Duke Medicine HealthLine
Published: Feb. 20, 2008
Updated: May 26, 2010
Integrative medicine is changing the medical playing field from dodging diseases to winning the wellness game.
Missy Vatinet, president of Cary’s La Farm Bakery, wasn’t interested in slowing down. “I love my life of craziness,” she says. “I just want to balance it, to assure all my goals are achieved in optimal health.” And she was just about ready to fly to Texas to do so.
“I was searching for a doctor who was adept at conventional medicine but who also understood alternative medicines and proactive approaches to health care.” Then a friend recommended the book Consciously Female by Tracy Gaudet, MD, executive director of Duke Integrative Medicine. “I instantly fell in love with her view of medicine,” Vatinet says.
Integrative medicine addresses one of the consequences of today’s highly specialized health care system: fragmentation. “Even great doctors don’t always talk to each other -- let alone to other health care professionals -- about patients they may have in common,” says Gaudet. But through the integrative approach, the patient’s physician coordinates all her health care needs, whether it’s referrals to specialists or recommendations for complementary care such as acupuncture or mind/body therapies.
As an annual member of Duke Integrative Medicine, Vatinet initially worked with her doctor and an integrative health coach to define what “optimal health” means to her. “My doctor and I sat at a table and talked for over an hour about my health history. Then after taking my history to a team of specialists in gynecology, diet, acupuncture, and so forth, she brought me a plan -- a three-ring binder of programs that she spent another unrushed hour explaining.”
The plan included suggestions for medical and complementary care of Vatinet’s individual health needs, as well as ways to help her and her husband, Lionel, successfully balance what Vatinet calls the “fabulous stresses” that come with their business and busy lifestyle.
Throughout the year, Vatinet has unlimited access to her physician and integrative health coach. Her physician has monthly meetings with her entire integrative team -- which includes the health coach and other therapists whose disciplines span the evidence-based medical and psychological traditions of both Western and Eastern medicine.
Vatinet says that the complementary medicine strategies she’s tried have been enlightening in some surprising ways. “Hypnotherapy was something I had not done before,” she says, “and it gave me a different way to look at some of my personal relationships. That helped me not only as a person but also from a business perspective, because customer service is such a big part of my passion.”
She’s also added acupuncture, nutrition consultation, and expressive arts therapy to her wellness repertoire, and she and her husband, who is co-owner of La Farm Bakery, underwent Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training. “We have always viewed growth and stress as realities of life,” Vatinet says. “Duke Integrative Medicine has given us the tools to avoid health implications that stress and an unbalanced lifestyle can cause. Now we can enjoy a hectic professional season with the confidence that we can play hard, work hard, and live a full, healthy life.”
“One of the key elements of integrative medicine is the integrative health coach, who gives each patient the tools to put her plan into action,” says Shelley Wroth, MD, of Duke Integrative Medicine. “The health coach helps people look deeply and creatively at their life goals. What are the things that really bring them meaning and joy, and then what are the health issues that get in the way of that? With the support of our integrative life coaches, people can connect their health goals with a deeper meaning of why they would make various lifestyle changes.”
“It’s been amazing,” says Vatinet of her work with her coach, Julie Kosey. “I’ve worked with top business consultants in my working life, and Julie brings that same insight to my personal life -- and she holds me accountable for it.”
For example, she says, Kosey helped her stick to a goal of taking time for herself, even during the heat of the holiday season. “I was able to take a few significant periods of down time, which I wouldn’t have done without her constant reinforcement. She and the rest of the team help me see my health differently -- and I am a firm believer that the clearer you see where you want to go, the faster you’ll get there.
“I grew up in a small town,” Vatinet says, “so even though I never had any significant health problems, the doctor always knew me personally.” Integrative medicine, she says, has brought back that sense of connection with her physician -- and with her own health. “I think this process is the way health care in this country will go, and the way it needs to go.”