Dr. Helen Kwong

by Neal Sivula


Transient

History

When did your interest in Veterinary Medicine begin?

Probably at the age of five, I never considered any other career path. 

What led you to Holistic Medicine?

The feeling of helplessness when there was no other treatment I could think of.  It felt awful, like hitting a brick wall, when conventional medicine or surgery had nothing left to offer.  Perhaps a sense of failure, or my lack of knowledge because I couldn’t help my patients.  Our patients deserved so much more than I could offer. 

Did you have any mentors as you became involved in Holistic Medicine?

I grew up in a Chinese Medicine culture.  My mother was forever talking about damp heat, heat, cold, damp...to the point where I thought it was all folklore and western medicine was the only thing to respect.  What a full circle I have journeyed.  So... my mother has been my mentor.  It is very common in the Chinese culture to treat many ailments with herbal remedies, and what each ingredient is used for.  If I had only listened...

What modalities do you practice, and where did you get your training?

Acupuncture - IVAS training

Chinese Herbal Medicine - Dr. Steve Marsden and IVAS

Chiropractic - Healing Oasis

Applied Kinesiology - Dr. Carl deStefano

Homeopathy - Dr. Richard Pitcairn

Conventional/Western Medicine and Surgery - University of Saskatchewan, College of Western Veterinary Medicine

Environment

What is the structure of your practice (eg. Solo, group, Integrative, solely Holistic)?  How many support staff do you have?

I am in a solo, integrative practice.  There are six support staff.

What is your physical practice environment?  

2000 square feet in a strip mall.

What is a normal workday like for you?

Start at 8:00 a.m., 1-2 appointments at 8:15 a.m., several surgical/dental procedures until ll:00 a.m, then a few more appointments ‘til noon.  Lunch for 1-1.5 hours, unless there are sick patients, then work through lunch, and regular appointments start at 1:30 p.m. ‘til 4:30p.m.  We try to allot for 30 minute appointments unless there are sick patients that need to be seen immediately.  I work Monday thru Saturday, 8:00 a.m.- 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 9:00 a.m. ‘til 1:00 p.m. on Saturdays, or until appointments are over.  On call schedule is every week day and every other weekend to cover for another clinic, but if I am in town, I will answer my own phone on most weekends.  Our clients tend to be very respectful of my time off, and will only call for dire emergencies.  It is hard to distance myself from my “work” as there is a strong emotional relationship with my patients.

What are your favorite tools (eg. Supplies, products, computers, etc)?  

I love my digital conventional and dental radiograph system.  Products that I couldn’t live without are Yunnan Paiyao, Si Miao San, Arnica, Mirtazapine, Cerenia, Convenia, flea products, Adequan/Cartrophen, Heska IV Pumps (so portable and light), and VIN.

Inspiration

What provides you with inspiration in your practice life?

Being able to work in this wonderful profession.  Each day brings new challenges, I am always striving to become a better veterinarian and person.

What are your favorite conferences?  

COMS (Canadian Oriental Medicine Symposium - Veterinary Portion), Western  Veterinary Conference (Vegas), any IVAS Seminars, AVCA ( annual conferences), Can West Veterinary Conferences.

Are there any other things you do to be inspired professionally?

I will take on a major learning project yearly.  This year, I am enrolled in a canine rehabilitation therapy course (CRI) in the fall/winter.  I read about new surgical techniques and try to integrate them into my practice.  Even though I graduated 22 years ago, I try to challenge myself in fields that make me uncomfortable.  It may be as simple as starting a website (which I know nothing about), a new computer system, researching new medical treatments... just anything that will stretch me personally and professionally.

Do you have any other professional activities?

Even though I am a small animal exclusive veterinarian, I hope to become more knowledgeable in equine rehabilitation medicine.  That will be my next year’s project.

Balance

How do you maintain balance between your professional activities and home life?

That is a good question.  I often take my work home with me, so there is no line between my home and professional life.  How can one separate what we do (being an animal steward) and what we live?  Since we have 7 cats, 5 dogs, and 2 horses (hopefully, soon to be 3), their lives and mine intertwine.  I have an exceedingly patient husband who understands that my patients and family (2 legged and 4 legged) are my priority.  I do let him talk me into taking holidays once to twice a year.

What do you like to do away from the office?

What woman doesn’t like to shop and eat.  I love reading mysteries, working out in our home gym, watching movies, riding horses and teaching them new “tricks,” and generally plotting my next challenge, be it building a new shed, or buying more farm equipment.

The Future

What is the future of holistic veterinary medicine?

The future of holistic veterinary medicine is in the hands of the young graduates.  Enough of this negativity from prehistoric (young and old) veterinarians.   In the human medical field, they are embracing holistic medicine and becoming more enlightened.  It is time for the veterinary field to do the same and stop all this “witch hunting.”  

Do you have any advice to those just starting out?

Get a good solid basis in conventional medicine so you will be an excellent diagnostician.  Then start learning different modalities as they assist you to better treat your patient.  Use integrative techniques as they work hand in hand quite nicely, in most cases.  Do not “throw the baby out with the bath water.”  Learn from all our mistakes. 

Are there any new developments in Medicine that excite you?

The fields of rehabilitation medicine and behavioural medicine do excite me.  Gone are the days of taking your dog to obedience school using choke collars for correction and not stimulating your dog on how to think and reason.  Everything is reward-based now, and with educators such as Dr. Sophia Yin, the future is bright.