On Doctoring and Partnering

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“So, are you a ‘real’ doctor?”

People ask this question fairly often, since “whole health care” and “membership medicine” are unusual terms within the more familiar landscape of insurance-driven conventional and integrative medicine.

Who am I, this small Filipino woman, who looks too young to be a doctor (so I’ve been told, and thanks for saying so!), who does not look like a McCain, and who posts more about relational, emotional, and spiritual matters than the most recent evidence-based practices for treating acute and chronic medical conditions?

Am I a ‘real’ doctor?

It’s a valid question, because I first present myself as a ‘real’ person who is a physician. See the difference? It’s subtle, but deliberate.

Healing means to be made ‘whole,’ and I believe that for us to offer and receive full healing we have to meet with one another as whole people.What are the root causes of dis-ease? All the things, big and small, that interfere with our body’s natural ability to heal.

Resentment, unforgiveness, trauma, anxiety, judgement, defensiveness, indifference, fear.

Environmental toxins, disrupted sleep, under/over/mal-nourishment, under/over/inappropriate-activity.

Denial, suppression, avoidance, compartmentalization, isolation, rejection.

In order to heal these root causes, we have to receive healing at deeper levels.

And so, I often ask patients these types of questions – “What brings you joy?” “What are your dreams?” “What brings you meaning and purpose?” “Who are you?” “Who do you love?” “How do you give and receive love?”

If we do not recognize and embrace all the things, big and small, that spark great joy within us, then we perpetuate dis-ease, and cannot support ease and healing.

Prescription medications, supplements, diagnostic testing, and physical examination are important components of prevention and disease management, yet are not the only therapeutic options.

You can also cultivate a joyful heart, a curious mind, a playful presence. You can increase your capacity to give and receive love without fear. In doing so, you develop the capacity to create a third way rather than settle for the usual either/or.

Are eggs good or bad? The ultimate dietary question that has no clear resolution.

Which means that eggs are neither good nor bad, they simply are.

It’s our perception of the egg that ultimately determines its worth.

If I vilify the egg, it’s bad.If I praise the egg, it’s good.

If I fully recognize who I am and what I need, then eggs are, simply, eggs.

And I can confidently wield my power to choose to eat or not eat the egg, rather than give my power to an egg and doubt my own judgment.

And my perception of myself ultimately determines my understanding of self-worth.

If I vilify myself, I’m bad.If I praise myself, I’m good.

If I fully recognize who I am and what I need, then I am, simply, myself.

And I can confidently wield my power to choose, rather than give my power away to something outside myself and then judge myself with false pride or false humility.

False, because I gave up my responsibility to choose.

False, because I feared someone else’s judgment.

False, because I allowed someone else to determine my value.

During our appointments, time and space are offered for developing healthy relationships with yourself and your physician. When you feel safe to be emotionally available to yourself, and trust that you can be fully vulnerable with someone else, then you become increasingly empowered to create more safe spaces, and healing relationships, with healthy boundaries, in multiple areas of your life.

We learn together, we grow together, we explore together – we meet each other as real people. You, a patient, bring the totality of your lived experience and wisdom to this partnership. I, a family physician, bring the fullness of my lived experience and wisdom to this partnership. Together, we live into the questions of all the big and small things that perpetuate disease and support ease (healing), and co-create a vision of health and wellbeing specific to you – during this particular time and in this particular place.

Am I a ‘real’ doctor?I completed medical school; trained in a residency program where I earned the Intern of the Year and Resident Teacher of the Year Awards, and became Chief Resident; worked as a hospital-employed family physician for 8 years, and then created a deeply relational, person-centered practice that offers family medicine and integrative wellbeing.

Yes, I am a ‘real’ doctor … and so much more.

Just as you are a ‘real’ patient .. and so much more.

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