Heal Thy Practice 2014: Skill-Building for Empowerment

Holistic Primary Care’s sixth annual Heal Thy Practice conference, on October 17-19, at the Renaissance Westchester Hotel, just north of New York City, will focus on clinical and practice management skills that empower practitioners to cultivate better health for their patients, their communities and themselves.

The program draws on the shared clinical and management wisdom of national leaders in holistic and functional medicine as well as the growing circle of Heal Thy Practice alumnae who have built thriving, innovative practices in their own communities.

“The strength of Heal Thy Practice has always been in the peer-to-peer connections that emerge in the sessions and during the meals and social events. What comes out of that is a real sense of community and a growing knowledge-base about what’s working both clinically and economically,” says conference co-founder, Meg Sinclair.

“We’re excited to bring HTP to the East Coast after 3 great years in California,” said Ms. Sinclair. “Our faculty is top-notch and the setting is beautiful. Hopefully, Mother Nature will treat us to some stunning Fall foliage, too.”

Actualizing “Food As Medicine”

Food is medicine: It’s easy enough to say. To make it the foundation of a modern medical practice, however, is not quite so simple.

Susan BlumSusan Blum, MD, a functional medicine physician in Rye Brook, NY, chose to put nutrition at the center of her patient care, and while the process has been challenging it’s paying off in terms of better clinical outcomes and great practice success.

With its reputation for helping people with complex autoimmune diseases, the Blum Center for Health has a wait list more than 150 patients deep. Dr. Blum places strong emphasis on the transformative power of food, and her teaching kitchen is a cornerstone of her care.

“A lot of patients come to me after they’ve been diagnosed with a serious autoimmune condition. Their other doctors have put them on prescription drugs with a lot of side effects. They come here to find alternatives,” said Dr. Blum, author of The Immune System Recovery Plan.

At Heal Thy Practice 2014, she will outline her four-step approach—leveraging the therapeutic power of food, stress reduction, restoration of GI function, and optimization of liver function—to help people reverse debilitating conditions like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorders, and Crohn’s, and to lead healthier lives–often medication-free.

She’ll also describe her direct-pay model, and the lessons learned in creating it. “A teaching kitchen is a great thing but it can also be a big cash-suck if not managed properly. The inventory, the supplies, the nuts and bolts…it took 3 years to figure it all out.”

Looking Beyond Gluten

Tom O'BryanIdentifying food allergens is a vital aspect of nutrition-based practice. Tom O’Bryan, DC, one of the world’s experts on gluten and other common allergens, will help Heal Thy Practice attendees widen their view of this vexing set of problems and strengthen their grasp of new diagnostic tools.

He applauded the medical community’s growing recognition that gluten sensitivity is a real phenomenon, and not just “in people’s heads.” But he believes there’s now a danger of gluten “tunnelvision.”

“It’s not just gluten. There are other components of wheat, and of other foods that can be a problem,” he told Holistic Primary Care. “There are many things beyond IgE allergy to gluten–sensitivity to FODMAPs, the agglutinins, the lectins. How do we identify and differentiate between them?”

Clinicians skilled in recognizing and managing these diverse immune reactions can make a world of difference in patients’ lives. “If you look for an immune reaction to gluten and it comes back negative, but the patient is, say, FODMAP-sensitive, they’re suffering dramatically. And it is connected to foods, but we’ve only looked at one vehicle by which foods may impact them.”

Handling Pharma Fallout

This year, Heal Thy Practice conference chairman Jeff Gladd, MD, will be teaming up with Derrick DeSilva, Jr., MD, to address two distinct but related challenges: polypharmacy and drug-induced nutrient depletions.

Drawing on decades of clinical experience, Dr. DeSilva will share how he helps people step off unncecessary meds. This helps minimize drug interactions, one of the most common health threats in this country.

Jeff Gladd

Jeff Gladd, MD

Dr. Gladd, who combined his twin loves of medicine and technology to create the Mytavin nutrient depletions calculator, says that given how many drugs the average American takes, it is essential to learn to differentiate between signs of disease progression and symptoms of drug-induced nutrient deficiencies.

For example: a middle-aged man with moderate but well-controlled diabetes comes in complaining of numbness and burning leg pain, a chronic problem that has made him very uncomfortable and irritable.

Is it diabetic neuropathy or metformin-induced B-vitamin depletion? It’s not always so easy to tell.

In this particular case, five years of Glucophage therapy resulted in severe B12 and folate depletion—an often overlooked but easily reversible side-effect. Rather than prescribing Neurontin and Zoloft, it makes more sense to try supplementation for a few months to see if the problems resolve, Dr. Gladd explained.

Alumni-Led Workshops

One of this year’s highlights will be a series of breakout tracks led by Heal Thy Practice alumni who will share tips and tools from their own practice transformation experiences.

Georgia Tetlow, MD, who founded a successful integrative clinic in Philadelphia, will focus on self-care strategies for managing the personal, familial and financial stresses that inevitably arise during the processes of practice transformation.

Mark Menolascino, MD, who runs a thriving functional medicine center in Wyoming, will offer attendees his Practice Transformation Toolkit, a set of templates and tips for everything from practice marketing to assessing potential ancillary services. The latter, he says, is a key factor in the success equation. “I like to look for services where you do one thing and get five benefits out of it,” he said.

Aimon Kopera, MD, based in Atlanta, will share a mobile IT support system she developed with colleague, Paul Evans, PhD, for helping patients make lasting lifestyle changes following hospitalizations or other major health crises.

Speaking of IT, Dr. Gladd and veteran faculty-member, James Maskell, of Revive Primary Care, will be teaming up to share their favorite tech tools for practice marketing.

Guarneri & Tager on Total Engagement

HTP 2014 will also mark the debut of Total Engagement, a new book by Drs. Mimi Guarneri and Mark Tager. Dr. Tager, who heads a consulting company called ChangeWell, will share the core principles of what he and Dr. Guarneri say will be, “a manual for healing yourself, your patients, and your practice.”

The process, says Dr. Tager, begins with questions: Should I stay or should I go? Is it reasonable to remain within my current practice structure or do I need to make significant modifications? Do I need a new path entirely?

He and Dr. Guarneri define “total engagement” as a “rekindling of the spirit and the inherent joys in the practice of medicine, in which passion is in great evidence, time flies, and meaning and purpose prevail.”

Getting there is a journey both internal and external, and there are many paths. The book, and Dr. Tager’s talk, are focused on “deepening your engagement with your own life, with your patients, your work, and above all with that great mission we’ve all taken upon ourselves: the mission of healing others.”

Media as Medicine

The conference spotlights a visionary who has been at the forefront of holistic medicine for decades: Dr. Ron Hoffman.

Dr. Hoffman, who founded one of the first and most successful holistic clinics in NYC will explore the theme of media as medicine. For years, his Intelligent Medicine programs have been the voice of integrative healthcare on talk radio in the tri-state area. He has learned much about the therapeutic potential of health information, and the ways in which media can amplify a clinician’s reach.

Heal Thy Practice also features:

The conference closes with an in-depth look at the issue of credentialing in integrative medicine; an experiential workshop on exercises for empowerment led by Anita Teresa Boeninger, and of course HTP’s signature New York style Sunday brunch!

This year HTP is also offering an optional half-day post-conference with Derrick DeSilva and focused on creating an individual roadmap for practice transformation.

We hope to see you in October at Heal Thy Practice 2014! For more information visit www.HTPconference.com


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