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Lee Physician Group opens integrative medicine office

By Staff | Sep 25, 2015

Lee Physician Group has opened an integrative medicine office at the Bonita Bay Club Lifestyle Center in Bonita Springs. It is the first integrative medicine ever offered by the Lee Physician Group and Dr. Heather Auld, M.D. is the first and only physician board certified in integrative medicine in Southwest Florida.

Integrative medicine is medical care that integrates traditional medical practices with non-traditional methods, such as: nutritional counseling and measurement of micronutrients; bio-identical hormone therapy and non-hormonal therapy for menopause; guided imagery; essential oils; herbal medicine; massage therapy; traditional Chinese and Indian medicine; acupuncture; homeopathy; and naturopathy.

The American Board of Integrative Medicine describes integrative medical practice as one which recognizes the importance of the relationship between practitioner and patient, focuses on the whole person, is informed by evidence and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches, healthcare professionals and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing.

Dr. Auld is a doctor of obstetrics and gynecology. A native of South Dakota and a graduate of the Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota, she has been practicing medicine in Fort Myers since 1990. When asked what motivated her to embrace non-traditional healing methods, she said that patients were constantly coming to her with bags of supplements asking if it was OK to take them with their prescribed medications, or would this help, or is this any good, and she finally decided that, in order to answer their questions, she needed to know more about supplements and other alternative healing and preventive care practices.

Dr. Auld enrolled in the Fellowship in Integrative Medicine program at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine in Tucson, internationally recognized as the leading integrative medical education program in the world. The curriculum encompasses nutritional approaches to general health, as well as to specific conditions such as cancer and diabetes; research-based uses of botanicals and dietary supplements; mind-body medicine, or the ways in which emotional, mental, social and behavioral factors affect health; complementary and alternative practices, including the uses, benefits and recommendations for Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, manual medicine and homeopathy; integrative approaches to women’s health, pediatrics, mental health, gastrointestinal, respiratory, cardiovascular disease, cancer, among others.

After earning her fellowship in integrative medicine, Dr. Auld successfully completed all of the requirements for certification through the American Board of Integrative Medicine and the American Board of Physician Specialties Member Board of Certification, certifying her mastery of the subject as well as her professional commitment to the ABPS Medical Code of Ethics.

For those who resist any approach to healthcare other than traditional, Dr. Auld said, “The proof is in the pudding.” Just as no organisms on our planet live in isolation, so our human mind, body and spirit cannot exist separately. That one affects the other is demonstrated and verified by scientific study. Scientific studies are increasingly revealing the link between human psychology and physiology or between mind and body. An example Dr. Auld gave is scientific research into the gut microbiome (the relationship between microbes or flora in the gut). This research is establishing verifiable links between unhealthy or disturbed gut flora and human psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression and even autism.

“Gut microbiome,” Dr. Auld declared, “is the new frontier in medicine.”

Dr. Auld recognizes that the stresses of modern life are affecting us all, and added to the physically harmful effects of stress are the processed and chemically engineered foods that make up an overwhelming percentage of our diet. Just as people are becoming aware of the harm these foods are doing to their bodies, so they are becoming increasingly reluctant to risk the potentially dangerous side effects of many prescribed pharmaceuticals. Integrative medical care summons the body’s innate healing response, which Dr. Auld maintains “is far superior to any pill we can throw at them.”

The best of both worlds

Alternative medicine does not replace traditional medicine, Dr. Auld explained. They complement each other.

“I do not take a patient off the medications prescribed for her by her primary physician. I partner with the primary physician in treating the patient,” she said.

More and more doctors are referring their patients to her, Dr. Auld said, and are happy to see their patients getting better.

Growing recognition of the benefits of combining traditional and non-traditional medical care is transforming every aspect of patient care. In traditional medicine, the doctor treats the disease; in integrative medicine, the doctor treats the patient in order to cure and/or prevent disease. Traditional medicine is reactive; integrative medicine is proactive. Integrative medicine recognizes that nutrition, exercise and lifestyle are an integral part of both the prevention and the treatment of health (especially chronic) disorders.

For that reason, Dr. Auld’s practice is not only collaborative, it is also personalized. With naturopathic consultant, Teresa Spano, Dr. Auld devises a treatment plan for each patient that is individualized according to the patient’s own health history and lifestyle.

An ever-growing number of healthcare givers and their patients are discovering that the holistic approach to healthcare can transform lives. As for Dr. Auld, “Integrative medicine,” she said, “has made me passionate about medicine again.”

Dr. Auld’s office is at 26800 Tamiami Trail South, on the second floor of the Bonita Bay Club Lifestyle Center, located just north of Promenade Drive. To make an appointment, call 239-495-4480.