When did your interest in Veterinary Medicine begin?
I always wanted to be a doctor of some sort. I knew that I was supposed to be a healer of some sort when I was little. I'm not sure I wanted to be a veterinarian specifically. I think the few times that I mentioned it when I was little, people told me that it was very hard to get into vet school, harder than medical school (which was very hard to get into) and so I mostly thought that it wouldn't be an option.
Fast forward to a distraction of studying cell biology, the PhD and the post-doc. It became apparent that with the funding situation for basic sciences in the early 1990s that it would behoove me to get a clinical degree. Having done my graduate school in Basel Switzerland (home of 3 major drug companies) in the medical school and my post-doc at Baylor College of Medicine, it became clear that I didn't want to treat human beings. Human beings were icky. However, the lab-animal veterinarian seemed to have a cool job and bonus- his position was not based directly on the granting system, but rather was funded by direct costs of other people's grants and indirect cost for the University- therefore an option to do science in a varied manner while also having an element of job security.
Therefore, the reasonable approach was to get a clinical degree in veterinary medicine rather than human medicine.
What led you to Holistic Medicine?
In my attempt to get into vet school, I needed some experience with large animals. So I got the name of this horse vet from one of the clinicians I worked with.
By random coincidence, this individual did integrated veterinary medicine. She had taken the IVAS course in about 1983 and did acupuncture and some nutritional supplementation and some herbal formulas. This was 1993. As I hung out with her getting some equine experience, she did acupuncture on the patients that needed acupuncture, nutritional supplements on the ones that needed that and conventional medicine on the patients who needed conventional medicine. This was merged so seamlessly, I didn't see any other way to do medicine. Acupuncture was just something we used when the conventional medicine wasn't going to be as effective, or when we needed a boost to the conventional treatments. No big deal.
Then I went to vet school and watched them try to heal things without the integrated approach. it didn't work as well, in fact, it was kind of a PIA. There argument was that they didn't do these things because they weren't "proven".
Well, I had been a scientist. In medical schools. I knew just how much of what else they were doing was "proven"- nothing. A minor detail they did not seem to understand.
Therefore, since I wasn't an idiot, it was apparent to me that I would have to take the IVAS course as soon as I left vet school.
Did you have any mentors as you became involved in Holistic Medicine?
The first vet who introduced me to acupuncture, Buff (EW) Hildreth. She was also the first person who pointed out that I could do TCVM full time and that it was a valid practice choice.
Rick Schaeffer- held my hand through the IVAS course and provided a chance to do relief in his clinic after I did some internship hours with him.
All the instructors and TAs at the IVAS course.
Shen Xie- he nurtures all of his students and provide a safe place to learn.
What modalities do you practice, and where did you get your training?
TCVM almost exclusively. I do a little very rudimentary homotoxicology and biopuncture occasionally.
IVAS basic course 1999/2000
IVAS TA 2001/2002
AHVMA meeting 2002
Chi Institute Herbal course and basically all the other courses they offer 2003-2008
China with Chi institute and FAAVA study 2008
IVAS and AAVA meetings- 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
What is the structure of your practice (eg. Solo, group, Integrative, solely Holistic)? How many support staff do you have?
Solo- TCVM exclusive. One part time Tech/receptionist. A random tech periodically hired/hr and my Mom who comes over once a week or so to help me maintain my herbal inventory.
What is your physical practice environment?
It was ambulatory exclusive in barns and homes. Now I have a clinic mostly built that looks more like a home than a clinic. It has slate floors, which are better for old dogs.
What is a normal workday like for you?
Forever. Eternal. Realistically Mon-Fri starts with a phone call from the tech receptionist as we organize the day about 8:30-9A, then get ready for work, grab the herbal formals between 9-10A and then see patients 11A-7PM on a good day home at 8P, on a bad day home at 10P.
What are your favorite tools (eg. Supplies, products, computers, etc)?
Seirin needles, my Macbook Air and iPhone. My Jawbone blue tooth connection. Chinese herbs, Thorne supplements and a few Heel products.
And of course my 2007 Honda CRV which makes all this possible. It has 160K miles and is still going strong.
What provides you with inspiration in your practice life?
Patients who were sent home from the referral clinic to die and got better instead.
Patients who were paralyzed that are now so mobile that we have to stop them from jumping on and off the couch
What are your favorite conferences?
IVAS on the international years. AAVA.
Are there any other things you do to be inspired professionally?
CE in all forms, both conventional and complementary. VIN.
Do you have any other professional activities?
I serve as RAIVE chair and am a VIN Alt med consultant.
How do you maintain balance between your professional activities and home life?
It is the eternal struggle.
Forced vacations help.
What do you like to do away from the office?
I am a fiber artist, I knit and spin.
What is the future of holistic veterinary medicine?
Potentially, this could go either way. On the plus side- owners want these services and are willing to pay. Veterinarians want to learn how to do these things and are exited to use new tools in the tool box.
On the negative side, increasing student debt could hurt this field more than others. Especially with the current push to disallow "non evidence based" CE. It is expensive and labor and time intensive to learn these skills. If you are a vet graduating this year with 140-200K worth of debt, your chance of having 5K to take the IVAS course or the Chi course is slim unless you have a trust fund. Especially if it is not recognized as valid veterinary CE.
Do you have any advice to those just starting out?
Use your new skills as often as possible and integrate them early into your practice. Your effectiveness will grow if you use your skills, it will wither if you don't.
Don't hesitate to try to network with those who have been doing it longer than you have. Remember we were there once. There is also light at the end of the tunnel. You will figure these modalities out, just like vet school which may have seemed overwhelming in the beginning too.
Are there any new developments in Medicine that excite you?
The continuing research on the effects of herbs and their pharmacologic and physiologic effects.