Dr. Lena McCullough

by Neal Sivula


Transient

History

When did your interest in Veterinary Medicine begin?

I have always had a love of animals since being a small child.  I didn’t immediately think of vet medicine, as I was not as attracted to the medicine aspect of it.  As a child I had visions of running a business producing cat milk, being a marine biologist, riding and training horses professionally, and working with wild animals.  It wasn’t until I was 20 that I decided I wanted to be a vet.  At that time everyone who knew me said, “I told you so".

What led you to Holistic Medicine?

I injured my back when I was 19 and was told I would probably have to be on painkillers for the rest of my life or have to go through surgery which could make me worse.  After a year of trying conventional medicine with no relief I met my first chiropractor.  She was the first person who told me I would get better and I did, she helped me to be functional again.  That definitely peaked my interest. 

During vet school I took a three-day acupuncture class and went home and treated myself.  It was the most amazing thing.  I put one needle in the back of my knee and felt like someone was mechanically fixing my back.  I treated that one point two more times and got myself permanently off the last of my ibuprofen.  I’ve been normal since.  I thought, this is incredible stuff; I am definitely learning this someday!  

When I got out of school it was overwhelming and it took me awhile to get back to holistic medicine but I reached a point where I felt bad sending pills home that I didn’t believe in and I found that I was referring all my patients to acupuncturists. 

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

I trained and received my certification through Richard Panzer.  He was not just an amazing teacher but also a wonderful mentor.  He let me follow him around asking questions constantly.  I feel like I not only learned Chinese medicine from him but also how to practice in a way to have life work balance.  You don’t get that everyday.  He also gave me a foundation for my herbal practice that I am extremely grateful for.  He taught me how to feel the herbs, how to understand their energy, how to feel how they work in animals.  

My own acupuncturist Ellen Newhouse also was a great mentor to me.  She helped push me in the direction of holistic medicine, taught me some amazing energy work and helped me believe in myself.

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

I am almost exclusively an acupuncturist and herbalist. I have a full Chinese herbal pharmacy and make all my formulas from scratch.  We don’t often talk about it but I also consider myself a counselor to my clients especially around hospice.  Health is a family system, without supporting the people involved in animal’s care you aren’t treating the whole system.  You help the people and you help the animal.  You help the animal and you help the people.

My first training was from Richard Panzer.  I also took the IVAS Chinese herbal certification course but choose not to get my certification from it.  I have done some work with Jeremy Ross.  I’ve received energy work training from Ellen Newhouse, Rose DeDan and Holly Hiatt Wilson.  I learn everyday from the animals I work with.  I treat a lot of cancer and work very closely with one local allopathic vet, Tim Kraabel, on cancer cases who I also feel like I have learned a lot from.  Actually I think we have both learned a lot from each other. 

Environment

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

I work alone but have another practitioner who uses my space one day a week.  I am exclusively holistic and consider myself a referral vet.  I don’t do blood work, vaccines, ear cleaning, X-rays etc .  This allows me to work closely with allopathic vets.  They can send animals to me and know that we are sharing clients.  I will send them back for diagnostics and they come back happier.  I feel like I have a wonderful partnership with many of the allopathic vets I work with.

I have one employee who works part time for me and does my books, reminder calls and sets up new appointments.  She also is there for moral support and to keep me organized.

Transient

What is your physical practice environment?  

I practice out of a small clinic in my garage and have my pharmacy in my basement.  I do my phone calls and emails from my dining room table often with a cat on my lap and a dog underfoot.

What is a normal workday like for you?

Check emails and phone messages, see 3-4 appointments, check phone and email again, make up herbs, see 3-4 more appointments.  I like having long appointments, my follow-ups are 45 minutes and my initial appointments are 1-1 ½ hour. I also write a blog www.pathwithpaws.com and am working on a cancer book on integrative and holistic methods of treating cancer, which I am posting online as I write it.  Usually I spend about 2-5 hours a week on my blog.

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

My herbs!  I love my herbs! And of course my needles and hands.

Transient

Inspiration

What provides you with inspiration in your practice life?

Number one – the animals and people I work with.  I work with the most incredible animals and they are amazing teachers.  The people attached to them are pretty amazing also.  When I see the love they share with their animal friends it is inspiring.

What are your favorite conferences?  

I tend to do most of my CE locally or online as it is hard for me to travel.

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

I’m trying to be more involved with local holistic vets and practitioners.  I tend to be a bit of a loner professionally and am trying to branch out from that.  A lot of my CE is in the human alternative medical fields.  It is definitely fun to connect with other holistic vets.

Do you have any other professional activities?

My blog – I became frustrated that I was having to turn people and animals away when I didn’t have space in my practice.  My blog helps me reach people from all over the world.  I have received some incredible stories from my readers and feel like I am able to offer people hope and provide a place of support for those going through hard medical issues with their animal companions.

Balance

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

I try to keep my three days a week off as non-work days.  I get off work by 6 everyday and only work about 32 hours a week.  This gives me time to spend with my family.  My son is a teenager now but has many activities.  It is important for me to have the time to be involved in his life.  I also like to spend time with my husband and go on occasional vacations.

What do you like to do away from the office?

Write, I love to write! Currently I am working on a novel and trying to get my cancer book finished up.  I have a children’s story as well that I am hoping to publish someday.  I spend a lot of time with my animals, four cats and a former street dog named Alli.  I have a little herb shop on etsy where I can share my passion for herbs. And then there is cooking, walking, meditating, reading, qi gong, and spending time with friends and family.

The Future

What is the future of holistic veterinary medicine?

I hope that holistic medicine becomes primary as medical care.   I would love to see drugs used as a second option unless there is a major infection or illness that needs them.  We currently overuse drugs in my opinion.

Do you have any advice to those just starting out?

Believe in yourself, listen to the animals, have fun, and find a good mentor.  Most holistic vets I know, including myself, are happy to help out those just starting. We need more of you!

Are there any new developments in Medicine that excite you?

I am super excited about some of the stem cell and other new treatments for cancer.  I think in 20 years we will look back on how we treat cancer as horribly barbaric.  I know there are better treatments out there which support the body and help it to get rid of cancer instead of the harsh treatments such as surgery, chemo and radiation that we currently use.  I would also like to see more research into herbs and how they can be integrated into western practice as well.