Q: When you were a child, did you have any inkling that you might grow up to become a doctor? What indications were there that you had a proclivity for medicine?
A: When I was a child, I wanted to be a lawyer because I liked debating with people. The only thing I ever did as a child along medical lines was put a Tootsie Roll pop stick in my brother’s ear when we played doctor. This did not go over well! Our family went to the doctor rarely because, as my father said, “We’re from the old country.” When I was 16, I went to my friend’s doctor, and he was wonderful. This probably had some later influence on me.
Q: As an undergraduate, you studied poetry and sculpture at Sarah Lawrence College. How did that humanities background prepare you for your career as a physician?
A: Everything you do and study in life prepares you to become a physician. You open your heart, brain, and awareness, and it comes through to your patients.
Q: After college, your experience working with Reichian psychiatrist Dr. Sidney Handelman sparked your interest in psychotherapy. You decided to pursue a career in medicine with a special interest in counseling, earning a medical degree from Stony Brook School of Medicine and training in family practice at Case Western Reserve in Ohio. What influence did your counseling emphasis have on your approach to the doctor-patient relationship?
A: I still very much love to help people through hard times. Many doctors tense up when a patient talks about personal things, but actually letting it flow helps the patient and physician diagnose and treat their problems. My own personal growth has helped me greatly to meet my patients’ grief, anger, and pain when it comes up.
Q: What attracted you to homeopathy, and how do you balance traditional and alternative medicine in your practice?
A: My daughter would not take medications when she was little, so we started to see a homeopath. When homeopathy was so effective for her earaches and such, it piqued my curiosity. Deborah Gordon, MD in Ashland introduced our family to homeopathy and later introduced me to the Hahnemann Clinic, where she was teaching and where I later studied.
Q: How are you different from other doctors in the Ashland community and larger world?
A: Ashland is a special place where many of the doctors have some interest in natural treatment options. As for the rest of the world, I think the stress level and competition in larger places and the population numbers may greatly affect the practitioners’ ability to focus and care more fully for their patients. Luckily, I do not answer to a large corporation. I answer to my own code of ethics, so I can take the time and space I need to practice medicine. When I am constrained due to a very busy or demanding situation, I invite the patient back for another meeting. I am also lucky to have a wonderful support staff.
Q: What do you think are the most important principles for a doctor to understand and apply?
A: The body, heart, and mind are all connected when you are caring for someone. Possibly even the soul! Think about yourself. If you dread something or are hurt emotionally or physically, it can disturb your whole being. Treating folks holistically is important. Also, listening to the patient and hearing what he or she says—not only about their symptoms—teaches the willing doctor about treatments not written up in the texts. Every doctor is at risk for getting frustrated with a demanding patient. If this happens, make sure your staff puts you in check. If it happens too much, address the issue with the patient and possibly refer them elsewhere, but do not short change a patient because you are frustrated! Lastly, and so importantly, be sure to examine the patient!
Q: List the values that shape you and your Hersey Health Care family practice.
A: Our mission is to provide high standard care to all patients with honesty, integrity, patience, and sensitivity. We strive to be accessible to our patients. We strive to keep our skills sharp and current. We strive to provide the best possible care that we can regardless of the patient’s financial profile. We strive for kindness.
Q: What are your particular areas of specialization?
A: I do not specialize, but I do have a strong interest in counseling and lifestyle improvement.
Q: Who are your patients?
A: Folks like you and me and the neighbor and the neighbor’s kid and her grandmother. All sorts of people come to our clinic for care.
Q: What are five key habits people can practice to live healthier, more balanced lives?
A: Exercise. Eat a ridiculous amount of vegetables. Get plenty of sleep. Be in community, care about someone—pets are included! Express yourself!
Q: Even while pursuing a successful medical career, you continue to nurture your creative side. You authored a series of books that weds your passions for poetry and medicine, using rhyme to teach readers about homeopathy, herbal medicine, and common ailments. Can you talk about the experience of writing those books and how readers have responded?
A: These projects were great fun. I wanted to teach in rhyme and had a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the creativity and challenge of putting these topics into rhyme.
Q: An avid yoga practioner, you collaborated with yoga teacher Mona Therese Winston to produce an Asana Poetica calendar featuring your favorite yoga poses. What benefits does yoga offer you and your patients?
A: I discovered yoga later in life, quite reluctantly. I started it to help my posture, but in my first class, I immediately knew I had fallen in love. Yoga is an amazing form of movement and transcends simple exercise. The benefits can be profound. When I met Mona, I loved the poetic way she explained the poses, so together we decided to write a book called Asana Poetica. Along the way, we made two calendars. She did the amazing artwork in these and taught me the important aspects of each pose. Of course, these are in rhyme!
Q: What do you love most about your work?
A: The joy of connecting with people. The honor of knowing them and their concerns. The satisfaction of helping them. It’s all great.