Dr. Vincent: I’ve been practicing medicine here in Wasilla, Alaska since 2005 and in that amount of time I have seen an increase. We’ve had a naturopath move into town and we have two acupuncturists that currently work out of my clinic. There are also practitioners that do energy medicine, colon hydrotherapy, body wraps and other things that could be considered on the health and wellness continuum. We also probably have more chiropractors than we do primary care physicians in the area. So, I’d say although this region tends to be pretty politically conservative it is surprisingly embracing of integrative medicine.
ACAM: Your bio says that even before you went to medical school you had an interest in complementary and alternative medicine, did that prompt you to go to medical school?
Dr. Vincent: No, but it also did not discourage me. Whereas, if I knew then what I know now I unfortunately probably would have been discouraged to go to MD medical school. I was kind of naive before going in, not knowing that original thought was discouraged and that alternative medicine was completely shunned and not embraced. Since I had the interest before I got into medical school I was able to maintain that perspective and keep an open mind and learn everything truly good that conventional medicine had to offer me, so that I could then add to that later on and I could learn more in addition to it. I certainly do not discard what I learned in conventional medical training in my current practice.
ACAM: Where did you get additional training in integrative medicine from?
Dr. Vincent: During the last year of my family medicine residency in Anchorage I had the opportunity to train in acupuncture through the Helms Medical Institute. Learning acupuncture opened up my mind and my world to the concepts of Chinese Medicine and how the diagnostics are completely different and yet it works extremely well. It was my first exposure to an integrative or alternative medicine technique.
The same organization offered a training course in Chinese herbal medicine. When I finished the acupuncture course I took the Chinese herbal medicine curriculum and I learned how to use patent herbal formulas to help people with various things and then combined that with acupuncture.
I also decided to learn about nutrition which had always made sense to me as being one of the most important things. In my search online for nutrition books I found the Institute for Functional Medicine’s (IFM) nutritional textbook for clinicians. I read it and got really excited because it talked about things in the way that I thought they should be discussed in terms of how the body actually works and what it takes to make the body work right. Then I found that they had a textbook of functional medicine and I got that book and read almost the entire thing in about a month. I started going to IFM conferences and through that network I discovered the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, ACAM and the Autism Research Foundation. So, I started attending lots of different conferences with these different groups. Then I found a hormone training conference which interested me because I learned through some other exposure that hormones seem to be important. I did a more formal hormone therapy training through the International Hormone Society in the beginning of 2007 and then started doing a lot of hormone therapy, which is now the subject of the course that I helped set up at ACAM.
I’ve gathered education and material from all kinds of different organizations and lots of conferences, reading journals, researching things online and there really isn’t a comprehensive place to learn everything at this point, which people ask me all the time. Medical students and residents ask me, ‘Where can you go to learn integrative medicine,’ and there isn’t one single place. My hope would be that ACAM could become that single place, where we could offer workshops and ongoing longitudinal educational experiences and the things that give you everything you really need to know to be a very functional integrative medical practitioner. I think that ACAM does the best job out there so far.