Dr. Ricki Mitchell, M.D.
Over the twenty years that I have been treating patients, I have been asked many times why I went into alternative medicine. Although the term Complementary and Alternative Medicine had yet to be coined, I began treating patients holistically after I saw first hand the impact alternative care could have on a person’s life.
When I was a resident at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, we frequently saw children suffering from chronic asthma. One particular boy was admitted almost every month. And every month we would offer him the same treatment: steroids. Although we were helping control his asthma, the treatment we were giving him was stunting his growth and adversely impacting his life.
Then, one day, he stopped coming to the emergency room. No one knew why, and due to our hectic schedules, no one followed up on his status. Two, three, then six months passed- and we still hadn’t seen this patient.
Until I accidentally encountered his mother in the street one day. When I asked about her son, she told me he was doing much better, and that he had been seeing a holistic doctor who was treating him with dietary changes, vitamins and herbs.
Prior to our conversation, I had never heard of holistic medicine. But I was fascinated by the idea that there was a whole world of treatment options that were not taught in medical school, so I contacted this physician.
From that day forward, I have challenged the system, and I continue to question the status quo. Long ago I realized that many physicians don’t think outside the box. Worse, with the advent of technology, the art of medicine was lost. Physicians no longer rely on the patient’s history and story to give us the answers to their problems. We rely on testing instead.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not against testing per se, but against testing for the sake of testing. In other words, if you do perform a test, what are you looking for? More importantly, how are you going to treat it? And, finally, does the patient want the treatment?
So I embarked on a career into what is now called Complementary and Alternative Medicine. I attended seminars and lectures and took botanical medicine courses at Columbia University. I trained with Doris Rapp, MD, a pioneer in environmental medicine.
I worked for the national Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers, whose Medical Director, Jacob Teitelbaum, paved the way for innovative and successful treatment options for Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Over the years, I have developed a particular interest in not only Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but also bioidentical hormones, thyroid optimization, Candida, and vulvodynia. Working alongside my husband, Dean Mitchell MD, I have learned to treat allergic patients without allergy shots but with a proven, viable alternative—sublingual drops.
I have had the profound satisfaction of developing long-lasting relationships with my patients. With the ever-changing health care environment and the breakdown of the doctor-patient relationship, my patients have relied on me to be their advocate and to guide them in their medical decision-making.
On a final note, it is important for my patients to realize that I am not anti “traditional” medicine. I believe modern medicine has transformed the world. However, it has also done some incredible damage. I tell my patients that traditional medicine is great for acute conditions. Where traditional medicine has failed is in chronic medical conditions. I believe alternative medicine can heal chronic medical conditions, and have a profound impact on people’s health.
Sackler School of Medicine
State University of New York at Albany