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My dinner chat with Dr. Andrew Weil

Four years ago it was just an idea. Four years ago I started meeting regularly with Dr. Lawrence Cheng and Dr. Ashley Riskin, the MD founders of the clinic I’ve moved my practice to. Four years ago we really didn’t have any idea of just how big a project this would be, but we knew it was our passion. A clinic where conventional and alternative medicine would not just work side-by-side, but also share information, patient cases, and research, and communicate and meet on a regular basis.

I’m no longer a joint owner of the clinic, but I am a full-time practitioner there and absolutely thrilled with being a part of a truly integrative clinic.

I’ve been practising out of this clinic since the end of June, but we just recently celebrated a media launch with Dr. Andrew Weil as our honoured guest. Dr. Weil is a Harvard-graduated MD who has written a number of books on health, founded the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, has his own line of supplements, travels and lectures worldwide, and is one of the groundbreaking people for integrative medicine.

I don’t think he’s generally considered alternative or terribly controversial now, but when he started, he was heavily criticized for promoting therapies not generally accepted by his conventional medicine colleagues. His focus is on nutrition, evidence-based (“does it work?) therapies, healthy lifestyle, and mind-body connection. Funny to think that that has been so controversial!

Dr. Weil spoke to the media about integrative medicine and Connect Health. Then, later that day I was honoured to sit for dinner with him and the clinic founders. His beard makes it difficult not to think about Santa, but that’s okay because I felt that he was very giving of himself and his experiences, candidly sharing his thoughts about health and its future.

What did Dr. Weil have to say to the media about Connect Health?

He said that we have the first truly integrative clinic in Vancouver and he will continue to be a support and resource for us.

He said that the U.S. is way ahead of Canada with its number of integrative clinics and medical schools teaching integrative medicine. This is for one very simple reason. The U.S. health system has failed. People cannot afford to get good medical care. Medicine–with it’s new drugs, fancy technology, and bold surgeries–is expensive! In Canada, yes, we have a public medical system that allows us access to health care, but have you ever waited for an MRI? A surgery? A specialist? Do you know how hard it is to gain access to a good GP? Dr. Weil feels that we Canadians are on that same dangerous path to a failing health care system. Why? Because it doesn’t promote health. Because it chooses the newest, fanciest, and boldest options sometimes over good, fundamental, and relatively inexpensive treatments and lifestyle changes.

None of us–the founders of Connect Health, the other practitioners at our clinic, or Dr. Weil–say that conventional medicine is not important. All of us believe in the integration of the best of health practices that are not harmful and are evidence-based as beneficial and supportive to a healthy body and mind.

He was asked why will our clinic succeed when others before have tried and closed? Because of timing, he answered. We NEED this now. People are asking to be a part of their health care plans. People are asking for ways to feel well, better than okay, and not just “not sick”.

How do we make sure that it works? Educate. Educate. Educate. We teach our patients. Our patients teach us. We teach each other. We seek new and ongoing teachers.

We, as practitioners, also communicate regularly with each other. We have the ability to share patient files. We email, call, or chat with each other when we have questions. We post case studies with questions for our practitioners to make suggestions and comments. We meet monthly to share new studies, information, experiences, readings, and case studies. We gather socially on team-building outings. We’ve already been out dragon boating together. What a fun way to remind us how to work as a team!

If you’d like to see more of our pictures of Dr. Weil’s visit or our dragon boating outing, or if you’d like to ask your health questions, check out our Facebook page:

What would you like to see happen in your health care system?

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