Hi, Dr. Cynthia Libert here. I am an integrative, holistic physician. I love helping people improve their health making use of the best of modern medicine and integrative therapies. The purpose of today’s post is to simply introduce myself to you and share a little bit about my journey as a physician. I’ll also describe the philosophy of my medical practice.
If you’ve ever been to the doctor struggling with fatigue, pain, headaches, bloating or some other vague, but bothersome symptoms only to be told that all your blood work looks “fine” and then sent on your way, then I think that you’ll resonate with what I have to say today.
Unfortunately, this scenario is a common occurrence, because of the fact that conventional testing typically only shows an abnormality when a full blown disease state is present. In a conventional setting, a typical doctor’s office visit lasts an average of just seven minutes, and usually ends with a prescription for one or more pharmaceutical drugs. This model of healthcare delivery is quickly becoming obsolete. I like to call it “McMedicine.” This way of operating a medical practice is partly responsible for the over emphasis on prescription drugs and invasive surgical procedures that we see in America today. As you probably know, the business of healthcare in the US is in major upheaval. I often have patients tell me their stories of frustration of being told by their former doctor “it’s all in your head” or simply feeling brushed off by their doctor and sent home with a script for an antidepressant they feel that they don’t need.
We’ll it’s been a long time coming, but thanks to many years of self-study and “out of the box” continuing medical education, I have finally arrived at the point in my career where I have gained the wisdom, clinical tools and perspective to be able to help people in a more effective way. It’s exciting to be in a position to help those patients who aren’t getting the care or finding the answers they need within the traditional healthcare system. I especially enjoy the opportunity to be more proactive and intervene before symptoms progress into a full blown disease. So what’s my secret to helping people who have been dismissed by conventional medicine?
I am a board certified family physician, however, I no longer practice strictly in the traditional model that is heavily focused on pharmaceutical prescriptions. I went into medicine to help people get healthy! Sadly, during the process of my medical education I gathered that our healthcare system is broken. Most doctors are actually doing the very best they can with the tools that they have been given, but pharmaceutical drugs and invasive surgeries are not THE answer to our epidemic of chronic disease. Drugs are probably not going to save us from the ravages of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, mental illness and the like.
It was during my family medicine residency training, I discovered that much of what we do as doctors is putting “Band-Aids” over problems. We “sweep the problem under the drug” so to speak. I grew frustrated by a medical system that has become dominated by the big money in pharmaceutical drugs, technology and invasive surgical procedures. Please hear me out though, I recognize that conventional medicine is certainly life-saving in many instances, and we are truly fortunate to have access to conventional care for acute injuries and illness. I am very grateful for the advanced technologies that are used for diagnostic purposes and to create new innovative therapies.
I am also very grateful for all my dedicated, hard-working physician colleagues…for the local surgeon who’s there to help when my loved one has appendicitis, the ER physician who sets a child’s broken bone in the middle of the night, the interventional radiologist who performs an emergency procedure to save a life by inserting a platinum coil in a cerebral artery after a ruptured aneurysm. True story. This happened to my mom (pictured left) and I’m eternally grateful for the whole hospital system that enabled her to recover from this catastrophic event and survive to spend a few more precious years with her family.
I am grateful for my family doctor who provides expert advice about medical problems, delivers my babies, provides well child care and literally save lives by offering routine cancer screenings among many other important services. I am even very grateful for prescription drugs. I do believe they have their place and can be very effective. I, of course, believe in using prescription medications responsibly, and usually only as a last resort, but they are an important tool in the physician’s tool kit.
All this being said, it is clear that our current health care system often falls woefully short of the needs and expectations of both doctor and patients when it comes to chronic disease care. Let me share with you a great quote by Thomas Edison who was born in the year 1847: “The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in a proper diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.” Even though I do advocate for the judicious use of pharmaceuticals when absolutely necessary, I do think that Thomas Edison hit the nail on the head with this sentiment. I firmly believe that we as doctors need to be much more interested in helping people understand the root cause of their symptoms and diseases and teaching people how to take care of their bodies through sound nutrition, herbs, exercise, and stress management.
So, I introduced myself as an integrative, holistic physician so I should explain what I mean by this terminology. Let’s start with the word integrative. I ask you to let go of any preconceived ideas that you may have about integrative or holistic medicine and hear me out. There are plenty of misconceptions out there and many intelligent people dismiss all therapies with the label of integrative or holistic as being non-scientific quackery. Let me assure you that nothing could be further from the truth.
The word integrative simply means take disjointed pieces of something and placing them together into a unified whole. Sounds like a pretty good concept to me! When we apply the term integrative to medicine it simply means combining the conventional or allopathic medicine with other complementary therapies such as nutrition, massage therapy, physical fitness instruction, herbal medicine, aromatherapy etc…
As a responsible integrative physician, I strive to include only those therapies that have proven to be reasonably safe and effective based on scientific studies and/or a long history of successful use. Although, I must say that medicine is just as much art as it is science.
Now let’s examine the word holistic. The dictionary defines holistic as “characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.” This certainly applies to the body. We are not simply a bag of organs and cells. Human beings are amazingly complex creatures with interconnected organ systems.
When we use the world holistic as it’s applied to medicine, we mean that people should be addressed and treated as a whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the physical symptoms of a disease. The American Holistic Medical Association defines holistic medicine as:
the art and science of healing that addresses care of the whole person – body, mind, and spirit.
In my conventional training there was also a lot of focus on the question of WHAT, “what disease does the patient have?” A holistic approach to medicine is focused on answering the questions of why. Why does this particular patient have this set of symptoms or disease process at this time? I spend a lot of time trying to identifying the underlying root cause of the dysfunction. I view the body as an integrated whole and use a systems biology approach that takes into account how our organ systems are all interconnected. This approach helps me to connect the dots between symptoms that may initially seem unrelated.
As a holistic physician, I strive to integrate conventional and complementary therapies to promote optimal health and to prevent and treat disease by addressing the underlying root causes. In practice, this means that I see every person as a unique individual, rather than an example of a particular disease. I truly care about my patients. There are several principles that guide my medical practice:
#1 is Optimal health is the primary goal of my medical practice. This may sound self-evident, but I believe it is important to state. Particularly since much of our healthcare system does not seem to be focused in this direction.
#2 I believe in the Healing Power of Love. I strive to relate to my patients with grace, kindness and acceptance. I believe in the golden rule of treating others like how I wish to be treated, and this is the foundation for how I conduct my life and medical practice.
#3 My focus is on disease prevention, and not simply treatment. I partner with my patients to uncover the root causes of health problems and their unique genetic vulnerabilities to minimize risk factors for chronic degenerative diseases.
#4 I believe that we are the product of Divine creation. God built innate healing power into the design of our bodies. Our duty is to be good stewards of our bodies by treating it with care and respect.
# 5 I believe that food IS medicine! I help my patients implement a whole foods, healing diet into their everyday lives. A nutritious diet is the foundation for just about every disease treatment plan. After years of experience with nutritional medicine, I am in awe of the powerful healing properties that God has built into our food and herbs.
#6 I recognize the profound impact that relationships have on our health. I understand that the quality of the relationship between a patient and physician is a major determinant of how well that patient responds to treatment. I like to take time to cultivate therapeutic relationships.
#7 I respect that each person is an individual. I recognize that each patient is biochemically unique and as a result, I don’t prescribe one-size-fits-all type therapies. I strive to get know my patients and what makes them unique so I can care for them in the best way possible.
#8 First, do no harm! I believe in choosing the most natural, gentle options first when possible.
If one way be better than another, that you may be sure is nature’s way.
-Aristotle (384–322 bc)
#9 I also believe that plants are medicine! I have been using herbs in my medical practice for over a decade now with some amazing results. Why use a powerful oral antibiotic on a child with a mild ear infection when a garlic and olive oil infusion often clears this up instead? Why take a Prilosec everyday for the rest of your life for acid reflux when some simple lifestyle changes and gentle herbs can reverse the problem and heal the lining of your gut?
“Herbs and plants are medical jewels gracing the woods, fields, and lanes, which few eyes see, and few minds understand. Through this want of observation and knowledge the world suffers immense loss.” -Linnaeus, Swedish naturalist 1707-1778
#10 I believe in teaching by example. I strive to incorporate the principles of holistic health in my own life. Historically, the medical profession has been known for the attitude of do as I say, not as I do. I am not perfect, by any means, but I do my best to live out in my own life what I’m asking my patients to do in theirs.
Thanks for taking the time to learn a little bit about my journey as a physician. I look forward to connecting with you again soon.
Here’s to your health,
Cynthia Libert, M.D.