Dr. Rob Silver

by Neal Sivula


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History

When did your interest in Veterinary Medicine begin?

As clichéd as it sounds, I’ve always had a huge interest in animals, and have always felt like I had a “connection” with them, that I could understand what they were up to. Sometimes I felt that I could actually “communicate” with them.  I can remember as a young boy, growing up in suburban Philadelphia, “trekking” through the local parks and wooded areas and creeks in search of song birds and wildlife. I would sit still for hours in a hidden spot and just watch them and imagine that I was off in the wilderness somewhere in prehistoric times before humans populated the planet.

What led you to Holistic Medicine?

When I was 19 years old (I’m in my sixties, now!) I spent some time with an older cousin of mine who was quite active in the macrobiotic community. He introduced me to Chinese medicine, face and hand diagnosis, and the concept that food was medicine, and could be individually modified to each individual’s needs.

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

One of my classmates from veterinary school at Colorado State became disillusioned with the harsh and violent way that conventional veterinary medicine can sometimes be, and studied in Santa Fe to become a human acupuncturist.

She introduced me to Jake Fratkin, OMD, an expert in the use of Chinese herbal formulas (for people), who lived in Boulder. Jake is a published author and an international expert in the Chinese herbal medicine community. I moved to Boulder in 1993, and learned a lot from Jake.

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

1. Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine: Acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapies; Food therapy both TCVM-based and clinical nutrition using home prepared diets, nutraceutical and botanical therapies.

2. Conventional veterinary medicine: Colorado State University and the crucible of practice.

At the time I became interested in learning more about holistic modalities (early to mid 1980’s), there were no veterinary-specific training courses available, except for the IVAS Basic course in acupuncture, which I took and became certified in 1993.

I took a lot of courses designed for human practitioners, and transposed that information in my veterinary practice to benefit my patients. I had the honor, and pleasure to co-teach for years with Jake Fratkin, OMD and Huisheng Xie, DVM, PhD in what was an early attempt to establish a Basic Course in Chinese Herbal medicine for IVAS from 1996 to 2001. This was before Dr Xie established his amazing Chi Institute in Gainesville, FL.

I cooked professionally in a macrobiotic restaurant in the Village in NYC in the late sixties, after I left Columbia University during the student unrest, and, from that experience with food prepared according to TCM principles, was able to adapt my cooking experiences to my patients. I have taken advanced training in conventional veterinary nutrition, although not for certification or advanced degrees.

As there are currently no certification courses for nutraceutical and botanical therapies to address clinical diseases in veterinary patients, I gained my knowledge and practical experience in the use of these novel and emerging veterinary therapies, through my 25 years of day-to-day veterinary practice using them. This is still how I explore the clinical effectiveness of a nutraceutical I am evaluating. I start with published evidence derived from publications. I then apply this nutraceutical or botanical to the appropriate problems in my own patients, and, over the years, this has allowed me, through an evidence-guided, empirical approach, to develop highly-effective nutraceutical and botanical protocols for a wide variety of veterinary clinical complaints.

Environment

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

My practice has varied between solo and having a full to part time associate. We’ve had usually about 4 support personnel, including a receptionist, and 3 technicians. My practice has been Integrative, with a strong emphasis on diagnostics and blending the best of both conventional and alternative therapies.

What is your physical practice environment?  

2800 square feet shopping center practice, lots of windows and natural sunlight with high ceilings and a bright color pattern make for a very appealing practice environment. We also keep it immaculate, using only natural and green cleaning agents to avoid those smells that are characteristic of a veterinary practice. Clients would always tell us how my practice didn’t smell or feel like a veterinary practice. I think the non-medicinal smells also helped to re-assure my patients and reduce their stresses at being at a veterinarian.

What is a normal workday like for you?

I sold my practice 2 years ago, so that I could work more with the animal nutraceutical and natural diet industries. I don’t miss the hassles of practice management and HR, but I do miss the hands-on and heart space that daily practice can offer. I plan on re-entering the world of practice as a part-time employee next year.

Currently, I work from my home office, consulting and providing technical support for the products I've designed. I am continually in the process of developing new and useful integrative products for veterinary use.

My typical day would involve getting my young daughter off to school, then either sitting down and writing, corresponding or researching information, or getting out of the house and doing something active. If I work in the morning, then in the afternoon, I get out and do something fun. That schedule is reversed if I work in the afternoon, then I'll be getting out to do something fun in the morning.

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

I love my Class 3 laser and my line of RxVitamins products. Most people don’t realize that this line of nutraceuticals developed directly as a result of my own practice needs. So, I love practicing with RxVitamins’ products, as they work so well for my own style of practice.

I also love my acupuncture needles. There is something so simple about being able to take six teeny little needles and be able to influence so much good in a patient!

Inspiration

What provides you with inspiration in your practice life?

That heart connection with our four legged, winged and slithering friends. The intellectual challenge of understanding a complicated case. I also find myself getting involved with my clients, learning about their lives as I work up their pets' cases, and often that human-human connection is a real driving force for me.

What are your favorite conferences?  

I attend a lot of meetings, speak at quite a few. AHVMA conference and AAVA conferences are a must for me to attend. This year I spoke at the Feline Practitioners Association meeting and was very impressed with the quality of the conference experience.

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

Walk in nature. Spend some quiet time every day. Hug my dog. Hug my wife. Hug my daughter. Play music. Have fellowship with other holistic practitioners. Lately I've been speaking to veterinary students, and I love how fresh and new and exciting everything is to them. Seeing the veterinary profession through their eyes re-invigorates my own perspectives on practice.

Do you have any other professional activities?

1. I currently am Chief Medical Officer for RxVitamins for Pets, designing their products, testing them and providing technical materials to assist the vets with their usage.

2. I provide technical consultations with Nature’s Variety pet foods. They have me help with food safety issues and do some technical writing and webinars to their customers

3. I am developing a website for people whose pets have cancer, to provide educational information about how diet, nutraceuticals and botanicals can help to provide these pets who have been diagnosed with serious life-threatening diseases some quality of life, and to help the guardians through their decision-making process, and also, very importantly, to provide an on-line community where we will have discussion groups and blogs on the topics of pet-loss, pet hospice care and anticipatory grief, as well as other issues important to the family who has a pet with cancer.

4. Recently I've been involved in the formation of a professional organization of holistic vets in Colorado, using virtual meetings on the internet as the vehicle for our meetings. Unfortunately, its not been easy finding other colleagues who have the available time to help me with this process, so its been slow-going.

Balance

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

I try to schedule myself wisely, and block out special time for myself, my family, my pets, my work, and also some time just to do nothing. Those supposedly “non-productive” moments can be the biggest source of vision and inspiration for me. When my mind is quiet, the best thoughts come.

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What do you like to do away from the office?

I think the best part about having sold my practice is being able to work from home. I also think the worst thing about having sold my practice is being able to work from home! (You never get away from it!)

When I’m not working, I like to play my guitar, cook, dabble in photography, read, ride my bicycle, play with my old blind dog, hang out with my family. My newest passion is swimming, and I try to go 3-4 times weekly, its great exercise, and feels so “cleansing”.

The Future

What is the future of holistic veterinary medicine?

I see the boundaries between holistic medicine and conventional medicine becoming blurred as more evidence emerges demonstrating the science that underlies certain holistic modalities, including acupuncture, antioxidants in cancer therapy and botanical and nutraceutical medicines. In many cases, for the supposedly "unproven" therapies, the tools to measure the subtle energies that these modalities operate under have yet to be invented. Once they are, once there are objective measurements documenting that these modalities are "proven" and legitimate, then conventional medicine will be more likely to accept them. For an example, look at what has been happening with low level lasers. Just a few years ago they were considered alternative therapies, and now, they truly are mainstream. This is a result of the copious amount of basic and applied research that has been published in this field, as well as the positive clinical results that veterinarians are reporting using these quantum-age devices. I think that over time, as more veterinarians embrace the evidence-guided approach to integrative medicine, that there will be less “back-lash” and less negativity and vitriol from our conventional colleagues as they see that we do, in fact, practice responsible evidence-based medicine using our holistic alternatives.

Do you have any advice to those just starting out?

Learn to practice conventional veterinary medicine well before exploring alternatives. Try not to spread your knowledge too thin with too many modalities learned over too short a period of time. Learn a modality, and use it for a few years to become good at it before taking on a second or third modality. Better to be really good at one thing than not that great at a few things.

Are there any new developments in Medicine that excite you?

Everything new in medicine is interesting and exciting to me! I am most interested in what is to come next with stem cell work. I’d like to see some work with organ regeneration such as kidney or liver versus just joints as is now. I am also very interested in what is coming next with molecular engineering of pharmaceuticals to interfere with enzymes in the neoplastic process, and with our increased ability to discover new agents from natural materials to fight cancer and other chronic intractable diseases.