This was the topic of a recent panel hosted by Women Leaders Forum (WLF) and moderated by Desert Health® publisher Lauren Del Sarto. The panel featured a medical doctor, chiropractor, acupuncturist/herbologist and naturopathic doctor discussing how conventional and complementary modalities are working together for whole person care.

So why the change? Natural medicine has been practiced for thousands of years and was the prevalent treatment prior to today’s conventional medicine, which depends largely on patented drugs to cure and heal. And while millions of lives have been saved by these revolutionary medications, millions more are being affected negatively as drug dependency is killing us in epidemic numbers.

Today’s statistics are alarming. From 2003 and 2013, death from drug poisoning nearly doubled and was highest among those aged 45–54. Opioids like Vicodin and OxyContin to relieve pain are at the top of the list, followed by anxiety meds like Valium and Xanax. Mortality rates for Caucasians 45-54 are increasing for the first time since smoking-related deaths in the 60s with drugs, alcohol, suicide and liver disease leading the way.1

And yet with all these medical advances, our health is declining. In 2013, 74% of all U.S. deaths were due to 10 conditions, many which may be preventable like heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, and suicide.1

These statistics, coupled with consumer demand, are driving doctors and leading institutions to seek options beyond medication such as nutrition for digestive issues, acupuncture for inflammation, chiropractic for pain, and vitamin supplementation for deficiencies. Who wins? We all do, because the focus is shifting from treating disease to prescribing health and wellness in an effort to take care of the whole person.

Women Leaders Forum

Women Leaders Forum’s integrative practitioner panel (left to right): moderator, Lauren Del Sarto; Dan Cosgrove, MD; Stephanie Nazemi, DC; Jessica Needles, ND; and Diane Sheppard, Ph.D., LA.c. All photos by Lani Garfield.

To discuss this topic, WLF invited Desert Regional Medical Center’s wellness director Dan Cosgrove, MD; Stephanie Nazemi, DC, of Nazemi Chiropractic; Jessica Needle, ND, a naturopathic doctor with Optimal Health Center; and acupuncturist and Chinese herbologist Diane Sheppard, Ph.D., LA.c., of AcQPoint Wellness Center.

Del Sarto: One of the questions I hear all the time is, “I pay too much for medical insurance, why should I also pay for alternative therapies?”

Acupuncturist Dr. Diane Sheppard

Acupuncturist Dr. Diane Sheppard

Dr. Cosgrove: It bothers me that insurance forces doctors into the reactive role in only paying for things that are symptomatic instead of proactive. I recommend that people pay lower rates for higher deductibles and then pay as you go for health care you choose; otherwise, the insurers are dictating what health care you will and can receive. For example, if you undergo a preventative physical which includes extra blood work, scans, ultrasounds, an EKG, etc., and everything is normal, the bad news is you will have to pay for all that testing. However, if the results show that you have osteoporosis, or blood sugars that are out of line, then insurance will pay for those tests.

Dr. Nazemi: Chiropractic is covered by insurance and Medicare as they now realize how preventative chiropractic can be. 12 maintenance visits a year is standard. With HMOs, you need an approval from your primary care.

Naturopathic doctor Jessica Needle

Naturopathic doctor Jessica Needle

Dr. Sheppard: Acupuncture is also covered by insurance and we are moving towards Medicare being inclusive. When I worked in an emergency hospital in China, I was amazed at the health of the aging population and couldn’t understand why we didn’t have that here. So it is exciting to see acupuncture paid for.

Dr. Needle: The Affordable Healthcare Act was written so naturopathic medicine (or any licensed care for that matter) has to be covered by insurance. Unfortunately, that is not yet happening and we will see how it develops. For now, office visits are on a cash basis. Lab tests can be covered, or, a lot of people will have tests run with their medical doctor and then bring their results to us for detailed interpretation.

Chiropractor Dr. Stephanie Nazemi

Dr. Stephanie Nazemi

Del Sarto: Why do people seek your care?

Dr. Needle: I had an associate who used to say, “If you’ve been hit by a bus, go to a conventional doctor. If you just feel like you have been hit by a bus, go to a naturopathic doctor.” Conventional medicine is very good at acute care, but they are not very good at taking care of chronic conditions. Naturopathic medicine is good for such cases as digestive issues which are very easily resolved with natural therapies and hormone balancing. Food sensitivity and micronutrient testing are common labs we run. Cancer care through IV therapy is also common.

Desert Regional’s Wellness Director Dan Cosgrove, MD

Desert Regional’s Wellness Director Dan Cosgrove, MD

Dr. Sheppard: In my practice stress is everything. Stress enters the mind and affects the body just as the body affects the mind. It is really the number one approach to everything that we treat, and acupuncture is proven to treat stress, as well as pain. Although Traditional Chinese Medicine was not created [5,000 years ago] to help people in pain and stress. In Chinese medicine, you never paid the doctor if you were sick; it was his job to keep you well.

From the audience: “So where do you start?”

Dr. Cosgrove: By looking at your diet, fitness, stress reduction and sleep. And consider a consultation with an integrative practitioner. If you go to a standard primary care physician, you will probably get 5-10 minutes of his time, blood tests will be done and will come back normal. One of the biggest benefits of consulting with these complementary modalities is that they will spend the time with you to understand and help identify where you can make changes.

Dr. Sheppard: We are not “alternative” practitioners; we work with medical doctors and do not consider ourselves an alternative to allopathic medicine. It isn’t one versus another; it is the multidisciplinary approach of what is best for you as an individual. And this is where medicine is going.

This informative luncheon covered much more, and one significant thing to note is the importance of sharing all treatment plans with your entire health care team. Understanding all modalities will help each of your doctors to help you, and will encourage them to work together on your individualized care.

So why should you seek integrative care? Because the goal is long term health and prevention, and each of us is only one injury or one chronic condition away from becoming the next statistic.

For more information on Women Leaders Forum’s Lunch & Learn Series, visit A special thank you to Desert Regional Medical Center for co-sponsoring this luncheon with Desert Health®.

References: 1) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health, United States, 2013 with Special Feature on Prescription Drugs Pg 20

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