"The response to the 2011 conference was extremely positive from attendees, exhibitors and faculty alike," says conference producer and HPC's publisher, Meg Sinclair. "The Renaissance did a great job of making us feel at home, coming through with truly fantastic healthy food. We've been looking for a home base where we can really develop Heal Thy Practice, and judging from the feedback, Long Beach is a great fit."
Attendees came from all over the US to learn about practice models and clinical strategies that will support a more integrative, holistic approach to patient care.
"With Dr. Masley's guidance, we were able to strengthen the educational program. We struck a really nice balance between 3 key elements: clinical skill-building; nuts & bolts practice development; and non-didactic experiential sessions. That combination really got peoples' juices flowing. Many attendees said they left feeling excited about practicing medicine again," said Ms. Sinclair.
Heal Thy Practice presented some of the true thought leaders in holistic practice, including Dr. David Perlmutter, whose 2-hour session on functional medicine for the prevention and treatment of neurodegenerative disease was an oyster bed loaded with clinical pearls.
"What amazed me was the focus level of the attendees," said co-producer Erik Goldman. "Dr. Perlmutter's talk came at the end of a packed opening day that started at 7:30 in the morning. Yet there were no empty seats, everyone was wide-awake, and hanging on his every word. They showed the same level of attention throughout the entire weekend. It was really inspiring."
Attendees came from a wide range of communities, bringing with them an equally broad range of clinical experience and training. What they shared was a sense that something has gone deeply wrong in American medicine, and a strong wish to re-create their practices to better serve the real needs of their patients.
"We were really happy to see a number of younger doctors in attendance, including a few who are just starting their residency training," said Goldman, HPC's editor. "Young physicians need to know they have options, that there are ways to make a go of independent practice, that it is possible to make holistic medicine a reality. We'd love to see more new physicians attend this meeting."
An exciting facet of the 2011 conference was the presence of Dr. Pamela Wible, who invited attendees to "take the Dream Clinic Challenge." Dr. Wible, based in Eugene, OR, is a leading figure in community-based clinic redesign. She is also working on a documentary film, tentatively titled, Healthcare of, by, and for the People, which will chronicle physicians as they transform their practices with the help of their communities.
Dr. Wible's film crew was on hand at Heal Thy Practice to interview attendees, record their stories, and in the process help them clarify their visions for healthier healthcare. Many attendees told their stories, and the documentary team has already scheduled follow up clinic visits throughout the year. "We need to share these stories, and let people know what's possible" said Dr. Wible.
Among the other highlights of this year's show was a luncheon lecture by Dr. Aristo Vojdani on the evaluation of gluten sensitivity, an increasingly common and challenging clinical problem. A pioneer in molecular immunology, Dr. Vojdani explained that "gluten" is actually a catch-all term for several different proteins produced by wheat and other cereals. There are many different fractions and subfractions to which people may be reactive.
He estimated that roughly one-third of the US population suffers from some form of gluten sensitivity, though only 1-2% fits the "classical" criteria for celiac disease. Standard ELISA testing only detect sensitivity to deamidated gliadin, one of a spectrum of gluten-related proteins. "These tests miss a lot of people who are sensitive to other gluten-related antigens." In many cases, people remain severely symptomatic and miserable for years though their doctors repeatedly tell them that they are not allergic to gluten.
For the last several years, Dr. Vojdani has been working with Cyrex Labs to develop tests for all of the known gluten related antigens. The new testing panel gives physicians far greater accuracy in detecting sensitivities, and ultimately in helping patients improve their health.
Is one conference big enough for two Dr. Gordons? Heal Thy Practice is!
Saturday's program featured Dr. Garry Gordon, founder of the Gordon Research Institute, who's been a leading edge clinician, researcher and teacher since the early 1970s. Dr. Gordon was one of the fathers of chelation therapy, and he's consistently stayed far ahead of the pack in terms of clinical practice and scientific theory.
In his inimitable rapid-fire style, he described the changes taking place in the Earth's electromagnetic field—a gradual shift that has been taking place for thousands of years but that is reaching a critical point in our time, the multifarious negative impacts these changes have on human health, and the clinical application of a recently re-disovered pulsed EM therapeutic technique for attenuating some of these effects.
Closing out the conference, Dr. James Gordon, founder of the Center for Mind Body Medicine, looked back on his 40 year odyssey from Harvard trained psychiatrist to leading exponent of mindfulness as medicine. During HTP 's signature "Sunday Brunch" experiential session, he shared insights from his work bringing mind-body therapies to some of the most strife-torn corners of the world, and offered attendees the opportunity to breathe deeply and move freely into the truest aspects of themselves.
It was also an occasion for celebration: Jim recently celebrated his 70th birthday, and his center marked its 20th anniversary. We were happy to recognize those occasions at Heal Thy Practice.
Other highlights included:
• A practice marketing intensive from consultants Steve Wickham and James Maskell, who helped attendees de-mystify the dreaded "M" word
• A comprehensive overview of direct-pay practice models from Dr. Vern Cherewatenko, founder of SimpleCare
• A look at the day-to-day management of a concierge style practice from Dr. Marcy Zwelling
• Clinical skill building for the care of men with prostate cancer from Columbia University's Jillian Capodice
• An in-depth look at "weight loss resistance" and new techniques for helping patients overcome it, from fitness coach JJ Virgin
• A roundup on medicolegal issues in integrative medicine from our "lawyer in the family," Alan Dumoff
• A host of practical nutrition tips from Dr. Masley, and much more.
As they turn their attention to the 2012 conference, Dr. Masley and the HTP team plan to expand the scope of the program while maintaining the balance of clinical, practical and inspirational talks that made 2011 such a great experience. They also hope to widen the audience beyond its base in primary care.
To that end, HPC is changing the conference's tagline from "Transforming Primary Care" to "Transforming Patient Care." Says Sinclair, "We want all holistically-minded clinicians to feel like they're welcome at this meeting. While it has a strong root in primary care, HTP has always attracted other types of practitioners and we want to continue to widen the circle. If you're interested in finding ways to practice good, prevention-focused patient care, we want you to feel included in our community."
Ultimately, the conference is about empowerment, and about sharing knowledge and experience on how to make medicine work in the best interests of patients and practitioners. As one attendee put it: "I came here saddened. I now have hope!"
Check back soon for details on the 2012 program. We will post them as we have them. In the mean time, recordings from the 2011 meeting are available for download. They'll help keep your pilot light burning until next November!
Hope to see you in Long Beach!