the cold was gone. Since I had cared for so many children like this, and because he was such an active and happy child, who was growing quite well, I easily dismissed these frequent illnesses. “Oh, he’s just a cougher,” I would say, knowing clearly that if I took him into one of my colleagues that they would recommend inhaled steroids for him.  No, I could not do that for my son.  Charlie also developed nosebleeds that initially responded to conventional treatment with a humidifier and application of Vaseline nasally. But finally when he developed pneumonia, 1 month before he turned six, and had nose bleeds almost every night that would wake him from sleep and persist despite more than 10 minutes of constant pressure, I knew he needed more than what I was providing and more than what my traditional pediatric colleagues could do for him.

In addition to being frustrated with my son’s lack of improvement, I was also very dismayed by my many patients who had persistent vague symptoms and/or chronic illness whom I were unable to help.  Over the years, as expected with traditional medicine, I sent them to specialists, most times only to find that they offered no cures, nothing to help the body heal from the underlying illness.   Reading medical journals and going to conventional medical conferences had lost all excitement for me.  So often, I heard of new drugs to suppress symptoms, new ways of classifying old illnesses, new vaccines to prevent a rare or inconvenient illness, and hear “expert opinion” on a topic describing recommended protocols for diseases.  Never did I hear of the possibility of true healing the illness or the person, that is, until I started learning about nutrition and Functional Medicine.

Quite perfectly, at about the same time that Charlie had his pneumonia and persistent chronic nose bleeds, I had experienced many remarkable successes in treating patients using the Functional Medicine model.   Not only is Charlie much healthier now – no nose bleeds, no chronic cough, and has a much stronger immune system – but I have had the absolute pleasure to see so many patients improve from illnesses, some that previously I would have been clueless as to even where to begin.  Depression, seizures, recurrent episodic nighttime vomiting, recurrent abdominal pain, recurrent ear infections and prolonged fluid in the ear, recurrent headaches, eczema, and a teen with nosebleeds, gum bleeding and profuse menstrual bleeding – all significantly better with simple nutritional changes.  For me to see these kids improve, when previously, through conventional medicine, their problems would have likely remained chronic and often worsened, completely changed my outlook on medicine and what it means to be a healer.  Of course, not everyone responds so quickly, nor has such dramatic improvement.   But when I saw these techniques work so well, so simply and rarely with any negative effects, I knew that I needed to continue to use them and learn more.

I had eleven years of clinical experience as a traditional pediatrician.  This extensive traditional medical backround gives me a unique perspective.   I know what most pediatricians know and I am also aware of areas where traditional medical education is deficient.   I no longer can look at the seemingly, simple problem simply.  Now even minor illnesses bring with them a far more complex story.   I see illness from both viewpoints.  I am able to recognize a severe or emergent problem that could benefit from conventional medicine evaluation and treatment.  I am also able to evaluate a more vague or chronic problem, often seeing symptoms as signs of inflammation and exploring ways of decreasing that inflammation from wherever it may stem.  So here I am, embarking upon my new practice, incorporating my prior conventional training and experience into a new, more holistic and functional medical schema.

“There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

– Anais Nin